On Trying to be a Missional Family

The Finns want to be a missional family. Leah and I desire for our family ethos to reflect a key truth that is helpfully summarized in the “Missional Manifesto“: “God is a sending God, a missionary God, who has called His people, the church, to be missionary agents of His love and glory.” We want our words and deeds to point others to Christ. We want our family to be a lighthouse for the kingdom to our neighbors, friends and extended family.

In recent months, Leah and I have been talking more and more about practical ways that we can proclaim Christ, serve others and promote shalom in our context. We want to be good missional stewards of our blessings, including being a part of a thriving congregation that gathers in one of the most ethnically diverse and culturally eclectic cities in the South and being a part of a seminary community that is focused upon equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission. Our current season in Jackson, Tennessee, where I am on sabbatical for six months, has proven to be a helpful time for us to reflect on how we can be more intentional in cultivating missional priorities upon our return to North Carolina this summer. We have loads of ideas, some of which might even come to fruition! But I thought I would share some of the initial steps we have begun to take.

First, like most Christian parents, we want to form our children in such a way that we point them to Christ and teach them a biblical worldview. But we also want to build mission into our family’s DNA so that, Lord willing, it one day carries over into each of our children’s spiritual DNA. I blogged several weeks back about how we are teaching our children to pray for the fulfillment of the Great Commission as part of our daily family worship time. We want the Finnlings to feel the burden of the world’s spiritual lostness, even as we pray that they would recognize their own lostness and need for the saving work of Jesus Christ in their own lives. Perhaps as they learn more and more about the world that God so loves, they will also come to understand his love for them and his desire that they be saved. AnnieLottieJar

More recently, we have designated a mason jar to be our “Annie and Lottie Jar”  for missions. Like many Southern Baptist families, we give every year to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for global missions. But this has always been a decision that Leah and I make: “So, how much do we want to give this year?” But beginning with 2014, we want to also collect money year round in our Annie and Lottie Jar. Money collected between January and Easter will be added to our Annie Armstrong giving, while money collected between Easter and December will be added to our Lottie Moon giving. This will allow us to give more and also encourage the Finnlings to give toward Great Commission advance. You can see a picture of our Annie and Lottie Jar to the right.

Like many families, we have recently begun sponsoring a child through Compassion International. Our children were involved in this decision and are excited that the Lord will use our gifts to help with Sonjita’s education and physical health, introduce her to the gospel and sound biblical teaching and protect her from those who would exploit her in various ways. The latter is important because Sonjita lives in a nation where child slavery and human sex trafficking are perennial threats. As an added bonus, Sonjita is around the same age as our two oldest children, so they already feel a connection with her. We look forward to watching Sonjita grow up, from a distance, and we are eager to pray for her physical and ultimately spiritual wellbeing. (By the way, if you are skeptical of child-sponsorship ministries like Compassion International, I would recommend you read this helpful article from the June 2013 issue of Christianity Today.)

Lord willing, these are the first steps toward a much more intentionally missional lifestyle for our entire family. It is our hope that our family’s future is an increasingly missional future filled with regular gospel hospitality, family service projects, family mission trips, generous giving of time and resources (both planned and spontaneous) and ongoing evangelistic conversations with non-Christians. I’d love to hear from readers how the Lord is leading your family to live out a missional vision in your context.

(Note: This post was previously published at Christian Thought & Tradition on January 31, 2014. It has been very lightly edited for publication at Between the Times.)