A brief guide to missional communities
As a church, we’re working on building the church through missional communities. They’re a bit like small groups, they’re a bit like house churches but aren’t really either. There’s already movements, networks, conferences, books about how to be missional and leading, starting and multiplying missional communities.
So why have we decided on missional communities? There are three main reasons that have stuck with me: community, mission & discipleship.
I believe that the primary image the scriptures give us for the church is family, the primary purpose of the church is to make disciples and the mission of the church is to do that all over the world.
Yet there seems to be a disconnect between people and the church in Europe – the form of the church no longer seems to fit or to connect and people are leaving. As Jason Clark says,
There’s a consumerist attitude to church that’s destroying it. I’m a firm believer that everyone is deeply religious. Some people work on Sundays, but most people are choosing to do something that they’re deeply religious about – so many (mostly middle-class) Christians have taken up marathons, triathlons and cycling in the place of church life – that’s their new religion. How much money do they spend on carbon fibre bicycles? How many hours do they spend on their hobbies? And they do it with other people; they pay subscriptions…We are all religious, we’re all investing our lives in something. The only question is, what are we investing our lives in?
So the question I asked myself afresh was, having led a church for ten years, what is the best vehicle to do all those three things when starting a new church in a highly secular, highly individualistic and highly consumeristic culture like Stockholm, Sweden?
The last part is really important – it’s knowing the context we’re in. What will help us form disciples in the long run in a fast flowing cultural tide that in many ways goes against gospel formation in the life of a believer? Missional communities are part of that response.
So here is my brief guide to missional communities:
The purpose of missional communities
I think Logan Gentry nails it when he says,
Leading people to the chief end of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever will accomplish the types of missional communities we long for our churches to be. Places where the love of God flows freely from those experiencing the love of God given to them freely.
Just as with any other form of church, missional communities share the goal of people glorifying God, enjoying Him forever. Loving God and loving people.
three reasons for missional communities
Todd Engstrom outlines three critical reasons for missional communities.
- A Theological Reason – “The most persuasive argument for the Christian faith is the Christian community.” (For more on this, click here for a ten minute talk by Jeff Vandersteldt on the Gospel & Community).
- A Philosophical Reason – “Missional Community presents a compelling alternative that calls people from consumerism to the life of a missionary in community in a way that is attainable for the everyday person to live out their God given identities and calling.”
- A Pragmatic Reason – “Practically, in order to embody the church in unique cultures in our city and be effectively mobilized for mission to our ENTIRE city, this means that we must have smaller, nimble communities who are uniquely expressing the gospel in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and networks of people.”
The rhythm of a missional community
David Achata talks about the cycle of life of a missional community and has identified three distinct phases
- The call to be with Jesus (Mk 3:13-15)
- The sending of disciples into the world ((Mk 6:7, 12-13)
- The reporting, resting & regathering of the disciples (Mk 6:30-31)
We learn, we do, we rest. Rinse, wash, repeat.
The marks of a missional community
Rich Robinson helpfully developed his thinking around building a missional culture using the word ‘missional’
- Missional mindset
- Incarnational lifestyle
- Scripturally based
- Spirit led
- Intercessory prayer (the most important thing in making a group work)
- Orbit the centre (connect to a wider organisation)
- Neighbourhood or network
- Active Participation
- Lay led
What does daily life in a missional community look like?
Here’s Jeff Vandersteldt with an answer