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.
Last week, I suggested we change the language for Missional Communities, since it mostly communicates what they are not. I’ve heard many people read definitions of Missional Communities and view them as anti-Bible, but I really do believe they are Bible Study Plus. When I say Bible Study Plus, I mean they invite people to know God as He has revealed Himself through His Word, but then invite people to put their knowledge into action.
The Bible is God’s words about Himself. It informs us about who He is, what He has done, what He is doing, and what that means for us. It can’t be ignored and must be central to the formation of a community around Jesus, since without the scriptures we wouldn’t know truly who Jesus is. The bible was never intended to be an end in itself, but a primary means God has chosen to reveal His character, plan, and desire for our lives.
Our communities made a subtle shift a few years ago to make the scriptures central to the community over the sermon. The dialogue was no longer in response to the sermon just preached on Sunday, but around the scripture passage for the upcoming sermon. The emphasis it placed on the scriptures led more people to think through and dialogue about the passage rather than respond to the speaker’s words.
While this has helped all of our communities be guided by a discussion of God centered on the bible, a few helpful practices and resources have helped in making God’s word central for our Missional Communities.
One aspect that characterizes all of these best practices is the emphasis on understanding the character of God, His redemptive plan in Jesus Christ and how our lives must change to align with who God is and what He is doing.
Here are 3 ways to make the bible central in Missional Communities.
Our community has learned a lot from two of our Brooklyn Community Group leaders, Matt and Katelyn, who are amazing at connecting with and caring for people. They have introduced us to the idea of a story prompt to start the dialogue for the community. Imagine an icebreaker prompt question that actually ties to the point of a scripture passage.
It’s a personal question with a deeper meaning and intent to bring our thoughts, feelings, desires, or actions into play to allow God’s Word to speak into them. Like a hook for an essay or an introduction for a talk, it connects with the individual and invites them to wonder what God has to say about their ideas, emotions, wants, or needs.
This has enhanced our conversation and I’ve seen people become more excited about God’s word as it connects with them on so many levels.
The Story of God
Soma Communities in Tacoma, WA developed a curriculum based on storytelling the redemptive plan of God. I have to admit I was skeptical at first as to how this would play out in a community group setting, but it was pretty amazing.
It breaks down the Bible into a story form from beginning to end in short stories, summarizing the major stories and themes about God. The stories are short and they are followed by questions for the community to process. They provide some ground rules to insure that people are dialoguing about the story that has been told, not jumping ahead of the story.
The storytelling approach actually highlights parts of the scriptures that are typically missed. I’ve heard from many people who have been in the church for years talk about how it has caused them to go back to God’s Word with new eyes.
Life Transformation Groups
I first learned about Life Transformation Groups from Neil Cole, added the thoughts of Jonathan Dodson and learned from experience the great value they contribute to knowing God and engaging in a community on mission. These are gender-specific groups of between 2-4 people (typically) that place a heavy emphasis on reading the scriptures, studying them deeply, confessing sin that the scriptures reveal, and praying together.
These have impacted the community in 2 massive ways that I’ve seen. The first is how it enhances the entire community for everyone to be digesting and processing scripture outside of a typical gathering time. It’s amazing to watch people come to community ready to give and care for one another. The second is providing the best context for questions and personally applying the scriptures. I’ll have more on Life Transformation Groups tomorrow.
We Never Move on from God’s Word
God’s Word has stood through criticism, time, and remains the primary means by which we understand the character and nature of God. We don’t graduate from His Word, but reading and studying it as a textbook is not the end.
We must see the scriptures as the authority for the life of a Christian and the guide for the mission of the community. It is sufficient and clear in teaching us how to live in a way to honor God, find joy in life, and extend the good news to others.
Missional Communities invite us to know God in His word with His people and join His redemptive plan for our lives and the world.