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Missional Community series | Post #6

February 2, 2011

Alex Absalom is a brilliant leader and thinker and also the co-author with me of the book Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide.

Today’s post in our 4 month series on Missional Communities is lifted from his blog (if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, it’s really great. Click here to pop over.)

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about individual Missional Communities…but what about the churches that are making gigantic paradigm shifts to embrace a more missional approach? There can be some real tension there.

Alex grapples with some of those realities in this post.

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I was chatting with a leader friend the other day and she was telling me about the frustration that is felt in the team that she is part of.  Their church is primarily operating out of the “old” paradigm (solely attractional), but the leaders are actively moving towards the “new” mode of a missional/discipling culture, as they plan to start releasing Missional Communities.  The stress is caused by the tension between making time/space/energy for the “new”, while still being highly aware of the demands of the “now”.

Our conversation covered ways of managing this, since clearly it would be unwise (and unkind) simply to refuse to pay attention to their existing expressions of church, especially as their MCs are not up and running in any substantial way.  People have been fed and trained to operate in one model of church and so it will take a lengthy process to transition expectations and commitments.  Nevertheless, here are a few thoughts from our conversation:

  • Keep loving the people in your church.  Even the ones who are inexpressibly slooooooooooooooow to come on board.  Most of them aren’t being deliberately difficult, so win them by your personal kindness.
  • Find things in your church’s history and calling (maybe even from its foundation) that you can anchor to and use to explain why what you are proposing is just honoring the church’s past, not a deviation away from it.  Why was it planted where it is?  What areas of your city have people prayed for consistently?  Who have they seen fruit at reaching in the past?
  • Don’t take too long before launching your “new” expressions of church.  Since it is such a major shift, we can be tempted to devise a multi-multi-year process even before anything new starts to happen, since we are so desperate to make it work well.  However, there is wisdom in actually devising a timeline to launch huddles and MCs in your church within the next year or so.  In the book Launching Missional Communities, we lay out an extensive 6 month process that will work as an excellent template in most situations.  This does start with a few assumptions – such as you as the leader are really up for this – but it is an approach that can work well.  To be honest, at some point you have to decide you are going for this, that this is what the Father is calling you to do, and start aligning resources and energy accordingly.
  • Trim back on what is devouring your energy.  Find ways to still do what you are committed to – such as Sunday gatherings – but maybe in a manner that consumes a little less in terms of preparation and resources, or is a little less perfect.  Even a 10% reduction will make a huge difference to a typical month for you and the team.  That way those resources can be given to the new things that are emerging.
  • Use Sundays and similar occasions to help prepare the process.  For instance, what stories do you tell?  Who do you brag about?  Find examples of people stepping out in mission – perhaps Person of Peace stories – and tell those as testimonies or sermon illustrations.  Another important area is your teaching topics.  Spend time talking about what the missional lifestyle looks like from the Scriptures.
  • Related to this, put new lenses on how you read the Bible.  By this I mean, are you still reading it through the eyes of Christendom?  For instance, when you go through Acts or the Epistles and study how they talk about the church, what do you think they mean by “church”?  Did it look like church gatherings in Christendom, or did it operate in a more decentralized, oikos (household) located, mission-driven context?  How were people discipled?  What did it mean to be a disciple?
  • Finally, champion those stepping out into mission in your city.  Tell their stories. Celebrate their successes.  Laugh (with them!) at their mess-ups.  Basically, create a culture of innovation, where people receive encouragement and resourcing to go and extend the Kingdom.  This will mean their being released from some other responsibilities or expectations.  Repeatedly give permission so that people know they will be supported to experiment with this more missional mode.  If you allow freedom to fail, then you will see people step up in freedom to lead and to innovate.
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