One key to church planting accomplished through a missionary approach is integrating into a community. It isn’t to say other forms of activating new churches are void of integration principles. What it does mean is for a missionary church planter, or church activator as we like to refer to them, it plays a more important role in the process.

Integration requires us to listen closely and observe carefully as the people we meet teach us the best way to share with them. Yeah, they tell us how to share with them the life-giving hope found in Jesus Christ. Before we ever quote a verse or tell the story of the cross we are given the privilege to get to know people and the community we live in.  

Missionaries integrate into the fabric of the community. We find a way to become part of the people rather than coexist as an outsider living amongst them. There is a big difference between living near people and becoming one of them. Relationships develop best when trust creates the foundation, and trust requires a little bit more commitment than just hanging out nearby; it needs genuine love and acceptance.

It means missionaries become part of the community and discover the best way to share the hope found in Jesus with them.

This is the example Jesus taught us to live as He invited Himself to someone’s home or provided wine at a wedding. Jesus taught us a heart of integrating by both His example as He walked this earth and His words as He taught along the way. It is very much heard in His challenge to His followers to be in the world while not being of the world.

We find a way to live the gospel in the world as we integrate our faith with our living every day lives. Gospel fluency increases as Gospel intentionality rises in our lives.

It is what Paul was talking about when he said he would strive to be all things to all people in order for some to know Christ. It is integration into the life of those he came to serve. Paul would look for the person/people of peace, cross cultures, and learn how to talk to them through their own language and then teach people about Jesus.

As we get to know our neighbors we discover the best ways to share the life Christ offers to all who will believe. We do it as a missionary using the principles and processes of integration. It is a key.

Unfortunately, There was a period of time where an extraction mindset ruled our thoughts and processes. Rather than encouraging followers of Jesus to be part of various organizations and activities of a local community the church created competing programs to draw them out of such groups.

At first the ministries we developed carried a strong evangelism spirit as we thought our being in complete control would allow us to speak more freely in sharing the gospel. And it worked really well for a long time. Then slowly, over time, fewer and fewer non-believers were taking advantage of the ministries until eventually they became somewhat of an ivory tower for believers to gather and hide in.

What we didn’t see coming was the impact this extractional approach would have on such groups when Christians no longer participated. Many of these groups moved further and further away from the traditional values they held before. The church never dreamed the effect of this extractional idea would, in the end, remove the influence of the church from our schools, clubs, organizations, and marketplace. We have paid an incredibly high price for our actions.

The remedy is a slow process, but it does create the one essential to make such necessary steps of faith possible. In order to even consider believing in Jesus, the people we work with every day must first trust the messenger. You could say we earn the right to share with them what we have found and invite them to consider it for themselves.

For the missionary, change is constant as each day something new comes your way. Like a chameleon, you adjust to your surroundings in order to find a way to help those you live with understand the ageless concepts of the Gospel. You learn about them and from them in order to share with them the most important reality of life. You integrate.

David Bennett