Genesis 12:2-3, “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
This passage was a revolutionary moment in history. In a world of tribal, violent, exclusive polytheism, the voice of the one true God speaks and introduces universal, loving, inclusive monotheism.
God says, “I have a mission. I am going to bless every tribe, every tongue, and every nation. My people will join me in this mission to bless.” God’s strategy for reaching and restoring the world is simply this: to have His people bless the world.
We are blessed to be a blessing.
The blessing God gives us is a missional blessing. When God pours blessing into us, it has a mission inside of it. We join God in His mission by being BLESSers.
KC Underground’s mission is to fill Kansas City with the beauty, justice, and Good News of Jesus. We believe there are five incarnational rhythms that when lived consistently among an unreached pocket of people; they cause the beauty, justice and good news of Jesus to fill that network.
We remember these five rhythms through the acrostic of B.L.E.S.S.
- BEGIN IN PRAYER
- LISTEN AND ENGAGE
BLESS is five simple rhythms; it isn’t a program or a series of linear steps. BLESS isn’t about adding something; it’s about infusing everyday activities we’re already doing with new gospel intentionality. The rhythms are simple enough for a five-year-old to understand, but robust enough to create missionaries in every neighborhood in Kansas City…and every city. We desire to see a missionary on every street and a microchurch in every network living these simple missionary rhythms in one primary context, or a network of relationships.
The goal is for these rhythms to become like breathing, natural and almost unconscious. For each of the BLESS rhythms, we must learn how to breathe in and breathe out. In other words, with BLESS, for each of the rhythms, there is an in and out motion
Of course, Jesus and the early church are our examples at breathing the BLESS rhythms.
BEGIN IN PRAYER: Breathe In and Breathe Out Prayer
Dave and Jon Ferguson in their amazing book, BLESS: 5 Everyday Ways to Love. Your Neighbor and Change the World, say “Prayer is both how we discover mission and do mission.”
Breathe In: We discover our mission by listening for Jesus’ voice through prayer. That is “breathing in” prayer.
Breathe Out: We accomplish mission by praying for people and places. That’s “breathing out” prayer.
We breathe in and breathe out prayer. In other words, prayer is not just a monologue, but also a dialogue. Begin in prayer by breathing in, this is a listening type of prayer.
Jesus said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given…what to say and what to speak” (John 12:29).
We start with a listening-type of prayer by asking questions in prayer: (1) God where are you already at work, where I live, work, and play? (2) How can I join you? God is at work all the time. Jesus said, “My Father and I are always at work” (John 5:17). He is already at work in your network of relationships. You don’t have to start anything, just join Him!
Prayer is also the first step in how we do mission. “Breathe out” by praying for people in your network of relationships by name and by praying for Jesus to restore the place you’ve been sent to. In the KC Underground, we have 2–3 simple tools to equip people with both forms of prayer. You can discover some of those in The Missionary Pathway.
That’s our first rhythm. Our next is Listen and Engage.
LISTEN AND ENGAGE: Breathe In and Breathe Out Relationship
Do most people see the church as a megaphone or a listening ear? Sadly, Christians have become more known for yelling than listening. Before we can ever reach or restore a community, we’ve got to have a relationship with them. Relationships start with listening.
We “breathe in” by listening to the people and places God has sent us to. Then we “breathe out” by engaging in relationships with those people and places.
Here’s what is fascinating about Jesus. If anyone had all the answers, if anyone had the right to do all the talking, it was Jesus! But, if you read the gospels, you’ll find his conversations absolutely saturated with questions…with listening.
In the first gospel to have been written, the gospel of Mark, there are 67 episodes in which there is any sort of conversation at all. In those 67 episodes, Jesus asks 50 questions.
Jesus was a listener. Why? People listen to people who listen.
What was Jesus’ standard approach? He didn’t have one! To the fishermen he talked about…fishing. To the woman at the well he talked about…water. To the farmers he talked about what? Farming. He listened to the story of the person in front of him and engaged them in a way that was meaningful to their story.
Histories. Hopes. Hurts. Heart-Passions.
Listen for people’s histories. Listen for people’s hopes. Listen for hurts. Listen for people’s heart-passions. As we take a posture of listening internally, not only will we hear them, we will hear the voice of Jesus guiding us. Out of that posture of listening, we then engage. Engage in deeper relationships with the people and places we are listening to.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19).
