We have had a lot of discussion lately about the concept of missional community and this has brought much excitement and also struggle. In many ways, our struggle with the idea of community is one of doubt. More than anything else, we looks at our past experiences in “small groups” and we question whether authentic missional community is anything different than what we have experienced in the past. Because of the failure or struggles that we have experienced with small groups in the past, we ultimately doubt whether missional community really works at all. For the sake of addressing the error of this conclusion, I want to compare one area of traditional small group ministry with the dynamic reality of missional communities and that is outreach.
In the traditional small group paradigm, outreach is often left with the individual. In this view, small groups exist to teach people the Bible in order to send them out in the world to reach people for Christ. In contrast to this, missional community formed around the commission that Jesus gave presents outreach as a shared responsibility for the entire group to embrace together, not merely an individualistic endeavor.
This became very evident this last week as the topic of outreach came up in our last missional community gathering. One of the ladies in our group began to share her current frustration in making inroads into her neighbors lives. She has tried, but the results just aren’t where she would like them to be. Another lady chimed in and shared her frustrations with the same issue. The question was then asked of the group, “Is this issue of outreach a personal responsibility or a group responsibility? How can we tackle this challenge in community?” Within 5 minutes, three other group members shared of friends that God had given them the opportunity to share with. These friends were interested but needed to be “immersed” in the love of Jesus through our community so we began to plan follow-up parties, hangouts, and social events to interact with them in community together.
What we found was this – missional community works when we go about it God’s way. When we reject the formalistic tendencies of our traditional views of things and embrace the biblical model, we find that we can align to God’s Story together. We are empowered to realize that when we embrace the mission of God in community we have strength in numbers rather than defeat in isolation.
Consider today your commitment to your missional community. Don’t allow your doubts to keep you from experiencing what life is meant to be as you live in community together following Jesus. Missional community works!