One of the great advantages of planting Family Church Boynton Beach through the Family Church network is the opportunity to launch with a large, committed core team. Drawing from an established church like First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, we could easily take 75 church planting pioneers, hire a band, get some nursery volunteers, set out chairs, dim the lights, and kick off our first service this coming fall.
It would be a church planter’s dream, right?
However, we are dreaming a different dream. Instead of pursuing the “launch-large” model and pushing all of our people toward a specific date and location, we are challenging our team to engage in Missional Communities. As we move forward with a vision to plant at least 100 churches in South Florida, we want to be less focused on the attractional church model and more focused on being the church on mission where we live, work and play. You might wonder why we are doing it this way, especially when we don’t have to.
First, Missional Communities emphasize that every member is a missionary. This is huge! One of the dangers of the attractional church model is that it becomes very easy for church members to rely on Sunday morning gatherings as their method of sharing their faith. They rely too heavily on the paid church staff to identify and provide missional opportunities in which they can take part.
We want to build the missional mindset into the DNA of the churches we plant. This means that we want our people to understand from the outset that their day-to-day lives are filled with missional opportunities. We want them to see that God has given them influence with certain groups of people for a reason! We want them to take advantage of those opportunities – to build relationships and minister truth to those friends, neighbors, and coworkers as the opportunities arise. Emphasizing Missional Communities before we ever launch a service will show that we prioritize missional living.
Second, Missional Communities are a natural and authentic way to invite nonbelievers into relationships with Christians. I recently read a statement that over 80% of the people we invite to church will eventually attend. Not to be a negative Nancy—and it may be different where you live—but I can assure you, that is not the case in South Florida. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if our statistic isn’t closer to the opposite, meaning 80% of those invited never come. We live in a culture where fewer and fewer people would consider walking into any church on any given Sunday.
This is why we believe the best and most effective way for Christians to be missional is to approach their relationships with intentionality. If you and I really try to gain the friendships of people with whom we work or go to school, chances are that we are going to have success. The problem is that we often neglect these potential relationships because we are so (understandably) busy with church. What if we became intentional about them instead? Hint: the relationships develop. What happens if after working to get to know an individual, we invite him or her to join us for lunch or coffee? Hint: the relationship continues to develop. What happens when we eventually invite this person to join us and some friends to play cards or go to a ballgame?
If you work to invite people into your life, before you ever invite them into your church, then you become the missionary who is making the most of the influence and relationships that God has placed in your life.
Third, Missional Communities are a way in which we can be the church beyond Sunday morning gatherings. One of our pastor’s favorite closing lines is: “This morning we’ve been the church in here; now it’s time to be the church out there.” Missional Communities are how we scatter the church in between Sunday gatherings. They are how we actually behave as the sent people of God. How do our churches gain influence beyond our pastors standing before the congregation on a Sunday morning? How do our churches impact neighborhoods and little league teams and office buildings and cafeterias? It’s you and I and our fellow believers. It’s how we make the most of our time from Monday to Saturday.
Once again, I do not know what life and culture is like where you live, but South Florida is b-u-s-y. The cost of living is high, so in most families both the husband and wife work full-time jobs. The weather is great, so when people do have free time, they like to take advantage of it. These are the realities of living in South Florida, and there’s no changing them. One of the most fantastic realities of properly executed Missional Communities is that they allow believers to integrate “disciple making” into the natural rhythms of their lives.
As you seek to be intentional in building the relationships you already have, you gain influence in their lives. You have the opportunity to have gospel-centered conversations. You become aware of needs in their lives and opportunities to meet those needs. You are blessed with the chance to minister to them and their families. You act like the church when you are nowhere near the church.
Finally, Missional Communities are a great way for us to GO and make disciples. Let’s face it, most of us go, go, go. We are trying to accomplish so much each week between work, family, school, and church. For many of us, our yearly opportunity to make disciples comes during a week of volunteering at youth camp or a 10-day mission trip to Mexico. The idea of missional living and Missional Communities allows us to redeem the fifty-two Monday-through-Saturday periods in a year by picking up our heads, opening our eyes, and becoming aware of the God-ordained relationships that He has placed around us every single day of the week.