Follow Jesus’s Example to Live in Community and Be Missional
I often talk about the importance of being in a spiritual community. Though this community can happen anywhere, when it comes to church, forming meaningful spiritual connections is more important than the music or message of the Sunday service.
Another critical element of our faith practice is being missional. These two pursuits can work well together; they should work well together. We can best be missional through community, a missional community, if you will.
One church understood this idea well, at least in concept. They called their small group program, Missional Community. The groups did a reasonable job at accomplishing the community aspect of their assignment, but they fell short on the missional portion.
Their community operated with an internal mindset, either largely or exclusively so. And if they did anything with an outward focus, they usually directed these efforts at the church and its attendees, not the greater public on the outside.
I suspect the premise was to form community first and hope missional activity would flow from it. Yet a small group with an inward focus seldom lasts more than a couple of years. The long-lasting groups do so when they have an external focus, an outward mission. They then become missional through community.
A better approach, however, is to start with a missional effort first. Then form community around it. This makes sense.
If you take ten people and ask them to identify an initiative they want to pursue, you’ll get ten answers. Consensus will elude you. And even if people agree for the sake of harmony, nine of them will lack a full-on commitment to the cause.
Instead, look at those already committed to the activity. Then pull them together as a group to form connection around their common initiative. In this way, the missional community will pursue its calling with complete commitment and form a spiritual kinship that endures.
Like small groups, most churches also have an internal focus. They continue to exist in their self-centered pursuit of spirituality and persist to meet for the long-term—unlike small groups. These churches, however, render themselves ineffective in making a significant impact for the kingdom of God.
If a church is to be truly missional, bake the missional mindset into its DNA. Those who agree with the mission will stay and become connected. And those who don’t buy into the mission will soon leave.
Missional through Community
In Jesus’s Broken Church I wrote, “As you meet, be sure to keep your focus on Jesus and his Holy Spirit. They will guide you in ways to look beyond your group, to be missional (Matthew 10:42).”
Though I didn’t spell it out, the concluding prescription of the entire book is to be missional through community, to form a gathering of like-minded Jesus followers to pursue mission and develop a missional community. Better yet, start with the mission and the community will follow.
You don’t need a large group to start being missional through community. It only takes two or three (Matthew 18:20). Build on that. Trust God to bless the outcome.
Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.