Friday, September 11, 2009

Missional Communities

The term “missional”1 is a ministry buzzword that is currently used to describe all manner of vision and mission fulfillment in all sorts of churches and denominations. In my meaning of the term, and originally, “missional” is an adjective which describes the host of values, priorities, emphases and resultant strategies that come from embracing a “missionary approach” to all of ordinary life and ministry.

Historically, CCC has used the word “missionary” to define vocational ministry workers who travel internationally or out of the area into a mission “field”. The thought that some people are “Christians”, and others are “missionaries” who are special Christians that do the work of the ministry – reinforces an unbiblical dichotomy that has done major damage to the identity of the local church in America. We need to recover the biblical picture that CCC’s “mission fields” are the homes, relationships, businesses and neighborhoods in which our members live together. The gatherings of these “missionary groups” involve many different ordinary life activities and require the sharing of life that challenges the individualistic idols of our culture.

The typical “small group” or “growth group” in a church largely gains its identity from a regular weeknight gathering whose primary purpose is to study the bible or some other book, to pray for each other, and “fellowship”. Membership in such a group is largely a matter of regular attendance.

A missional community is a gospel-centered group of Christians who band together to fulfill the disciple-making mission of the church in their area (Matt 28:18-20). While bible study does take place in these fellowships, the primary identity of these groups lies in a shared commitment to cultivate and maintain a “missionary mindset” as they reach their neighbors and live in community with one another.  This is done through sharing the common rhythms of ordinary life with gospel-shaped intentions.  In these groups we take the regular stuff of life - eating, serving/blessing, celebrations, work, listening, rest, recreation - and seek to demonstrate the truth and beauty of the gospel through these things to one another and to non-believers.

1. The first missiologist using the term "missional" in its modern understanding was Francis DuBose in his book, "God Who Sends" (Broadman Press, 1983). By the 1990's the term began to appear more and more in such books as "Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America" (Edited by Darrell L. Guder) and the works of Lesslie Newbigin.

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