I can still remember standing in the parking lot of my high school when my friend sped up in his brand new Subaru WRX. He excitedly popped the hood and began describing the power that his new car possessed. He used words like “Horsepower” and “6-Speed Manual” and I had no clue how this impacted the speed of his car. When he started explaining every in and out of the engine, I was completely lost. However, I did what any man would do. I nodded my head and pretended to follow his words even though I had no clue what I was even looking at. I was still trying to figure out what horses had to do with this car.
I believe this illustrates how many people in our churches today feel when we start talking about ministry methodology. Most church attenders do not regularly read blogs, subscribe to popular podcasts, or read the latest “how-to” ministry books so they do not understand church leader lingo. When we throw around words like “Missional” and “Missional Communities,” they might nod their heads, but their eyes are glazing over in confusion. This concept is foreign to them; they do not see themselves as missionaries or their lives as opportunities for mission.
We are part of a church that has existed since 1901 so we must be all the more intentional in both defining and describing what we mean by these words and phrases. Throughout the history of our church, we have used the “Traditional Sunday School” model with great success. Many people have come to know Jesus and grown as disciples through this model. Because of the changing culture both outside and inside the church, we believe a different strategy is needed to reach the over 1 million people living in our county who do not call Jesus “Lord.” We are convinced that simply inviting someone to church will not suffice. Many have little desire to wake up early on their days off, dress up, get in their cars, drive to a church, sit with people they do not know, and sing songs they have never heard before. Therefore, something different is needed. Transitioning a traditional mega-church model to a new strategy of mission must be done with clarity and precision.
Our church’s goal is to launch 60 Missional Communities by the end of 2014. So what do we mean by “Missional Community”? A Missional Community can be defined as Christ followers living on mission, inviting friends and neighbors to join us as we pursue God’s design for life and family. Missional Communities are connected by a common mission to love their neighbors by proactively getting involved in the lives of those around whom God has placed us. Missional Communities are committed to be missionaries where we live, work, and play.
God has given us neighborhoods, jobs, children and hobbies for a strategic purpose. We live where we live so we can build relationships with our physical neighbors. Our common ground is simply that we live near each other. Work is not a burden, or just a pay-check, or just a way to get ahead in life; our jobs are opportunities to be missionaries for Jesus Christ. We must not think of our children’s practices as a chance to exercise, read a new book, or catch up on social media. God has given us the chance to pull our chairs up next to another parent, learn his or her name, and begin a new relationship for the purpose of the Gospel. When we head to work in the morning, drop the kids off at school, attend their practices, and exercise at the local gym, we are on the mission field.
The fact of the matter is that we are all in this together. Pursuing God’s design for life and family is something we all do. God is our designer. He knit each of us together and He knows everything about us. It is only when we do life in relationship with Him that our lives run the way He—as the designer—intended.
Unfortunately we all depart from His design. The Bible calls this sin and sin leads to brokenness in our lives. Just like a car engine can malfunction—so can we. Fortunately, God made a way for us to get our lives fixed by repenting (walking away from sin) and trusting in Jesus. We can then start over in our pursuit of God’s perfect design for our lives and our families. As we live this out and as we live in relationship with others, we can be instruments of transformation where we live, work, and play. This is what we mean when we talk about Missional Community.