6. Too little mission…particularly at the start of the group.
If your MC is just starting, you need to do a LOT more mission than you do worship/teaching(UP) or times of hanging out with people already in the group (IN). You need to be out doing things that connect to Persons of Peace (people God has already prepared in advance to be open to you and your vision) in your mission context and then spending lots of time with them. If it doesn’t get into your DNA early…it won’t get in. Pragmatically, think of it this way: For every time you do something UP or IN focused in the first 3-4 months, you need to do AT LEAST 2-3 outward, mission focused things.
7. The Missional Community leader does everything.
MCs are, quite honestly, what we see the early church functioning as. The word used in scripture is oikos, and when we get down to the historical data, we see the average church size was maybe 40-60 people. So the book of 1st Corinthians is written to a fairly small group of people. And in chapters 10-14 of this book, Paul outlines some really clear principles of how this community gathers, functions, participates, etc when they are together. One of the key principles? Everyone participates. That’s the beauty of a MC as opposed to a worship service. In a MC, everyone brings something (food, a word of encouragement, a prayer, a song, etc). The point is that you’re together. If the leader is doing everything and isn’t dispersing either leadership or responsibilities, the group is done for.
8. The Missional Community is a mini-Sunday service.
This is one of the more common mistakes people make. They don’t realize that a Missional Community is a FAMILY on mission together, so the task is to build a family, not an event. But because all they have seen most of their lives is a Sunday morning church service (i.e. event), they do that…just without the same quality or number of people to make it appropriate from a socio-dynamic perspective. These communities sink faster than an anvil in the ocean. If people who don’t know Jesus were interested in going to a worship service, they’d find one that’s done well with a number of people that allows them to observe in an anonymous fashion.
9. The Missional Community doesn’t do evangelism.
I think there are two realities to this:
First, the reality is that in the last 20-30 years, we’ve seen A LOT of evangelism done very poorly and through a lot of manipulation. Because of this, we have a generation or two of people who are VERY leery of actually sharing the good news of the Kingdom and make it easy for people step into discipleship who don’t know Jesus. Timid would probably be the key word. What we’ve done is jump from ditch to ditch. There are some major soteriological issues at play here, but I’ll just hop on one in particular by summarizing some thoughts by Dallas Willard. He says two things that I think are really helpful as we think about “evangelizing” people:
- The point isn’t to get people into heaven after they die, but to get people into heaven before they die. (The point of the good news is that the Kingdom is available now…you don’t have to wait!)
- If that’s true, evangelism isn’t really about getting people into heaven after they die, but getting them before they die. (Which means if we aren’t evangelizing people towards discipleship rather than heaven, we’ve completely missed Jesus’ message)
What we understand is the Kingdom is exactly what Jesus said it was: Available to us now. That means that the sin, pain, sadness, shame, brokeness, injustice and isolation that affects all of us, that all of us live in and out of each and every day…God can bring life to that TODAY. Discipleship is the process of living in the Kingdom more and more each day while we are on earth. While we should be concerned about people being with us and Jesus for all eternity, it says something about us if we don’t really care about getting people out of the hell they are currently living in.
News flash: People don’t become disciples of Jesus by rubbing shoulders with us long enough. At some point…we have to take a step towards them with an invitation into a new life! A Missional Community who isn’t bold in asking people to live into the new reality of the Kingdom will be like dry milk toast.
Second, for quite some time, evangelicals have sadly and frustratingly neglected Kingdom work as it pertains to social justice and inequity. Finally, that tide is starting to turn (thank you, Bono). ;-) HOWEVER, I’m also starting to observe a different ditch-to-ditch reality…one where Missional Communities (or whole churches or Christian organizations) exist to bring heaven to earth in terms of social justice, but do nothing about evangelism. If you are working and trying to do something about injustice but care nothing for evangelism, you are still missing quite a large chunk of Jesus’ message…just like when you were saying that everyone was missing a large chunk of Jesus’ message without addressing social inequities. You can deal with SYSTEMS of injustice that are inherently broken or evil, but there are still broken, warped, sinful people in needs of God’s transformation living IN those systems. We need the WHOLE of the Gospel, not just the bits we are personally passionate about. Here’s what I can tell you: When you have both of these working in concert with each other (seeing the KIngdom advance in social justice arenas while being partnered with individual spiritual rescue)…that will change cities. For the best book I’ve read on this, pick up Companion to the Poor: Christ in the Urban Slums by Viv Grigg. It’ll blow your mind.
So if you’re Missional Community is heavily involved with social justice (sex trafficking, homeless, racial issues, poverty, etc), you will not be functioning as Jesus imagined it without evangelism as part of the coming Kingdom.
10. The Missional Community doesn’t engage with the supernatural.
I don’t think I’ll ever be accused of being a wild “charismatic,” but I’m not going to beat around the bush: If your group is not very good praying (Yes, I’m implicitly saying you can be bad at prayer in the same way you can be bad at tennis, it’s something you can learn to do better over time. In the same way you can improve communication habits with your spouse over time, you can improve your prayer life with your Father) or listening to the voice of God and responding or engaging with the presence, power and leading of the Holy Spirit…your Missional Community is pretty much done. Don’t believe me? Try to imagine the early church not only surviving, but thriving without the Holy Spirit on the forefront. Prayer isn’t a box you check. Does your Missional Community actually believe you can do nothing without God’s leading? When your Missional Community prays, do things happen? I’m not saying things always happen like you envisioned it, but are things different in heaven and on earth because of the prayer life your family on mission is tethered to?
Not every Missional Community makes it…and that’s OK, even if you attended to all of the things listed above. Paul failed as much as he succeeded. So if it doesn’t make it, learn from what happened, grab a season of rest, listen for fresh vision from the Holy Spirit…and have another go at it!