We are commissioned by Jesus to go and make disciples. He backs this up by sharing his authority and power with us, so that we can demonstrate and declare the Kingdom of God, and thus show what it means to follow Jesus in the everyday situations of life.
Since discipleship flows through relationships, the people we will most naturally disciple well are those close to us, with whom we are already doing (aspects of) life.
Which is cool, because this means that Jesus sends us to be friends with our friends!
To do so in a missional community that is focused on together making disciples in a specific neighborhood or network of relationships is even more powerful… but the same question always arrives:
Just what do missional communities do? Here's a repeatable framework to copy: Click To Tweet
Just what do missional communities do?
And what do their gatherings look like?
And is there a template we can use to start our new group?
What Do Missional Communities Do?
My assumption is that your missional community will regularly gather together, building community and living as missionaries in the place where you are located. This means that you have a clear mission vision — to learn more about why this is important, read this article first on What is a Missional Community Mission Vision?
When you gather for a community time together, whether in a home, a workplace or a ‘third space’ (such as a park, cafe or community facility), you want the time to be used wisely. Sometimes it is good simply to have a social time, relaxing, eating, playing games, chatting and building relationships. But on many times, you will want to have some great content, that builds relationship with Jesus, one another, and the wider world.Jesus sends us to be friends with our friends! Here's why: Click To Tweet
Up — In — Out
The simple format we train our leaders in revolves around the three directions of life’s relationships: Up to God, In with one another, and Out to the wider world.
To give some focus to what missional communities do, we use three pairs of words to unpack what we mean:
UP is expressed through Worship and Fresh Bread
IN is expressed through Food and OneAnothering
OUT is expressed through Demonstrating and Declaring the Kingdom of God
Worship = finding simple ways to come into God’s presence, in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, prayer, spiritual disciplines, holy communion, etc. We strongly encourage leaders to be creative, and NOT to try and pull off a min-Sunday service!
**FREE RESOURCE: When we were at Rivertree Church OH, my friend Andrew Berg collected a whole host of resources that don’t require any musicians to be present—follow this link for a free download of 50 ideas!
Fresh Bread = having someone share something that Jesus has spoken to them about in the previous 7 days. This may start from Scripture and then they talk about how they are living this out, or it could from a life experience where Jesus challenged or encouraged them, and they share how they have reflected upon this through the Bible. This should take around 5 minutes, and then open up to conversation and discussion by the group. The goal here is democratize the Bible: that everyone, including your unchurched neighbor, can learn to hear for themselves Jesus speak to them through the pages of the Bible.Discover how creative worship and 'fresh bread' build up a #missionalcommunity Click To Tweet
Food = fairly self-explanatory! We find it to be a key for building community—which means it is not “food=fuel”, but rather “food=relationship”. Hosts are not providing a smart dinner party; rather, it is a potluck bring and share experience, where lingering together at the meal table creates a natural and relaxed context for relationships to form and deepen.
OneAnothering = is a made-up word (I reckon that if you can’t find the right word, the English language always allows you to birth a new term!), that focuses on our life together. If reflects all the many commands in the New Testament that end in “one another”—we are to love, encourage, bear with, honor, even holy kiss one another! This is the essence of the sort of community that is truly remarkable, attractive and formative of disciples.Missional Community life is grown through food and 'oneanothering'. Here's how: Click To Tweet
Demonstrating = focuses on how we demonstrate the works of Jesus in our mission context. This can be through service, but especially it is through the more supernatural gifts of the Spirit. When you read the Gospels, repeatedly we are told to go and heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead and proclaim the Kingdom has come. Too many of us operate with a functional cessationism, which frankly is pretty close to idolatry (since in essence it says, ‘Unless I have experienced something or can explain it, then it can’t be true—regardless of what the Bible may say’. The idol in this world view is my mind.)
Declaring = focuses on how we declare the words of Jesus with those who aren’t actively walking with Him. A missional incarnational ecclesiology is one that prioritizes relationships and becoming ‘one of’ the place where we are called to live on mission. However, there does come a time where we have to open our mouths and share the content of the Gospel, probably through a mixture of their story, our story, and the grand Story of God.Missional Communities should demonstrate & declare God's Kingdom. Here's why: Click To Tweet
1 Corinthians 11-14
For a more narrative approach, we often use 1 Corinthians 11-14 as a template for many missional community gatherings.
- We gather around food, sharing stories of what we’ve been up to (which means we give ourselves permission to simply hang out and connect with people)
- The meal moves into a time of thanksgiving and telling stories of God’s goodness.
- We then share in Communion, perhaps with space for personal confession (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
- This provides a bridge into ‘body ministry’ (1 Corinthians 12:7-12, 14:26, etc), where we pray for the sick, wait on the Lord for any prophetic revelation, see what gifts of the Spirit are being stirred up, etc. 1 Corinthians 14:3 tells us that whatever is shared should be for the strengthening, encouragement or comfort of the others there, which creates a wise safety net for weighing what is shared.
- When that has drawn to a natural conclusion, someone shares the Word with us, bringing us the fresh bread of what Jesus is saying to them this week, and inviting comment/discussion. The key here is to answer this question: What is Jesus saying to me that will challenge or encourage others?
- We can sub-divide into small groups for prayer for one another if we would find that helpful.
- Our mission flows throughout the whole time together. Hopefully there are not-yet Christians with the group, so their contribution is really welcomed and they are accepted as they are. Also we may take some time to plan for an upcoming Go event. Another thing that should happen all the time is prayer for our mission context and asking for the Lord’s favor, protection and blessing on the people and community that we are called to love in a special way. Any friends there that night who are thinking about following Jesus will hear our hearts and passion – so make sure that it is authentic and genuine!
A Platform For Creativity!
Neither of these frameworks are designed to be restrictive — we work hard to release control of the details to group leaders. Yet we also want missional communities to be purposeful, and thus leaders are accountable for doing a healthy mix of Up, In, and Out over a given period of time (eg the past 3 months), and 1 Corinthians provides a helpful yardstick to compare against when evaluating what is going on.
We expect to see all sorts of creativity and variations on these themes to emerge, especially in the different contexts where missional communities are taking root and growing.
What is your template for your missional community gatherings?
Use the comment section below to share your thoughts and experiences.
Want More On This?
- Try this post on Examples of Missional Community Rhythms For Gathering
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