Proactive vs. Reactive Intentionality

At our church we’ve found this terminology helpful for determining and executing our vision. It’s from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 105-106:

One of the common characteristics of gospel communities [read for our purposes ‘churches’] is that they have a missional focus or foci. They cannot reach everyone or contextualize to everyone, so they focus on reaching specific groups or communities [for Immanuel it’s the UIC Area]. This helps the members of the community work together so that mission is a shared venture….

We have found it helpful to make a distinction between proactive and reactive intentionality. As a team we may have agreed on a specific missional focus, but we still want to take other gospel opportunities as they arise. Our lives will naturally bring us into contact with people who are not part of our missional focus. Indeed we may have opportunities with people while traveling with whom we cannot continue a relationship or connect with our gospel community, but we will still live our lives as witnesses of Jesus and take opportunities to speak of him. This is reactive intentionality. We will be reactive to opportunities whenever and wherever they arise.

Where we can be proactive, we will pursue the missional focus of our gospel community [the UIC Area in our case]. Where we can make decisions about how we use our time – where we shop, with whom we eat, and so on – we will make those choices in the light of our missional focus. This is proactive intentionality. Sometimes we can be proactive about the choice of our work and take a job that allows us to pursue our missional focus, but other people will not be able to do this. They will spend their work days being reactive to opportunities but then make choices about what they do in the evenings and on weekends to pursue the missional focus of their gospel community.

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