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Christian Living

Missional Through Community

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.

Missional Community

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.

Missional Church

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.

Form a gathering of like-minded Jesus followers and develop a missional community. Click To Tweet

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.

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Christian Living

Do You Go to a Missional Church? Are You Missional?

Make Sure That What You Do Advances the Kingdom of God

Many people talk about being a missional church (and a missional follower of Jesus). This is an ideal goal, yet people have different understandings about what it means to be missional. Before giving a holistic definition of this often-misunderstood word, let’s first look what it is not.

Missional Is Not a Mission Statement

Too many churches think that having a mission statement automatically means they’re a missional church. But there’s seldom a connection between their formal declaration of intent and its effective outcome.

Even including the word missional in a mission statement doesn’t count. Claiming to be missional falls far short of producing true missional results.

Missional Is Not Merely an Attitude

Beyond mission statements, having an attitude of mission is a good start, but thinking falls far short from doing. Being mission minded is an essential foundation to launch from, but we must put our faith into action to help others.

Missional Is Not Providing Financial Support to Missionaries

Giving money to support missionaries to go throughout the world and proclaim Jesus is an ideal use of funds. It is not, however, missional. Instead, it’s paying someone else to be missional in your place.

Yes, missionaries need money so they can focus on telling others about Jesus and advance his kingdom. (Notice I didn’t say grow a church.) Both we and our churches will do well to support missionaries, but don’t for a minute think this gets us off the hook for being missional ourselves.

Remember, Scripture says that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26). Don’t have an ineffective, unproductive faith.

Missional Is Not Internal Programs

Another common fallacy is thinking that having internal church programs qualifies as being a missional church. Yes, some churches have their doors open every day of the week for some program, initiative, or gathering. But with rare exception, each one of these programs has an internal focus, seeking to serve church members and attendees, while doing nothing to benefit the surrounding community.

These programs are inward focused, self-serving, and selfish.

Consider your church budget. After removing salaries and facility expenses, look at what’s left—if anything. How much of this remaining sliver of donations goes to internal needs versus how much goes to outward-facing, community initiatives? For most churches, the answer is zero.

God-honoring mission is outward focused, serves others, and gives without expectation. This is what it means to be a missional church. Click To Tweet

Missional Church Is Outward Facing Action

True kingdom-growing mission is the opposite of internal programs geared toward the flock. God-honoring mission is outward focused, serves others, and gives without expectation. This is what it means to be a missional church.

Do your part to advance the kingdom of God. Pursue this missional mindset individually and as a group. This is necessary because a missional church is comprised of missional people.

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.

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Christian Living

What Is a Micro Church?

Bigger isn’t always better and the micro church proves this

In another post we discussed the emergent church. Today we shift the discussion to micro church. Emergent church and micro church, are these alternate labels for the same thing or different? The answer is maybe.

The concept of a micro church can go by different labels. Other names, some of which might be more familiar, include simple church and organic church. Some micro churches are house churches, but not all of them. And some house churches are micro churches, but, again, not all.

It’s easiest to describe a micro church by looking at its characteristics:

Streamlined Structure

Micro churches have only a minimal amount of structure and just enough to allow them to function. Their organization tends to be flat as opposed to hierarchical, with a more egalitarian operation.

No Paid Staff

At micro churches people minister to one another and serve as priests to each other, as we find described in the New Testament. They don’t have a need for paid clergy or to maintain anyone on a payroll.

Priesthood of all Believers

Since micro churches have no paid staff, they have no clergy. This isn’t a problem since they embrace the priesthood of all believers. This means that the people in the community minister to one another, teach one another, and help one another.

They feel no need to subjugate this to professional ministers. Because of the nature of their faith they are automatically priests.

Deemphasized Sunday Service

The micro church doesn’t place as much emphasis on a Sunday morning service as traditional churches do. In fact, they may not meet on Sunday or even once a week. Their gatherings may not even resemble a church service.

At micro churches, weekly church gatherings prepare people to go into their community and serve. Click To Tweet

Missional

The micro church has a vision to serve. They have a mission. This makes them missional. However, their mission is not inwardly focused but outwardly focused.

Their internal gatherings, be it like a Sunday service or something else, are to encourage and prepare the people present to go out into their community and serve. Therefore, many micro churches have at its core one particular vision, a mission, around which people gather.

Focused on Multiplication

The micro church isn’t concerned with growing its numbers, but it’s vitally interested in growing influence. Micro churches seek to do this by helping others start their own micro churches to address other needs in the community.

Their simple structure makes this easy and fast. This is why they view themselves as organic. They’re constantly growing, changing, and reproducing more of their kind.

Perhaps Emergent

In a previous post we defined the emergent church as an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture.

