I’m a big fan of missional communities as I believe the scriptures clearly articulate the power and intent of God for a community to demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ through their love for one another and their neighbors.
It’s becoming a larger conversation and many churches are considering the idea. As they consider it, they must consider and be ready for the implications. The idea sounds new and exciting, but directly affects the common understanding of church. As I’ve thought about it and considered it, there are many implications depending on the current approach of a church, but overall there are 4 immediate implications for which a church should be prepared.
Monday-Saturday as valuable as Sunday
The Sunday gathering is what most people call church, but the scriptures use church to describe a people, not a service or a building. For a church to implement Christ-centered communities on mission, they will have to give as much, if not more, effort to equipping people to let their faith affect the rest of their week as they do to putting on a Sunday service. Is the church ready to spend its effort on equipping the saints? If it is not, missional community is merely a brand name change without substance.
This does not mean that you need to abolish the Sunday gathering as some have suggested, but it does mean you no longer treat the music or the sermon as the primary point of mission for your church. The Sunday activities become a part of the rhythm of mission that occurs amongst the community. It becomes catalyst and culmination of mission that leads to the worship of Christ. Is the church ready to define mission as the everyday extension and representation of the gospel of Christ to the world? If not, missional communities will not be missional at all.
In moving this direction, a church also begins to address the personality driven nature and the celebrity pastor culture that can be prevalent for many churches. Leadership is no longer confined to a few “professionals”, but freely spread across an entire community. This can be uncomfortable at first for pastors and congregants who are not used to having less/more ability to lead God’s people. Missional communities thrive in a church where leaders are ready to celebrate others gifts and stories of loving their community.
Mission Requires Margin Requiring Less Church Events
The church calendar can be the biggest impediment of mission. How busy is your church? How busy is the church staff or key church leaders with church or Christian-only activities? It’s not necessarily that church activities can’t also be missional, but for many churches the activities continue the “come to me to hear about Jesus” mentality rather than entering into the neighborhoods activities following Jesus’ “go and tell” charge.
A church will need to evaluate their current calendar and activities to evaluate if they are asking the impossible of the community of God. Most people are fighting for margin already and need the church to give them the freedom to join their co-workers, friends, and neighbors in their activities. This may mean they don’t come to church on a Sunday occasionally (blasphemy!?!?) but that will confront the church’s view of the overall purpose of the community of God.
Missional communities thrive when margin is provided to exist as members of their neighborhood and church events/activities/equipping needs to serve to supplement rather than compete.
Church Programs, Committees, & Ministries Will End
This is the biggest one for many churches in established denominations. Every ministry, program, or church committee will have to be re-evaluated and adapted to join the missional community mentality or missional community becomes another option on the church activity buffet line.
If a church wants to release their people (they may not) to love their neighbors and serve their neighborhood, every ministry or ministry opportunity needs to be evaluated. Does it compete with or encourage Christians to join the mission of extending Christ’s love to all? This coincides with the mission requiring margin because many of the programs are more church activity to make people feel involved or contributing when they need to connected to a community not a church task.
A church of missional communities thrives when the entire church is flowing in the same direction. It’s not to say there won’t be care or counseling ministries or similar things that focus on the church community only, but it’s recognizing that those ministries end in missional communities.
Every Vocation is a Spiritual Calling
Most people spend more time at work than they do anything else. If this is not seen and encouraged as an opportunity to exalt Christ with and at work, then there will only be one spiritual job – full-time ministry. Throughout the scriptures we see God specifically impart abilities to people that have nothing to do with our understanding of full-time ministry, but God does this to make Himself known through work.
Every company can be a people group to extend the gospel to and an opportunity to display the love of God and the magnificence of God through the work. Until we all see ourselves as missionaries sent by God in every profession, we will only see church staff members as people paid for ministry. That is a false understanding of who ultimately provides all things for us (God) and is able to use any means possible to fund His missionaries (your salary from your company).
Missional communities thrive when people see all of their life as an opportunity to demonstrate the grace, mercy & transformative love of Jesus Christ to whomever they encounter. This means their jobs, their neighborhood, and their favorite restaurant is an opportunity to display Jesus to the world.
Is it worth it?
This is surely what many churches will begin asking. Is it worth it to affect the status quo? Is it worth it to transition to missional communities if it will take years to do so? Is it worth it if it will cause frustration amongst a people who like the building-Sunday service understanding of Church?
Make no mistake, it will be a challenge for every church that chooses to pursue missional communities, but asking is it worth it with an eye toward the implications is the wrong question.
The right question is, does Jesus deserve the worship of everyone in my neighborhood and city? That answer is yes, He is the only one worthy of worship, the only one who loves perfectly, challenges perfectly, and transforms people. Because of this, any difficulty a church has in extending the gospel of Christ to cause more worship of Jesus is worth it.
Aside from that, I can share that personally there is no greater joy than being in a community that loves the gospel of Christ most and being a part of extending that gospel to others.
So yes, all of these implications are worth it.