On Wednesday, I wrote about how the church needs more than missional communities because the nature of these gospel-centered communities on mission are limited. While they are able to accomplish much in the area of discipleship and life transformation, they can be lacking when it comes to theological training, counseling, discipleship, and family equipping.
As I’ve looked into a number of churches who pursue missional communities, I’ve noticed that they supplement their communities in these areas to enable people to live gospel-centered lives with a group of people. These are just a few of the ways I’ve seen these addressed in a way that doesn’t run contrary to missional communities, but promotes mission in the context of a community of Christ-followers.
Porterbrook Network was established in 2006 by Steve Timmis & Tim Chester. They are the authors of my favorite book to give away, Total Church. They established it to “equip individuals and churches to rediscover mission as their DNA, to become better lovers of God and lovers of others, and to proclaim the Gospel through word and action for the Glory of God.”
Our church had over 100 individuals sign up and go through the Porterbrook Learning material which is compact theological training, best processed within a community. What I love about the material is that all of it is designed to equip communities with the theological understanding of God and His mission. This propels a community toward application in mission rather than ending in knowledge as I’ve seen many a Sunday school class do.
One example of equipping classes that I’ve experienced and learned an immense amount from is the Get Trained Ministry at The Austin Stone Community Church. Equipping classes can be a great opportunity to further learning in the truth of the scriptures, Christian theology, and Christian mission.
The consistent danger to be avoided is creating another environment where passive learning can take place. Passive learning plays into the dominant consumerist nature that destroys Christian community and is a product of the culture, not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There seems to be a growing desire for Christian counseling to be operating in conjunction with a church and I am all for it. Professional Christian counseling without connection with a church seems contrary to the thrust of the scripture that sees God creating a loving community for His mission.
There have been a number of churches who have seen the value in professional counseling and have started Christian counseling centers. I love the idea of a church connected counseling center when it comes to Christian counselors because of the connection to the community. The downside of counseling can be its seclusion from a people who can care for, support, and provide accountability to the individual seeking change.
It embraces the idea that change of the individual is best accomplished in a community, while providing someone trained to address the issue and focused time to spend seeking healing. Counseling can too often manage your condition and circumstances, where a gospel-centered community can remind you that it’s about Jesus and only His redemptive work in the cross and resurrection can truly heal and transform you.
Redemption Groups were started by Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. They are an “intense small group that digs deep into difficult and seldom-discussed areas of life, such as abuse, addiction, and trials of all sorts.” Since the focus on missional communities is not a support group, redemption groups provide that environment to spend focused time addressing these issues.
They are also gospel focused in nature which aims to provide an easy transition into a missional community. The end goal must be a transformed community ready to extend the healing that they have received in the gospel.
Building a Discipleship Culture
Missional communities are one of the primary ways people can be discipled by Christ in a community. They must be a part of a church with a discipleship culture for them to truly serve the purpose of discipleship. Mike Breen & Steve Cockram’s book are great on cultivating a discipleship culture within the church.
While the book is great, the content doesn’t need to be simply copied and pasted into your community. Discipleship is ultimately implementing and embodying Jesus’ way of making disciples who make disciples. It was a repeatable process that focused on the few to reach the many instead of the modern church aim of focusing on the many to reach the few.
Honestly, in the area of family equipping and missional communities, I’ve yet to find anything that cultivates families on mission & discipleship within families. I fully believe in integrating children into missional communities as it takes a community to disciple a child, but I also believe the church has the responsibility to equip parents in discipling their children.
Many churches provide age appropriate worship and peer contexts, but don’t confront the deferral parenting these have a tendency to create and our culture typically promotes. Other churches emphasize family discipleship and separate it from missional communities.
If anyone knows churches or ministries seeking to both, I’d love to learn. The church community is a family and a community of families. Equipping for gospel-centered parenting seeks to develop the missional community conversation for multiple generations. It’s a hole that still needs filling.
These are obviously just a few examples to assist gospel-centered communities on mission. There are many more and many that I am not aware of I’m sure. How have you seen churches supplement missional communities?