In considering this definition and the above characteristics, it’s easy to see a connection between the emergent church and the micro church. This doesn’t mean they’re the same, however.

It just means they tap into a similar underlying angst of spiritual speakers to pursue community and help the world in new and unexpected ways, ways that the traditional church has missed.

I embrace both the emergent church and micro church concepts as practical and effective ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world seeking relevance and purpose in a confusing existence.

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.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: A Spirituality of Fundraising

A Spirituality of Fundraising

By Henri J. M. Nouwen (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Based on a speech Henri Nouwen gave in 1992, this book is the eventual outcome. In it, Henri challenges us to consider the spiritual aspects of raising money for Christian service and outreach opportunities.

It should not be an unpleasant reality but a form of service whereby vision is shared and people are invited into missional participation. In viewing fund-raising as a ministry opportunity, we are able to help the “Kingdom of God come about.”

Book Review: A Spirituality of Fundraising

Before embarking on a fundraising effort, those doing the asking need to first consider their own views and perspectives on money. Their security needs to rest completely in God. If they have ungodly notions about money, their efforts to raise funds for ministry purposes will be limited.

When approaching wealthy people for donations, there is first the opportunity to minister to them and their needs.

Financially well-off folks struggle, too, and need love. In this way, fund-raising is really about creating long-term relationships with donors and potential donors, inviting people into spiritual communion. It is about building community.

In this, prayer is the starting point of soliciting contributions for ministry. As such, this book is a must-read for those engaged in Christian fundraising.

[A Spirituality of Fundraising, by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Published by Upper Room, 2011, ISBN: 978-0835810449, 64 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: The Rabbit and the Elephant

Book Review: The Rabbit and the Elephant

The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small is the New Big for Today’s Church

By Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

Rabbits reproduce quickly and with abundance, while elephants do so slowly and infrequently; this is a metaphor for the church. The established institutional church is likened to the elephant, while the house church is compared to a rabbit.

Noting that house churches (also called simple churches, organic churches, or missional churches) can be started easily and at little expense, they are an effective way of making disciples. Making disciples, the authors point out, is what Jesus told his followers to do.

He did not say go and plant churches, or even go and convert people, but simple to go and make disciples.

The Rabbit and the Elephant is filled with practical teaching on house churches, which is backed by solid support from the Bible. To add relevance and make for a convicting and compelling read, ample personal experiences of the authors are included to illustrate points and put real faces on the principles they share.

The purpose of the kind of house church they advocate is not merely to be internally focused, for the benefit and comfort of its members, but for outreach.

The house church is essentially to be evangelistic, making disciples in the process. Towards this end, a simple, nonthreatening, non-confrontational method is offered.

The Rabbit and the Elephant contains 23 short and concise chapters, which effectively build on each other. It also contains a helpful appendix answering commonly asked questions and even the endnotes contain useful insights.

The Rabbit and the Elephant is a “must read” for anyone in or pursuing a house church—or for those in a traditional church yearn for more.

[The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small is the New Big for Today’s Church, by Toney and Felicity Dale and George Barna. Published by Tyndale House Publishers Inc, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-4143-2553-8, 233 pages, $17.99.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Book Review: A Generous Orthodoxy

Book Review: A Generous Orthodoxy

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.

By Brian McLaren (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)

In A Generous Orthodoxy, author Brian McLaren seeks to move the modern world’s theological dialog beyond the paralyzing impasse of liberal versus conservative, into a “post-liberal” and “post-conservative” inclusivity.

This, however, does not mean attempting to merely merge the two, but rather moving beyond them, linking orthodoxy with practice (that is binding spiritual theory to loving action) from a biblical perspective.

Towards this end, he shares the various ways in which different manifestations of Christianity (think of denominations) have shaped and influenced his appreciation for and understand of Jesus. This evokes a realization that God is an “unified, eternal, mysterious, relational community/family/society/entity of saving love.”

Often using hyperbole to provoke critical thinking among his readers, McLaren then asks the confrontational question, “Would Jesus be a Christian?”

This sets the framework for the rest of the book, with each of the ensuing 16 chapters addressing one item in the book’s cumbersomely long subtitle: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, Incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian.

In doing this, McLaren does not promote an all-encompassing and inclusive orthodoxy—one to conclusively end all orthodoxies—but rather shares his thoughts on what it might include so that productive dialogue can be advanced in constructing an orthodoxy that is generous, as well as accepting, inclusive, and loving.  Towards that end, each chapter concludes with a list of discussion questions to start the conversation.

[A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed- yet hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian, by Brian McLaren. Published by Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2006; ISBN: 978-0310258032; 352 pages.]

Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.

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.

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