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Missional Communities series | Post #15

March 20, 2011

In our last post we looked at a short excerpt from Michael Green’s book Thirty Years that Changed the World which talked about the red hot center that the early church developed. Essentially, the dynamics of the early church was so infectious, so vivacious, so transformative…it spread like wildfire. That’s why we read passages from Acts that say, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

We started to get into the three elements of that red hot center: Passionate Spirituality, Radical Community and Missional Zeal.

In many ways, these three things acted like a flywheel, whirring around the spark of the Holy Spirit and at the center of the early church was a raging, burning fire, infused by the breath of the Holy Spirit. For those close to these family rhythms, this fire proved warm, inviting and infectious. The family grew.

But what’s interesting is when we start to analyze the properties of fire and proximity to it. What we often forget is that almost exclusively, the primary identity of “church” was in the oikos, the household, a group of about (on average) 45 people. What we’ve done in reading the New Testament is drug our assumptions of church into the scriptural text. The reason this red hot center was so infectious to not-yet-Christians was because they were able to get very close to the fire. Most of our churches, currently, simply aren’t structured that way. Here’s what I mean:



Notice, only so many people can circle around the metaphorical fire and participate. Now there is a small margin for people to observe as well as participate, but very shortly, you have a third ring of people who do nothing but observe. The early church was structured so that people were given access to a household on mission that was still small enough to get close to the fire. Our churches are structured so that only the privileged few really get in on the action.

This is the beauty of Missional Communities.

Everyone has access to the fire of the infectious rhythms of the extended family on mission. Missional Communities can look like this.


In our next post we’ll take this even a step further. What happens when these Missional Communities are networked together within a larger, wider community?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2011 9:15 am

    I’m part of a church of around 100 people and even with that quite small number I totally see this effect. There clearly are some people who are really going for it with God and trying to serve him fully, but I’m sure there are plenty of folks who are dipping their toe in the water, as it were, but have not really caught the excitement of following Jesus Christ.

    Cheers for the really helpful diagrams; I shall keep them in mind!

  2. March 21, 2011 1:23 pm

    This is really good. The part of our dragging our modern / current assumptions about the localized church into the texts is illuminating. One thing though, and I know you realize this, there are many churches of the smaller size mentioned that are not, well, hot. They are dead. Maybe they are nothing like an OiKos? Anyway, great post.

    • March 21, 2011 1:26 pm

      Yeah, just because a community of Christians is this size (20-50) doesn’t mean they have that red hot center. In fact, most do not. It takes the flywheel of the community to all three aspects: Passionate spirituality, Radical Community and Missional Zeal. Without one of those…it stops being as hot (or straight to tepid).

  3. David permalink
    March 23, 2011 10:48 pm

    This makes such sense and follows the early church of Acts. We have been using the Lifeshapes and working at equipping our members through Huddles. You are aware of what we’ve been through out in the Inland Empire of Southern California. However getting our missional communities off the ground has been extremely difficult. We spent several months in houses after leaving our church. It was very difficult, yet the sense of community and energy was phenomenal. But we have a tendency in America to be drawn to a “church building”. How do we make this work, build the leadership of the congregation, and still be able to fund a pastor without becoming an “attractional” rather than missional church? Thank you for your ongoing work and support.


  1. Missional Communities series | Post #16 «
  2. Missional Communities series | Final Post «

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