This is part of 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.
The church small group method of choice is primarily bible study. This is how I started in ministry before I hated missional communities and then came to grasp what was missing in my small group bible study.
As I have shared that missional communities are not centered on a bible study, the most common question I get asked is,
“How can a mature Christian be fed in Missional Communities?!?” (And yes, it is usually said with an exclamation point between two question marks)
The thought goes like this – if Missional Communities are not a bible study, I won’t be able to grow in my Christian faith.
There is much that can be said on this, but it is best to focus on the most mature Christian that ever lived, Jesus Christ and what He has to say and demonstrates about being fed. I’m well aware that not everyone is Jesus, and that many people far from God and new to Christianity need to be taught the bible. But we must also be careful to teach them to feed themselves, not make them dependent on someone else to teach them.
How was Jesus fed?
It’s pretty safe to assume Jesus wasn’t looking to Peter or the sons of Zebedee to teach him, but Jesus knew something greater than we did.
We see Jesus retreat regularly to spend time alone with God the Father in prayer, fasting, and devotional practices. Jesus took ownership of his own nourishment, just like we all do with food when we grow up. Unfortunately, we don’t approach the church that way, but our aim must always be to empower others to seek God in the scriptures and through prayer.
Our instruction (and missional communities) must be to that end, to clearly inform people not only about the scriptures, but how they can understand and read the scriptures themselves.
Food is more than Knowledge
We also see Jesus have an interesting interaction in John 4 where he speaks of his food as “to do the will of my Father.” The question of how someone can be fed is often based on the assumption that study of the scriptures is the only way for someone to grow in their Christian faith.
While it is a vital way, what Jesus is pointing to is that to be a “mature Christian” is much more than knowing your bible, but obeying it in following Christ. We must know the scriptures, but more than that we must do the scriptures.
In this regard I see the church (Christians) make 2 errors. One is that everyone assumes they know the bible – most don’t and need to develop a healthy reading plan for themselves. The second is that knowing the bible is equivalent to living it.
This is why yesterday I described missional communities as bible study plus rather than anti-bible studies.
Bible Study Plus – How a Mature Christian Can be Fed in Missional Communities
Beyond teaching people to enjoy God and the scriptures on their own, Missional Communities (we call them Community Groups at Apostles) enjoy the bible in a number of different ways.
When they gather together, after a meal or another way of connecting, they typically discuss the scriptures in one of a few different ways. Each community group leader is empowered to figure out how to cultivate a conversation around the scriptures that invites people to engage whether they are new to Christianity or been there a while.
Many take the scripture passage for the upcoming sermon and dialogue through that, while others use storytelling, or other methods.
The key though, is that the conversation doesn’t end on understanding and knowledge. The scriptures were written to shape a community by transforming individuals and the community together. Understanding and knowledge must move to delighting in Jesus (Gospel Enjoyment), care for the community (Intentional Community) and how it changes the way we love and interact with our neighbors and the world around us (Prayerful Mission).
The scriptures end with knowing God relationally and being like Him. Maturity in Christianity is being “conformed to the image of Christ” not merely knowing a lot about Him. This involves the mind, heart, hands, and actions of Christ. This can happen well in the context of missional community and mature Christians will learn to enjoy the food that Christ did, to do the will of their Father.
In the next few posts, I’ll share about how my faith grows from our Bible Study Plus moments in Missional Community, Life Transformation Groups, and Best Practices I’ve seen.