Yesterday I remembered when I hated missional communities and how that changed over time. As I’ve watched a number of missional communities, I’ve seen two major ways they end up failing as a gospel-centered community on mission. These failures both result from making something other than the gospel the motivation for the group of Christ followers.
I watched multiple missional community groups fail when mission takes center stage. When the motivation for gathering is solely and primarily about a specific people, service project and success is only seeing those people know and love Jesus Christ. Today I will elaborate on this danger for missional communities and tomorrow I will elaborate on the danger of community taking center stage over the gospel.
3 Major Failures Resulting when mission takes center stage
1. Great Commission Trumps the Greatest Commandments
The church overall has lacked in extending the love and grace of Jesus Christ, whether that’s to their neighbor, co-worker or even close friends. In response to this, many church leaders have over-emphasized the Great Commission (Go and Make Disciples) to the point that it has trumped the Greatest Commandments (Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself) for the Christian.
The Great Commission flows out of the Greatest Commandments. You only talk about, proclaim, or extend what you love and enjoy. If that’s football, the latest fashion trend, or your faith in Jesus, you will naturally share it with others. The church’s lack of mission is a gospel issue, not understanding that they have been given salvation in Christ, provided reconciliation with God, to bring reconciliation with God to the world. It’s not merely that they haven’t been challenged to go and make disciples.
We can’t trade loving God for duty to God and expect making disciples to be sustainable. A community only emphasizing the mission is very active and looks like they are accomplishing much, but often turns people into projects to fulfill their duty rather than to extend the love of God.
2. Your value is based on your contribution
When mission becomes center, your value to the community is becomes based on your production for the mission. How much have you been evangelizing? How active have you been in building relationships? How many of the service projects have you been to? Are you accomplishing the mission of the community or not? You become an impersonal cog in a mission machine.
The scriptures describe each Christian as valuable to any Christian community because they are sons or daughters of God, saved by Christ and equipped by the Holy Spirit to use their gifts for the common good. When your value is not based on the gospel but on your contribution, you are only cared for and celebrated when you tell stories of mission. Your exalted for the evangelistic or justice work you have done, while your personal holiness and love for God becomes of no concern.
This leads to burnout, a lack of desire for anything to do with God, and when you stop contributing you don’t want to be a part of the community anymore. You realize you are not valued or cared for unless you have proven your successful mission.
3. Community Dies
There is a saying that goes “If you aim for community, you never get mission, but if you aim for mission you always get community.” It’s false. It sounds like a great tweet that would be retweeted across the twittersphere, but it lacks sustained results.
It is true that mission enhances a gospel-centered community, but mission alone is not the answer. Jesus is the solution, not just His mission.
When mission becomes center, people aren’t cared for well and then there is no loving community to invite someone into that is exploring faith. Jesus said they would know we are His disciples by the way we love one another. If we show our love for one another only by celebrating successful mission that proclaims a gospel that Jesus loves you only when you do great things for Him.
What type of community are you inviting people into?
The Gospel at Center
A community that desires to see mission flourish must lift the gospel of Jesus Christ high as the most valuable definer and sustainer of the community. Jesus was sent into the world, God’s best missionary, invested in community, led them on mission to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the world, died for them and for us, and then sent them on mission as a community.
A gospel-centered community remembers the invitation of God into His family, into the community of faith to be a contributor to the growing love of that community. The community defines the value of each individual as God does, valuable because God has declared them valuable in Jesus Christ.
The gospel-centered community doesn’t stop at merely enjoying the benefits of the loving community, but remembers that as God sent Christ into the world, so Christ has sent His community of follows to extend His message and mercy.
For a missional community to see community and mission flourish, the gospel needs to take and remain the center stage.