In 2022, we slowly emerged from the collective grief and trauma of the COVID-19 global pandemic and we were yet again face-to-face with the endemic of racism. As we were trying to navigate our new normal, our church began to look back and reflect on what God had done in and through us during that turbulent time. During our discussion, the comment was made, “We became a family!” Those years of struggling together as a community in Kansas City’s inner city forged a spiritual family that now exists as a network of spiritual families. I truly believe this season was an invitation from the Holy Spirit to reimagine how we exist as the church and to embody an alternative way that reflects the Kingdom of God.
There is freedom to reimagine the church in our generation. We must cultivate a “kingdom imagination” to prepare people to be salt and light wherever they live, work, or play. As we began to re-gather, we created a framework called the “4 P’s of Spiritual Families,” providing our disciplemakers the basic steps to begin a spiritual family. This is a simple model, rooted in what some call the “ecclesial minimum” (worship, community, mission). It’s for the ordinary person who desires to join what God is up to in their neighborhoods through a micro-expression of the church.
Here is a summary of each of our 4 P’s:
Prayer—What is God saying to you? (Acts 2:42)
Prayer is the gateway to the spiritual and supernatural. It is our response to the God who has spoken and still speaks. As people consider the forming of a spiritual family, they must be anchored to the truth that the foundational and sustaining power of their activity is communion with a God who is always at work. Prayer gives the spiritual eyes to see, and courage to join what God is doing in the reconciliation of all things back to Christ. Prayer is the heartbeat of the Church. A church that doesn’t pray will find itself in programmatic activity lacking the transformational power necessary to see strongholds broken and the Spirit of God move. When we remain in a posture of prayer, we create space for the miraculous to break into our ordinary. As disciplemakers who are preparing people to begin spiritual families, it is our task to help them infuse prayer into the DNA of their community.
Purpose—What has God given you? (Ephesians 2:10)
Each person is made in the image of God and has purpose. This purpose may be rooted in the joys of life, or past struggles, brokenness, and pain. It’s amazing to see what God can do through a “wounded healer,” a person who has endured much suffering and has found healing and restoration. Regardless of the genesis of our purpose and mission, we each have gifts that have been given to be a blessing to others. With that, there are some of us who sense an invitation by the Spirit to embark on something new, to plant the seeds of the Kingdom of God in new and creative ways and establish a new expression of the church. This is in addition to gifts given to each person in the church to serve in the equipping, maturing, healing, and health of the Body. These gifts, along with our collective and individual stories, help shape our purpose as a spiritual family. As disciplemakers, we must help each person discover their gifts and purpose within the context of the spiritual family and beyond.
Place—Where has God placed you? (Acts 5:12)
Not only should we consider the passions and gifts God has given each person, but we should also consider the place in which we are rooted. As followers of Jesus who live an embodied and integrated faith, we must consider how we will embody our faith in place, with new intention. This has implications on how we show up as neighbors, how we engage in doing justice, and our analysis of the powers at play. This can be a block, an apartment complex, an office, a school, dorm room, coffee shop, etc. The goal is that spiritual families will take up residence at the intersections of heaven and earth, where they are rooted. The kingdom of God touches all facets of life, and scripture is clear that God cares about the places we inhabit, and desires we see both people and place through that lens. As disciplemakers, we must help our spiritual families cultivate a theology of place and pursue the holistic implications of the gospel. Resist the idea that we are bringing God to a place. That belief reinforces the colonizing and deeply harmful practices of mission expansion, but cultivate a robust theology and practice that understands that God has already been at work, and we are to discover, follow, and join the move of the Spirit in that place.
People—Who will go with you? (Matthew 18:20)
Jesus never intended for us to be the church in isolation. God is community. Since we are made in God’s image, community is essential to our wellbeing and success when we consider forming a spiritual family. We join one another in worship, community, and mission in a specific place. In a way, that is incarnational. Whether you are considering the forming of a spiritual family or are mobilizing others, there must be a community formed that goes on this mission together. Remember, Jesus prayerfully considered this as he picked the 12 apostles. There were many in the crowds, but Jesus needed a few who would join him in mission and live in transformational community. As disciplemakers, encourage people to begin with a small team in the forming of a spiritual family for encouragement and partnership from the outset.
In conclusion, as disciple makers, may we continue to dream and imagine new ways forward. The Spirit of God invites us to reimagine the church and equip ordinary people to form spiritual families in all contexts, who embody the love of God in a world desperate for grace, healing, and liberation.