As our church continues to aim toward being a collection of gospel-centered communities on mission (Missional Communities), I’ve noticed that many people are not ready for some of the real implications that come with this idea. Even as many other churches wrestle through this, one thing that must be acknowledged is that pursuing this Book of Acts type community has major implications for your life, your church, and even the world.
Missional community methodology has implications for our lives because the gospel of Jesus Christ has implications for our lives. True faith in Christ involves reorienting our lives to follow His ways instead of the ways we have developed over the course of our lives. These implications deal with many of things we say we treasure, but the end results are many of the things we long for but think we will never have.
Dying to the Unhealthy Embrace of Individualism
We have all bought into the American ideal of individualism, that the collective best is accomplished by each of us seeking our own individual ascension. While individualism can have the benefits of promoting innovation, it has the downside of achieving this at the significant cost of others and relationships.
We have taken an unhealthy embrace of individualism that has led us to be suspicious and judgmental of others and seek our own good no matter what happens to others or our society. We seek our own self-ascension to the destruction of others. Jesus shows us a much better way.
Of all the people that ever lived, Jesus had the right to pursue His earthly ascension, many even wanted to make Him king. But He consistently sought the advancement of others with His power, His love, and eventually with His death and resurrection. He knew that only by laying down His life and even His desires (as He expressed the desire for another way to God the Father before going to the cross), would the collective best have the opportunity to be fulfilled. The collective best now has potential because of Christ’s death and resurrection when Christ is embraced as Lord by faith.
For the Christian, we proclaim that we follow Christ’s life, share in His ways, and seek to mirror those ways to our world. He spent His life with a community of people seeking to bless everyone He interacted with leaving us a pretty high bar as our standard for life.
A Life Bound Up with a Community
When a Christian becomes a part of a Community Groups or Missional Community, they are pursuing the life Christ laid out for them, but what they are usually not ready for is the required change. Committing to any type of community means that work, life events, and family time will be affected. This is true for buying season tickets to a sports team, joining a community organization, or even over-committing to work.
Committing to a missional community means we have less of our perceived sovereignty over our time and our life. We open ourselves up to gracious intrusion by others when our homes are less put together, we’re less prepared and it’s less convenient to us.
To be a part of a community is not to add more events. It will require a realignment of the current events of your life to align with a group of people, which may mean less events. You will likely be doing many of the same things, but no longer doing them just for yourself or by yourself.
Meals, recreation, and regular hang out time become community activities rather than individual escapes. And before the introverts go crazy, it doesn’t mean that alone or private time doesn’t happen, but it does mean that alone time is meant to refresh you to engage with a community of people.
Your Stuff is not just for you anymore
In Acts 2:42-47, we see the first church established in a response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s described as a community with shared beliefs, shared life, and shared resources. It begs the question, am I ready for my stuff to not just be for me? We’ve been taught and continually marketed to that we work so we can purchase and we all need to purchase the exact same stuff so each of us can have it.
What if we viewed our stuff as community stuff? What if we arranged our homes to enable hospitality? De-cluttered to become welcoming and became comfortable with our stuff being messed up and potentially ruined if it meant experiencing relationships in community.
The implications of missional communities is to shift our thinking from if I have more stuff, I’ll be happier, to recognize that real happiness comes from real relationships. It may changes our litmus test for purchases to be more gospel-centered. We may start measuring a purchase by how it can be a blessing to other people and not just a blessing to us.
You are expected to give & not just receive
Church culture has become great at letting a few people lead many people, placing the majority of people on the side of receiver and the few people as givers. Missional communities by their very nature require shared leadership and everyone in the community taking responsibility and ownership for one another and a mission greater than themselves.
This implication is that you become expected to contribute and not just consume a conversation or relationship. This means you have to stop complaining about the community not caring for you enough or giving you enough attention. It’s not that you won’t be cared for by the community, it’s that you help create a caring community for everyone, including yourself.
It also requires that you begin to remove conditions on your contributions to others. Unfortunately, we judge whether to care for someone based on our perceived value they bring to the community and us. A gospel-centered missional community does not operate like this. It recognizes that the love of God was given to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ not because we were good enough, smart enough, or people liked us, but because God chose to extend that love to us. He even chose to do it when we weren’t living like He demands. This is the nature of grace and a community embodies it well when they extend love based on God’s definition of value.
Assessing what we truly want
Missional communities affect what we value, but it ultimately forces us to ask what we really want in life. Most of us want quality relationships, deep conversations, and purpose to our lives, but too few us evaluate if our lives are set up in a way that these will ever be accomplished.
I truly believing aligning yourself and committing to a community increases all of the things we truly desire. I’ve never experienced more joy and enjoyment of life as being in the midst of a community that loves the gospel of Jesus Christ most. The implication of this type of gospel enjoyment is the creation of a community that blesses one another and the world.
Tomorrow I’ll tackle the implications for the church and Friday I’ll deal with the implications missional communities has on the world.