Our Lord Jesus…he was a friend of sinners, to those who acted differently and believed differently than He did. He was a friend to those who did not yet know how much they matter to God. How inclusive is our friendship circle? What sinners call us friends?
We begin in prayer. We listen to people and places with the hope of engaging deeper relationships. Then, this may be your favorite part…we eat! One of the best ways to deepen relationships is by eating together.
EAT: Breathe In and Breathe Out Meals
Jesus did much of his ministry around meals and the table. Jesus literally ate his way through the gospels! Jesus ate his way into people’s lives and hearts. In the book of Luke alone, we have accounts of ten different meals. Furthermore, even the second coming of Jesus is conceived as a meal—the wedding supper of the lamb. Jesus is showing us that there is something about sharing a meal that reveals what his kingdom is like, a display of flavor and feasting, family, and fullness.
Jesus “breathed in” meals with his inner circle of disciples.
We breathe in by eating with our extended spiritual family. This is both immediate family and microchurch family. Meals aren’t just about caloric intake, but spiritual and relational intake.
Then Jesus and his disciples “breathed out” meals with people that the religious people of his day saw as outsiders—the tax collectors, the pagans, and prostitutes.
We breathe out by partying, creating joyous, social inclusive spaces for where everyone is welcomed, including strangers. The Greek word for hospitality in the New Testament makes this perfectly clear. It is the word philoxenia, which is a combination of two words: love (phileo) and the word for stranger (xenos). It literally means love a stranger.
The table is where strangers can become friends, and through the Gospel, they become family. Everyone has a table. Activate the table with biblical hospitality! We begin in prayer, we listen, and then we eat with the people in the places He is sending us to. Over those meals, you will discover how it is you can serve them.
SERVE: Breathe In and Breathe Out Blessing
We “breathe in” by letting our neighbor serve us. This might surprise you. In Luke 10, Jesus instructs us to let the “person of peace” serve us. So when your neighbor offers to serve you, receive it. This affirms equality, mutuality, and builds trust in that relationship.
Then, we also “breathe out” by serving our neighbors and those in our network. Those acts of service make the kingdom tangible to folks who might not know yet how much they matter to God.
We Begin in Prayer, we Listen and Engage, we Eat, we Serve, and through this we have earned the right to share our faith story and the story of Jesus.
STORY: Breathe In and Breathe Out Stories
First, we “breathe in” story by speaking the gospel to ourselves. We apply the gospel to our own warped image of God and warped sense of identity. We speak the gospel to our deepest needs to confront our own idolatry. We let the gospel become our deepest motivation for all of life. We do this in Kansas City by equipping people with the simple set of tools outlined in the fantastic book Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt.
Then, we “breathe out” story by sharing the story of Jesus and how He has changed our story. Once people learn to speak the gospel to themselves and live in obedience to it, they are filled with the Spirit. They become good news. They are naturally supernatural and begin to relationally share the good news in specific and Spirit-led ways, often accompanied with signs and wonders, big and small.
With one of our neighbors we’ve led to Jesus, she remarked to my wife and I afterwards, “Every time I was with you two—just chatting by the curb or wherever—I felt this strange peace. A peace I hadn’t known.” That supernatural experience of shalom is what drew her to surrender her life to Jesus at our kitchen table.
Another neighbor, while hanging with me in my garage during a rainstorm, began to open up about an area of deep pain in his life. I began sharing the gospel through three passages of Scripture. At the end of reading each passage of Scripture—three different moments spread out over 30 minutes or so—there was an exact coordinated crash of thunder. After the third one, which shook the garage, the fear of the Lord was so thick, this young man asked in awe, “Is God speaking to me?” I asked in return, “What do you think?” He shook his head yes and began to weep. We prayed then and there.
Let me share a secret with you. If you truly pray regularly for people by name in a specific unreached network Jesus has sent you to, if you then listen to them deeply, eat with them regularly, and serve them consistently, and let them serve you, you will always have the opportunity to share the Gospel and the story of how Jesus changed you. If you stay long enough in one context, if you continue with these rhythms, Jesus will draw people to himself.