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story of a Missional Community

November 9, 2010

I can’t tell you how many times people ask for stories of how missional communities start, how they grew, multiplied, etc. How are ordinary, lay leaders in the church able to see all of these people come to know Jesus and change their cities?

Well…here’s a story of one.

It’s one of the stories in our new book Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide.

This is Ryan, reflecting on his MC (which multiplied 5 or 6 times, the net effect being  over 150 people coming to know Jesus) over a 5 year period.

_________________________________________

In 2004, our MC started out of a group of five people praying together.  The idea was that we would become a Missional Community, but honestly, I didn’t believe it at the time. I just went with it because that was what we were asked to do.  We started meeting at our house, just getting together, eating and praying for each other.  It was a random group made up of one married couple, a single guy, and two girls.  We prayed through the vision of our MC—we want to plant and be planted—and shared what we were reading in the Bible.  One of the guys was going through Hosea on his own and talked about it often, so one night we all just sat around and went through Hosea, trying to find a name for our newly formed MC.  We found Jezreel (which means “God plants”) and went for it.  It was our vision.

Over the next year, we grew to about twenty-five people and met in lots of different homes.  They were friends and people we knew in our neighborhood.  We started to have a vision for our neighborhood, known as the Village, and so we began to pray for all our neighbors.

We continued to grow until we were more than sixty-five people in 2007, so that summer we multiplied.  When we look back, we sometimes wonder where all those people came from!  Really, it was people in the Missional Community gradually drawing in people they knew, whether through sports and outside activities, or people from work, or people who lived nearby.  We did have some Christians join, too, but we tried to balance being welcoming with making obvious that we were going to be looking outwards into our community and not be a traditional church group that looks only in.

As we thought about multiplying, God had set it up to where half of the people lived nearer the city center and the others lived in or near the Village.  All the city center people went and started meeting together, but even though the people were there, it was hard to find leaders to take that many people.  Looking back, I wish we had started to envision several people from that group at the beginning of ’07.  The summer months were hard; my wife and I were still focused on finding leaders for the new group, while also leading our current group.  Nevertheless, after a lot of praying and cajoling, by the fall we had found leaders, and we were pumped that the vision of planting was happening.

What then surprised us was that Jezreel continued to grow.  At first, it seemed that we had tons of room, so maybe some of that was just fringe people started coming more regularly.  But also new people were being added to the group.  We were starting to more intentionally do service projects in our area, so that helped us build more relationships.  Several of our MC households cooked out in front of their homes at least once a week.  We deliberately cooked too much and invited neighbors and passers-by to come over and eat with us.  This consistent presence out in the street really helped cement our place there and possibly gave us greater spiritual authority and impact.

Either way, a year later, in the fall of 2008, Jezreel had grown to sixty people again, and we knew that we needed to start talking about multiplying.  This time, we started praying that God would highlight leaders for us to plant the vision in.  He did, and so we did!  We began in the fall to talk with the two couples about being leaders of new MCs, which gave them time to digest it and prepare for it.  In January 2009, we multiplied into three MCs.  As we multiplied, we decided to change the name of our group from Jezreel to Village Hope.  God was giving us more of a calling to pray and reach out to this neighborhood, so we felt a new name would help to bring more life to that vision.  The MC multiplied pretty well, we kept about twenty-five, the second group took about twenty-two, and the third group took about a dozen.  We lost a few people in the restructure, but we gained even more in no time!  It was a great multiplication that was prayed over, and it was very clear to everyone that God was leading us in it.  He was working out the details and gave the new leaders lots of vision for their groups.  It was life giving whereas the first multiplication had been a little life draining.  We learned to wait on the Lord as well.  He was a part of the first one for sure, but I think we rushed it a bit.  The second one we mapped out, prayed into, and planned for properly.

In the meantime, the first multiplication, who went nearer the city center, have themselves grown to around fifty people, have spun off one new MC, and are in the process of moving towards multiplying again.  They have done very much the same pattern, with a mixture of friends and colleagues being drawn in, plus seeking to serve the local community.  One of the leaders of that Missional Community became the chairwoman of the local neighborhood group, which helps organize big art nights (they live in the artists’ area of town).  So members of the MC have become very involved in that, whether helping run things or, for the more creative types, hosting stalls at the arts nights.  This has given them tons of favor and open doors into that whole culture.

It is so exciting to see all that has gone on and how God has taken our faltering efforts and turned them into something so amazing.

What can we say? God is good!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. jnored permalink
    November 10, 2010 10:58 pm

    Hi Mike. I’ve been trying to buy your Launching Missional Communities book, but the link is broken. http://missionalcommunities.tv/buy.html How can I order this book, either in print or in ebook form? Thank you! Appreciate you guys’ work.

  2. dannybjork permalink
    November 26, 2010 8:10 am

    Hi there!
    It was truly fascinating to read about the life of your MC. I am just in the process of my second attempt att starting a MC. (The first one lived only for a short while and didn’t grow…)

    This time things are looking better!

    I have one questiona about the life of your group. You explained very well the early stages of your group, meeting up together, praying for eachother, going through Hosea.
    But what did you do after that?

    What did it look like when you met together in the beginning? What did you do?
    Once non-churched colleagues, classmates and neighbours started joining – what was it that you invited them to?

    Was it: “Come along to a group where we read some Bible and talk about important stuff.” or “A bunch of us is getting together this thursday for some food and hanging out, would you like to come?”

    Did you still pray for eachother when the MC got together, even with new people?

    Thank a lot for sharing about your experiences!
    God bless you and everything you are doing,

    Kind regard,
    Daniel

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