New habits - what we take forward, and what we leave behind

17 May 2020 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Letters, Thoughts, News

From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister for Congregation Futures

New habits - what we take forward, and what we leave behind

Soon after we entered the COVID-19 restrictions people began to wonder how the world would be changed long term by new ways for doing some things, and no longer doing other things. For the life of the Uniting Church there is the same questioning. Already people are singing the virtues of using zoom to easily bring people together without the need for travel. So, into the future some are planning to alternate regular church meetings between being in person and being on zoom. Because of the impacts of COVID-19 our habits are changing.

Michael Frost in his handy little book “Surprise the World!” is urging the church toward new habits – what he calls the “five habits of highly missional people”. Now it takes time to develop habits. From research about habits that Frost cites, it took an average of 66 days until a habit was formed. (Based on that figure, we are well on the way to new habits for the church during the COVID-19 restrictions!) Of course, some habits are more challenging to develop than others and will take more time and support to establish. The five habits of highly missional people are like this – they are challenging. For that reason, Frost proposes a simple system of accountability to bed down the habits and shape you as a missionary over the long term.

His suggestion is that you “build a triad of accountability, a microgroup of three people that meets weekly (maybe over zoom!) to hold each member accountable to the habits, as well as encouraging and nurturing each other and helping each other learn from their experience of living out the habits”. He calls these mircogroups: “DNAs (Discipleship, Nurture, Accountability)”.
For DNA meetings, Frost provides questions that are shaped around the five habits. Spending time with these questions will lead the group in discipleship arising out of their lived missional experience. For example, a relationship that grows out of blessing someone or eating with them regularly may throw up issues that the group can workshop together, including further study of Scripture for biblical perspectives on those issues. As the triad share their lives with each other in these questions they will also nurture each other through the ordinariness and the highs and lows of being missionaries in daily life. The DNA group is also there to provide real accountability to the commitment needed to establish the habits that will shape you as a missionary.

This might sound like serious work, and it is. But Frost want you to remember that he is not asking you to do something distasteful or unpleasant. Rather, “Blessing people is personally satisfying. Eating with others is fun. Listening to the Spirit and learning about Jesus is spiritually enriching. And journaling the various ways you alert others to the reign of God is encouraging”.

Through this time of COVID-19 restrictions some of our habits will change for good (both in terms of permanence and value). I pray that is the case with the five habits of highly missional people. Once again, those habits are:

  • I will bless three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
  • I will eat with three people this week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
  • I will spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice.
  • I will spend at least one period of the week learning Christ.
  • I will journal throughout the week about all the ways I alerted others to the universal reign of God through Christ.

For those interested in buying a copy of “Surprise the World”, one of the places it is available online is: