When it went wrong…and what we learnt: Alan!

In a Missional Community, things can and do go wrong… all the time.

For example, a colleague of mine, Alan, had expressed interest in church and faith and was pursuing relationship with me. Our Missional Community was, at that time, in a very embryonic phase and the thought of inviting Alan into it just didn’t seem to fit.


We had heard of another Community whose aims and values seemed a really close match for what we thought Alan needed. Not only that but Alan already knew one of the leaders of this other Community. So it seemed sensible on several levels to try to connect Alan with this Community rather than invite him into ours. After all, Jesus said ‘One sows and another reaps’ (John 4:37).

We set to work re-establishing the relationship between Alan and his old acquaintance with the intention that Alan would ultimately be invited into Community and get the discipleship that he craved.

However, despite our best efforts and hints and encouragements, Alan didn’t do what he was supposed to! After several meetings with our mutual friend over lunch or after church, he was still showing no interest in joining our friend’s Community.

I often find that when things go ‘wrong’ people are the problem. They often don’t do what we think they should!

For want of a better idea, we started to invite Alan along to things that our Community was doing. And that was it. He loved it.

We recently did some ‘vision casting’ with the Community, inviting people to step up and take part in the things we feel God is calling us as a group to do. Alan signed up for practically everything.

This process taught us that you can’t socially engineer someone else’s discipleship! It seems an obvious statement to make but it’s an easy trap to fall into when you’re leading a Community. It is important to think carefully about the vision and the aims of your Community (read Jenny Rosser’s excellent post on finding vision). None-the-less, we shouldn’t let ourselves get so caught up in the vision that we overlook the importance of relationship.

Often, as with Alan, a strong relational connection can overcome any perceived mis-match of vision and aims.


Stephen Richardson lives in Sheffield with his wife Tabea. He works as a Consultant Engineer for Derbyshire County Council and is trying to find out what the construction and property industry looks like in the God Kingdom. He co-leads a Missional Community that is exploring forms of new monasticism as a means to holistic discipleship and integrated living.