Family on Mission | Book Review

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Below is a review of Mike and Sally Breen’s book Family on Mission. After years of juggling family life and ministry life separately, they learned how to integrate them into one mission.

What is the mission?

The mission is the same mission God gave Adam and Eve, the same mission Jesus gave the disciples—to multiply the life of Jesus by reproducing ourselves into the lives of others so they become disciples of Jesus who can reproduce themselves into the lives of others. In other words, the mission is Jesus.

Family OR Mission

For the Breen family, it seemed like it was always one or the other: you could have a great ministry or you could have a great family, but you couldn’t have both. People had to sacrifice one if they wanted the other to thrive. Since being a pastor seemed like a godly calling, maybe having a terrible family life was just part of the package?

The Breens saw other people choose family over mission. People would abandon all their dreams of a wider mission and ministry so they could have a functional family. The Breens desperately wanted to find out if there was another option.

Family AND Mission

So, the Breens tried having their mission life AND their family life. They managed the energy they put into each, attempting to move their family and their mission toward health and fruitfulness. They developed clear boundaries, managing the stress, managing the vision, and managing time all the time.

Raising their children brought Sally an immense amount of fulfillment and joy, but there were moments when she sat alone, wondering whether Mike was running ahead of her spiritually and whether she would ever catch up. On many occasions, she was simply too tired to really care about the new strategy for mission that Mike was talking about, and Mike was often too distracted to really hear about her motherhood successes of the day.

They were doing family AND mission, but they were discovering that family AND mission is an utterly exhausting way to function. They were spending so much energy managing boundaries that they weren’t able to do other important things, like making disciples who were making disciples. They looked at all of it and thought, There has to be a better way to do this.

Family ON Mission

The Breens began to wonder, What would happen if we invited more people into our lives? Not inviting more people over to entertain them, but simply inviting them into what they were already doing. They began inviting people into everything: into the mealtimes and into the mission.

They said, “Come walk with us.” They included people when grocery shopping and folding laundry and praying for the sick. They asked people to babysit their kids, help them with homework, run youth events. Much to their amazement, none of the people were put off by the small, loud children who came as part of the package.

People actually loved the normality and the noise of it all. As these people simply helped them do life together, the Breens shared whatever wisdom they had gained in their journey and began to disciple them. Mike and Sally didn’t get people into an extensive program in church. They simply discipled them along the way—over meals, family prayers, laundry, carpooling and bedtime stories.

When they moved as a group, they were actually more effective in their family stuff AND their mission. Their boundaries were technically broken but they were thriving in a way they hadn’t experienced before. Family on mission meant that when they moved forward in mission, they did it together if at all possible. Together with their kids, together with those they were discipling, together with those they simply couldn’t get rid of!

How did Jesus do discipleship when he was on Earth?

Jesus coupled information with access to His life. The question is always, What is the way of Jesus? How did he do the thing we are trying to do as a family on mission? That’s where we go for our inspiration and instruction.

Family OR Mission crushes us because we have to sacrifice one thing or another, while both are necessary if we are going to live out the call of God.

Family AND Mission exhausts us because we need to constantly manage the boundaries between family and mission. Thus, our family life never quite feels purposeful and our mission life never quite feels natural.

Family ON Mission empowers us because we learn to live an integrated life, moving forward in mission as a pack, as a covenant family with a kingdom mission, joining Jesus where He is already at work.

What is your missional purpose as a family?

We have to know why our family exists. Our missional purpose as a family allows us to move in the same direction together and make wise decisions about what to do with our time and energy.

Think about your passions as a family. What kinds of things do you love to do?

Think about your possessions as a family (intellectual, physical, relational, spiritual…).

Finally, think about the problems you see around you. Think about your neighborhood, the local school, the nursing home, etc. What are the needs you can see? Where are the areas of brokenness that you want to see God’s kingdom break into? Where does God’s will need to be done on earth as it is in heaven?

Lauren Ottwell lives in rural Illinois, where she tells stories and listens to a small group of amazing unchurched children in a weekly after-school Bible Club. She is a storyteller with Simply the Story, a ministry that equips Christians to evangelize, teach and disciple through story, questions, listening and responding.

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