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a Missional Community story

October 31, 2010

Ben Sternke is part of one of our 3DM Learning Communities, a 2 year track where churches journey together with 10-15 other churches and learn to put Mission and Discipleship at the heart of everything they do (that’s oversimplifying it, but you get the point). Ben is planting a church in Fort Wayne, IN, and recently did a really cool thing to help people get a taste for what Missional Community life could look like as they are all learning what MCs are all about. I asked him if he’d share with us and he has graciously done so.

Here it is. Also, Ben has a great blog and you can follow him here.

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Over the past seven months, our church plant has been shifting toward becoming a decentralized network of mid-sized missional communities (MCs). Because no one in our community had ever led, been part of, or even heard of MCs, one of the first steps in our process has been simply modeling what a MC looks/tastes/feels like.

We’ve done this by shifting from a weekly worship service to a more balanced “UP-IN-OUT” rhythm of gathering. We have two worship gatherings a month now, with a monthly community meal (with testimonies) and a monthly “Day OUT” where we seek to serve and bless people in a practical way.

Our first few Days OUT were fairly standard “service projects”: helping a single woman get some work done on her garage, hosting an ice cream social for a low-income apartment complex, handing out hotdogs at a park, etc. These were great for getting people outside their comfort zones and begin confronting some of their fears, hopefully getting the “mission juices” flowing, but I knew there was a lot more to MCs than simply doing a monthly service project. I knew there needed to be a kind of “social space” dynamic going on at a MC gathering, but I wasn’t really sure how to begin modeling something like that.

I was talking to a friend about this, and casually mentioned that for my birthday this year I had started a charity:water fundraising campaign, asking people to give $35 to charity:water to build wells in developing nations instead of buying gifts for me. He suggested I host a birthday party/fundraising event, and use it to model what a MC gathering could look like.

Ideas started percolating and plans grew from there. We told our community about the plan and asked them to invite friends who might be interested in a party and supporting a great cause. We booked a local singer/songwriter to do some live music in our living room. We made sure there was plenty of food and created a relaxed “social space” atmosphere.

We asked our community to come 30 minutes before the party officially started. We sang a song, read the Scriptures together, prayed for one another and took communion together. Then people started coming in for the party. There were probably 60 people in our house. Kids were running all over the place. People were everywhere, eating together and engaging in conversations in every room in the house (and the backyard).

We heard some great live music and gave people an opportunity to give to the campaign (which ended up raising over $1,500 for clean water projects). Christians and Non-Christians mingled, rubbed shoulders, and conversed for hours. We even had people stick around to help clean up (that’s when you know community is starting to take root!).

It was a great introduction to MC life for our community, and a great experience for me learning to facilitate these kinds of gatherings, where we learn to be “spiritual but not religious” about our faith in Jesus. People are slowly starting to get a picture of what a MC can look/taste/feel like.

 

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