Let me start with a confession, missional communities are totally new to me. I first heard about it on a podcast episode from the Church Leaders Podcast. I was immediately intrigued, leading me to search for and study the most influential leaders in this movement. So, in the name of simplicity and expediency, I would like to present Jeff Vanderstelt’s definition of a missional community:
A Missional Community is a gospel community (FAMILY) that lives out the mission of God together (MISSIONARIES) in a specific area and to a particular people group by demonstrating the gospel in tangible forms (SERVANTS) and declaring the gospel to others – both those who believe it and those who are being exposed to it (LEARNERS).
This, you may be thinking, is a great start, but what does it actually look like and how do these communities function? Are they part of a local church? Are they independent from a traditional congregation? Are they simply a new church model? My thoughts exactly!
How Do Missional Communities Function?
From what I’ve been able to gather through researching various missional community websites (Verge Network, SOMA, Forge, Blueprint Church), they seem to do the following:
- Start as a small group of missional minded, Gospel driven Christians (connected to a local church) with a heart to reach a pocket or portion of their city
- Adopt or form a missional community vision and strategy
- Begin weekly meetings to do life together and encourage each other to be missional in their area (neighborhood, work place, etc.)
- Individually reach the lost and disciple them by intentionally doing life with them
Why Missional Communities?
Depending on your lifestyle and depth of relationship with God, you may be thinking that this idea sounds crazy or awesome! Either way, I think it’s vital that we ask why missional communities have become the new “big thing” in Christian circles.
Maybe this quote will start the conversation for us:
Evangelical Christianity doesn’t have a literal or cultural place in the city. We gave it up decades ago. Now, we’re trying to reengage in a context completely different from the orderly and homogeneous context of the suburbs the church has made its home. – Brad Watson
As America slips closer to a post-Christian society, the truth of Brad’s statement rings truer and truer. Organized religion may have a place in culture but true, evangelical Christianity has long since lost it’s influence. But, you might be thinking to yourself now, we’ve (the Christian church by and large) has tried reaching our society by keeping up with trends and media so how will this missional community concept be any different? Great question! Let’s read what Brad adds:
Oddly, the first step forward isn’t toward cutting edge strategies or culturally relevant events. It’s pressing into the gospel—the thing of first importance. The gospel is the good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his own death and resurrection and is making all things new, even us. This is good news in the city and for the city. The city is where death, evil, and destruction is obvious to all. The affects of sin, whether it is acknowledged as sin or not, is exposed in every neighborhood. The city is where the abused gather together. It’s where the enslaved, broken, and downtrodden end up. It’s where schools fail to keep kids safe. It’s where injustice is present on almost every corner. It’s where isolation from community, family, and others is rampant. Cities are settling grounds for fugitives and refugees. They gather orphans. They are the last stop for vulnerable women. The city is also a place for hope. It’s where we hope in our humanity, ingenuity, non-profits, and creative solutions. – Brad Watson
I think the why has to do with the focus: they are a Gospel community. This, of course, is not to say that churches are not. Remember, missional communities are born out of (most often) churches, churches with a missional instead of attractional focus. Many churches in almost every city do great services for their cities, but the church is often a place of holding, training, and entertaining. Some are fully invested in discipleship while others are debating whether discipleship is part of their job (a job that Matthew 28:19-20 makes abundantly clear!).
Ok, I’m beginning to feel a small percentage of you giving me a defiant, not so nice stare. I promise you that I’m not anti-church!
Maybe a better way to state the question is: why gospel centered?
The answer: it’s the only true hope for humanity!
Explore Some More!
I promise that we’ve only scratched the surface of missional communities. I would like to challenge you to explore the concept on your own. You won’t regret it because the overriding thing you see in all of the leaders is a gospel centered lifestyle that we should all be living. It’s simply living on mission for Jesus in every area of your life, and building a community that pursues that mission together.
What are your thoughts? What resources would you recommend? Am I way off on my understanding of missional communities? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And, if you found this post useful, please use the share buttons to share it on your favorite platform!
Also published on Medium.