*Editor's Note: This was #11 on our Top Posts of 2012. _
I was recently asked to give a quick thought on why I believe that the structure of missional community (MC) life is better than traditional church structures. I really wouldn’t start by saying, “MC’s are the only way.”
Instead, I’d start with the fact that making disciples of Jesus, that make disciples of Jesus, with the power and authority of Jesus, is the mission of the church. Based on Matthew 28:18-20, we are called to baptize these new disciples in a new identity with a new mission. This identity is found in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. So, we are now to live this out as family because we have the same Father. We are servants because our King, the Son of God, came down to show us how to be servants as he was and to serve and not be served. And we are missionaries because the Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, now lives in us to make us his witnesses (Acts 1) to the ends of the earth.
We are now a family of missionary servants with a new mission – making disciples of Jesus, who make disciples of Jesus, instead of making disciples of self, who make disciples of self.
When we look to the very beginning of time, God was always looking for a community, a family, that would show off who he was to the world. From Adam and Eve who were to be fruitful and multiply, to Abraham who was going to be a great nation, to Paul saying the church is the body of Jesus to the world, and of course Jesus saying that he was bringing in other sheep that were not of the fold, creating one flock under one shepherd. Again, the purpose is showing off Jesus (Acts 1). The whole story is about God’s pursuit of a people to show off who he is and what he’s done.
With all this said – that we are to be a family of missionary servants on the mission of God of making disciples – we now look to see how can that functionally happen. In Acts, we see this happening in all spheres of life: house to house, sharing all things, and being in each other’s lives continually. We see this happening in smaller oikos’ and then seemingly larger gatherings as well. Paul also continues to call us to share each other’s burdens and speaking truth in each other’s lives.
How Does This Happen?
We have to ask: How do we ensure that this holistic life-on-life with one another is happening? (The passages about loving one another and bearing each other's burdens are numerous.)
If we look to see how Jesus discipled, we have find that he discipled his apostles approximately 80-85% of the time while in the midst of unbelievers. So, Jesus discipled, or made disciples, by being on the mission of God, on the mission field with those he was discipling. Not only that, but these people were normal people sacrificing anything and everything to ensure that they made disciples of Jesus. Normal people with an abnormal calling.
How do we do this? The traditional church has historically (I am speaking of the time from the 1940’s to 1950’s until now, so maybe I should say “recently”) have said “come and see.” They’ve acted more like Israel and created a subculture of religious activities for people to come to. Whether a program or an event at a church building, they’ve invited people to “come and see what we do and what we’re about and become one of us.” This has gone through good times and bad in the past 70 years. It was good when postmodernism was just beginning; it became bad more recently as postmodernism and post-Christendom has taken root in the West.
The MC "model" is pondering what it would look like to add an element rather than simply saying "come and see." We don't want to rid ourselves of the “come and see,” which we would keep in the form of public worship, but what if we added a huge emphasis of living normal lives, in normal rhythms among normal people? How would it look if we added “go and make” by the power of the Spirit and authority of Jesus? Not only this, but what if we got rid of anything that isn’t aiding in the making of fully formed disciples of Jesus and added or emphasized those things that would help create an environment of disciple making? This means putting everything on the table, including how many times a week/month/year we gather together for meetings, because there is no mandate Scripturally on how often to get together for meeting. Hebrews 10:25 does say that we need to be together as often as it takes to ensure that we can stir up one another to love and good works. This can include a traditional worship service but we don’t buy into the fact that this is the only, or even the primary, way we can stir up one other to love and good works.
Many might be doing this right now in the traditional churches and not calling it “missional communities” and that’s totally fine. It’s not about a model, or about what it’s called; it’s about living everyday lives, in everyday rhythms, with everyday people, with an extraordinary message of redemption.
Questions I Try and Ask
- How can we emulate the way Jesus discipled? