This is the first in a series of posts on what a missional community is – check out the others and let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.
All too often when I speak with missional community leaders or churches exploring missional communities, I hear about all that missional community is not. The language surrounding missional community has been reactionary to traditional attractional church methods for so long that it has become unhelpful. This was intended to be a way of distinguishing missional communities from the popular understanding of small groups in the broader church.
It has distinguished them from small groups, but for all the wrong reasons and in many ways has caused more confusion. The typical language states that missional communities are NOT a bible study, a support group, a social activist group, weekly meeting, or small group. So basically it’s a small group unicorn. Lately, the language is changing and that’s a good thing, but it leaves many of the questions from past definitions unanswered.
So…what is it?
When you explore it more deeply, you discover that missional community is simply inviting the people of God to live the life of Christ together.
Bible Study Plus
It’s an enhanced version of bible study where we let the scriptures be discussed, dialogued and understood so they cut to our hearts, call us to obedience, remind us of repentance, and change the way we live our everyday. It moves the target of bible study from knowledge about God, to love for, awe of, and obedience to God.
When the target moves, everyone can benefit from the scriptures from non-Christian to mature Christian because it’s a work on the soul toward seeing, savoring, and becoming like Jesus Christ.
Support Group Plus
Saying a missional community is not a support group is a complete misnomer. The reality is you need more support on the mission of God and no one can do it better than your church community when they become a family.
We’ve watched people take off work to spend time with us, watch our kids, and give of themselves to support one another in far greater degrees than we ever did in a bible study or small group that wasn’t pursuing mission as the end. But again it moves beyond support and consoling to bringing health for the sake of the mission of God. It has a greater aim than care, but sees the essential value of care for healthy and sustainable mission.
Social Activist Plus
The gospel of Jesus Christ affects the spiritual and the physical. Receiving mercy from God and seeing His justice in Christ propels activism for the good of a city and society.
A missional community is on the front lines of the immediate everyday needs and when they partner with other missional communities, they can be the best at addressing the systemic needs of a neighborhood or city. Since it is more than social activism it provides the actual and deepest solution (spiritual) to the needs of those around us by extending the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ.
A Weekly Life
When I read about and look at small group ministry, I’ve only seen a missional community approach encourage the body of Christ at large to see Christianity and “church” as an everyday reality in all spheres of life. This is the result of missional communities being more than a meeting, but really a new rhythm and way of life propelled and reconstructed by the gospel of Jesus Christ over comfort, security, approval, or success.
The missional community aims to walk the life of Christ and that encompasses all of life. The invitation is to bring every aspect of your life under His gracious, freeing reign and find the place of greatest joy when you do.
Small Group Plus
A missional community rarely stays a small group as well. The aim is for more people to experience God’s love through God’s people, so the invitations are many to those far or near to God. The missional community grows by invitation and welcoming others, it grows in depth by the love and knowledge of God, and then it multiplies to recreate the same community for others to experience.
But it’s rare that the original mission community would only send and say goodbye to their friends, it usually becomes a partnership; a missional community partnership for prayer, for social events, and for God’s mission in a specific area. The impact on a neighborhood or city seeing and experiencing God through His people only becomes greater in a multiplying missional partnership.
“That’s Not Possible, It’s Too Much to Ask!”
This is usually the response I hear and it’s accurate to an extent. In one sense it raises the bar for the church and Christianity, but it also forces us to ask why the bar was set where it is now?
On our own and with our own effort, it is not possible and only feels daunting. It’s only possible when we cultivate a missional community out of the joy and hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God describes this gospel as His power. This power transforms us, frees us to let go of old patterns and ways of life to embrace new ways of life in following Jesus. This isn’t easy, but anything of worth is never easy to attain, but it is worth it.
The joy found in walking the life of Jesus with a community is worth it.