The What of Missional Community
Because Missional Communities are not a program or event, but a way of life and a vehicle for discipleship, care, and mission, describing them can take a while. You need to give some description, tell a few stories, then give more explanation, followed by another story. What I’m saying is, describing missional community could get long. But for the sake of being concise, our short, simple description of a Missional Community is a spiritual family on mission together.
In trying to be more specific and precise while also being simple, we would actually use the phrase “gospel community.” But that’s clunky and doesn’t mean anything to most people without some explanation. Everyone knows what a family is. Even if yours is dysfunctional, you know that it shouldn’t be that way and have at least some idea of what it might be like if it wasn’t. And people can also mentally grasp a spiritual family a lot quicker than a gospel community. So we say spiritual family on mission.
The spiritual part isn’t just spiritual, it’s gospel at its core. These groups we run in are gospel-created and gospel-centered. The gospel is what restores us to God and to each other. 2 Corinthians 5.18 says that, through Christ, God reconciled us to himself. Being moral didn’t do it. Working hard doesn’t get us there. Being religious doesn’t work. God restored us to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and through our faith in him.
1 John 1.3 says, “That which we have seen and heard [from Jesus] we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
We are given (or restored to) fellowship with each other, despite our many outward differences, through our faith in the power and work of God in Jesus. We have been made family (Ephesians 2.19). This means that our interaction with each other isn’t transactional or programmed out, it is relational. The gospel makes us a spiritual family in Jesus.
Where many smaller groups in church life view their purpose (some intentionally, some not) as building community or studying the Bible, Missional Communities are communities of the gospel who live on mission. We don’t have a mission of community–we are a community on mission.
2 Corinthians 5.19 says those who have been reconciled to God have then been entrusted with the message of reconciliation for the world–that God is now making his appeal to the world through us. We have been given a mission by the one who rescued us.
How to Think and Not Think of Missional Community
A Missional Community is not a weekly gathering or a catchy name for a small group or Bible study. A Missional Community is a people. Just like we wouldn’t say, “I have my family tonight,” but instead would say, “My family is coming over tonight,” when you think of Missional Community we want you to think about faces and rhythms of life together, not meetings or a night of the week.
3 Elements Present in Missional Community
The foundation of the group is not relationships, food, service, counseling, or even Bible study. The heart at the center of life in a Missional Community, the thing that drives us, centers us, and informs all we do is the gospel message. We counsel and address sin with it. We encourage each other through it. We worship because of it.
When trying to solve a problem or figure out a situation in a Missional Community, one of the most basic questions to ask is, “What would a family do?”
What do we do with our kids? What would a family do with their kids?
Who will take care of the food? How would a family take care of the food?
When and how often will we see each other? What will we do? What would that look like for a family?
It takes time, but our goal is to increasingly learn to function like an extended family on mission together, centered around Jesus.
In order to actually be a healthy missional community, we need to be clear that it is not simply a more committed community group for church people–there is an intentional push toward mission, specifically making maturing followers of Jesus. That means believers growing in their faith and joy in Jesus and turning from sin, and non-believers hearing and seeing the gospel lived out and being invited to follow Jesus.
Stay tuned for more of our series describing Missional Communities at Remedy.