church · missional · Philosophy · theology

How do we create Missional Communities?

Over at Kingdom Grace there is a good conversation going on having to do with house churches. My church growing up had grown out of a house church, and when they started getting bigger they also decided to branch off to plant another church. One particular quote that struck me was from Alan Hirsch who said, “Often our small groups in our houses are run like mini-churches, aren’t they? We do the same thing we experience on Sunday, but it’s just bad. We have a mother and son combo on the guitar, and the Bible study is never quite as good as the pastor’s sermon. It’s a back up. It’s just mini-church done badly.” Andy Moore in the comment section of the article echoed Hirsch’s statement when he suggested that “meeting in one another’s homes is [not] necessarily transformational…our thinking is still dominated by our past ideas/experience of what church ‘is’. Too often, as the quotes suggest, small gatherings are worse than large ones, because they are simply the same format with lower production values!”

What will help to make small intentional communities more Christlike in their outlook? Eric, a missionary doing church plant work in China, India, and Palestine wrote that he “fights this same battles” of community building because they “try to facilitate ‘church’ among Chinese, or Indian or Palestinian believers and often all we end up with is a bad version of what we do here in the west.” To quote him at length:

“I have been detoxing from institutional church for a year or so now. Our little house church, or family devotional as we are calling it, is sometimes amazing and often boring, but we keep trying. We are learning what it means to be the body, pursuing Jesus together.

Some things I am sure of, if we focus on getting church right, we will fail. If we focus on community, we will fail. If we focus on good singing or “preaching,” we will fail. But, if we focus on Jesus, together, we will be transformed and we will be on the right path.”

Ken likewise argues in a comment that “as our culture becomes more diversified…the church…[must] develop a much more organic approach to mission…whatever form the church chooses to take on, it must be transformational – and I might add missional. Transformational in that our lives are being transformed, and missional in that the lives of others are being transformed. The Kingdom is to be expanding through the organic process of making disciples.”

So the question to my readers: in a missional community, how do we create disciples the likes of which both Eric and Ken have talked about above?


6 thoughts on “How do we create Missional Communities?

  1. I don’t know but it begins with experimentation. This is good even if we end up looking like “mini-church.” This is an experiment worth failing

  2. To take what Eric said and put it in reverse, I have been “de-toxing” for about 3 years now from what I now realize was definitely missional work in SE Asia. I’ve been trying to tell myself that church in America is very individualistic, and I just need to deal with it. There are so many days I just want to throw in the towel and return to overseas.

    What I have recently come to understand in my frustration with the organized church here in the US is that we all want to be a community together but we all want to be about our own things. We think we can be missional on our own. Yes, we can do lots of good things and wonderful things that show Jesus, but this idea of being missional versus just being a church that does missions is more than that.

    When we worked in another culture, all those on our team were our “church.” We were all there with a similar calling and we supported one another just by our very presence and perseverance. What I would say about “church” was that it could have happened in any number of ways. What mattered was not WHAT we did, the point was that WE were together for worship on a regular basis and that could have been a quiet reading of Scripture or singing or any combination of anything. WE were the Church gathering for worship and when we scattered, we were still the Church together. That was what mattered. If our gathered worship grew (which it did!) then we could deal with the questions of how we wanted to organize ourselves. But even the international church there was cognitive of the fact that we came from diverse faith traditions, so we were careful what we made “church” look like. Eric is exactly right, let’s stop worrying what church should look like and be a church community that supports one another and our neighbors around us . . . because “if we focus on Jesus, together, we will be transformed and we will be on the right path.”

  3. Don’t mind you asking, just I’m not sure exactly how to answer the “how” question! 🙂 I can only say, “God truly works in mysterious ways at times.” The short of it is that we worked there under two different Anabaptist agencies working primarily in Church planting and in education . . . it was 7 years in Cambodia.

  4. I think it is all about values. The problem to traditional churches is wrong values. If we do not change the values, even house churches will in some years turn up being traditional churches.

    The most important value to change is that about hierarchy. A lot has been said about that, I will not repeat. But a very important subvalue, is our attitude to the poor people. A church, even a house church, focusing on the poor, not as a special activity, but in the gatherings, will be a missional and vibrant church. It´s about including the poor people in the fellowship on even level.

    It´s simple as that.

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