A missional community is a group of people who are devoted to Jesus, to one another, and to their neighbors and city! They’re disciples of Jesus committed to being disciples and making disciples of Jesus together. I love my gospel community on mission. It’s messy, frustrating, and sometimes fun. But I love it. Here are three reasons why and why you should love yours, too.
1. Your Missional Community Isn’t About You
Your constant state of self-centeredness is broken by your missional community, because it isn’t about you. It isn’t designed for you. It doesn’t exist to promote you. Not only that, but it doesn’t exist to fix your disfunction. What a glorious revelation to exist in a space and relationship that isn’t centered on you, your desires, and your ambition. It doesn’t exist to feed your social, intellectual, or volunteering needs.
Your missional community exists because of the gospel of Jesus and for the gospel of Jesus. This is the central driver and it’s what I love about community.
Community Groups help us learn to love one another and be there for each other. Bible Studies to help us learn to worship God by knowing who he is, what he has said and what he has done. A missional community is those two things put on display together with God’s purpose. If your community is about you, it isn’t a missional community.
2. Your Missional Community is in Process
Missional community life is a journey not a destination. We ask people to be committed to the the process. And that’s what it is. There isn’t an arrival. You can’t have been there, done that, and moved on. You’ll always be pushed forward, moving forward, giving, and calling others to go deeper. Each person is in process in their journey to Christ and in Christ.
The gospel is breaking new ground as you attempt to deepen community, grow in gospel understanding, and seek the renewal of your surroundings. This may sound discouraging at first: “You’re telling me it doesn’t matter how long or hard I try. We are never going to ‘get there’?” Sounds like an Orwellian dystopia and practical joke by God. But by God’s grace you will never feel like you have arrived.
Your missional community is not slowly checking boxes and inching towards missional perfection, but inching towards becoming in practice who you really are: God’s holy children. The process is toward loving Jesus and your neighbor and it doesn’t stop. The process is toward loving others and you can’t arrive there. The process is toward loving the world. This journey is one of deepened awareness of our hurts, sins, and brokenness that brings us to all into the arms of Jesus. The process beckons us to see the humanity God made and grow to love it. The process is much of the beauty and reward: that through it, God is making himself known through you and to you.
I love missional community life because it challenges me to return to Jesus and experience his joy as the end. It challenges me to give more of my life to him. I give my life in community and on mission because I am growing to understand his love for me–not to achieve top missional marks.
I love that a missional community is not burdened by living up to an ideal picture but burdened with listening to God: What is next? What does obedience look like? What do we need to repent of? What do we need to believe afresh?
3. Your Missional Community “Works”
I’m often asked: “Do missional communities work?” I respond with a question: “What do you mean by work?” They usually respond in two ways: working means successfully teaching people how to follow or obey Jesus or successfully converting lost people. The missional community structure is not a guarantee of getting people to obey the command to God and others. It isn’t the magic bullet that causes people to (against their will) submit to Jesus as king of their life. Likewise, your missional community isn’t the fool proof model to get people to believe in Jesus. Nothing works in those two areas except the Spirit of God.
If, by work, we mean exalting Jesus highly and calling one another to follow him, yes..they work. If, by work, we mean providing the space in which genuine belief in the gospel develops into genuine articulation of the gospel, yes. If, by work, we mean that a community of people struggling to hold up Jesus, love one another, and walk the process of repentance for others to see, then, yes, your missional community is working. The key question is: do missional communities create an environment that hinders or helps people grow in the gospel?
If your community is centering itself on the gospel and leaning into a process of growing in faithfulness to believe and obey the truth about God, you are making disciples. You are being discipled. You are being transformed, by God’s grace. If your community is growing in speaking the gospel clearly, it is working! If your community is hindering people from seeing Jesus more clearly and understanding how to walk in his ways, you aren’t a missional community.
Metric for Frustration
On the flip side of these three loves are questions for understanding my frustrations. Frustration in community is a constant (whether you are a leader or follower). What do you do with that and how do you know if those struggles pure or selfish? As a leader these questions serve to keep me in check and on task with the work of creating a discipleship environment. It is also helpful in conversations with those who struggle with the current state of things. These three loves can give people language to describe what is wrong or they can challenge people to return to the truth of what a missional community is.
- Am I frustrated because we aren’t centered on the gospel but on something else? OR Am I frustrated because it isn’t giving me what I need?
- Am I frustrated because we aren’t pressing into the process of repentance and faith? OR Am I frustrated because we haven’t arrived yet, or made the right progress within the model?
- Am I frustrated because we aren’t helping people follow Jesus and making the gospel clear? OR am I frustrated we aren’t converting people and getting them to obey?