The clue really is in the name. A Bible study is supposed to do just that – study the Bible. A prayer group is supposed to pray, a fellowship group is supposed to have fellowship and a missional community is supposed to have a mission. It might do all of the other things, study, pray, fellowship but it’s reason for being is the mission.
In this brief video Rich Robinson of 3DM Europe outlines why this must be so.
This is an easy place to start, it’s usually where you live. The focus for your mission is the area where you live and efforts to reach out are built around that. This can sometimes mean a very diverse mission (we live in a housing area of 80 houses with people from over 20 different nations) or it might be an area full of people just like you. Different areas (rural, suburban, urban) pose different challenges but geography sets the boundaries and focus for mission.
The focus here is not a shared place but a shared interest. It could be around a type of work (law, education, health for example) or it could be an interest – running, art, book club, film, skateboarding, music. The purpose here is to orient life around the mission of reaching people who come together because of a shared interest.
This is where even locally we can engage in cross-cultural mission. The mission could be to reach out to the vulnerable, the elderly, the homeless, an ethnic group that exists in your town or city. This is perhaps that hardest option of the three because the challenges are greatest. As Brad Watson points out,
One challenge is the potential of placing yourself and your community as the “hero” and rescuer who swoops in and fixes people’s problems. That’s not true and it’s not good. Another challenge is seeing people as service projects instead of people. The challenges and rewards of this type of common mission are many.
Mission suffers from drift and it’s helpful for a group to go through a regular (once a year) process of reviewing its mission and refocusing again on what it is they exist for.