I t was an unusual way to form a small group. I asked a few people from our congregation, Powell River Reformed Church, if they wanted to join a discipleship group themed around mission. I said we were not sure what we were doing, but that we were going to experiment together and see where God would lead us. We would call it a “practitioner’s group” to help distinguish it from other groups at our church. Joyfully, four other people have joined my wife and me in this group.
We began by looking at the idea of integrity from a particular angle: integrity as workability. (We learned these concepts from Churches Learning Change, a multiyear process our church undertook to get clearer on where God was calling us.)
Workability is when relationships, systems, churches, businesses—the relationships and structures that make up our daily lives—all work according to God’s design. For example, a bridge has integrity, or workability, when you step on it and it does not fall. The job of a bridge is to hold up the things that are traversing it. A relationship has integrity when it supports the people involved and is strong enough to withstand the stresses placed upon it. Likewise with other systems.
In our practitioner’s group, our goal is to restore integrity in the places we already are. So we’ve each identified one community in which God has placed us, and asked, How might I participate in restoring integrity to that community?
Each of us has answered these questions and are beginning to practice mission-as-integrity-restoration in different communities. Here are five stories.
Focus: seniors in a care facility and hospital
“My mission field includes the seniors in the extended care facility and in the hospital. Over the past six months I have been regularly visiting friends in these facilities and have been struck by the level of isolation and loneliness among the residents. I have been praying about God’s plans for these places.
“As part of the answer, God has given me an irresistible desire to connect with these people. I smile and make eye contact with them. I learn their names, greet them cheerfully and spend time with them. And I have been blessed with shining eyes of recognition, with smiles, and with waves from residents who I thought were unresponsive. I now gladly call them my friends and neighbors. I am waiting for God to reveal what my next steps are for bringing integrity to these places.”
Focus: an agnostic friend group
“I have had a very close group of friends for the past 15 years. After being away for school, I moved back to my hometown and have reconnected with them. They are all great people who seem to be missing something in their lives. They would define themselves as agnostic and are potentially open to an unlabeled higher power. I have been praying for them to see the light and get to know God. I don’t want to come on too strong, lest I ruin the relationship, so I have been playing the long game. The progress is slow but definitely there.
Focus: friends from the dog park
“I really enjoy getting out with my dog. Last year, I was taking her to the dog park and slowly met some of the other dog owners. Over the next few months, we exchanged contact info and planned times to meet regularly at the dog park. Last spring, we took to the trails around our town and began walking regularly.
“Over the course of the last ten months, what began as chatting at the dog park has blossomed into deep friendships. Some of these families are working through very weighty issues and it has been an honor to hear their stories and offer support.
“I have been praying for these folks and working to listen deeply to them. I want to be someone who understands and accepts them without judgment. I too have been blessed by these friends as they listen to and accept me. We are slowly growing an authentic and caring little community.”
Focus: a golf group
“I love to play golf and belong to a ladies’ golf group. They are wonderful ladies but often during play there is disunity, disrespect, and petty disagreements. So a few of us are now committed to making our league a more caring, respectful, and cohesive group.
“We have made a promising start, which is an answer to prayer. We have initiated a ‘games morning’ at the club house every Thursday morning during the winter months. The goal is to get to know each other outside of golf and build relationships through fun. Our first time, 11 ladies came out and we had a great time! We pray this will be one positive step in the process of building a loving, caring ladies’ golf community.”
Focus: public school colleagues
“I have taught high school science and math in the public high school for the last 22 years. Our school staff has become quite dysfunctional over the years. There are deep-seated hurts and resentments. There is a tone of mistrust and division.
“My heart is burdened for my school staff. I desire and pray for our wholeness, that we would find connection and a safe place to be ourselves. As I pray, I work to be present each day with the people that cross my path by building intentional connections and working to let them know that they are noticed and appreciated. I find I need to bathe my day in prayer as sometimes it is very difficult to treat people with intentional care and to remember that they are loved by God as much as I am.”
We’re just a few months into this journey together. We provide accountability, encouragement, and support for one another when we meet twice a month. We are experimenting in these communities to grow in our obedience to the Great Commission, to make disciples of all the nations. As we move forward, we will be sharing our stories in our congregation and inviting others to come along on the journey. We are grateful to God for leading us in this way, and we trust we will have many more stories to tell of his goodness and faithfulness as we continue to practice discipleship together.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of RCA Today magazine.
David Wulkan is pastor of Powell River Reformed Church in Powell River, British Columbia.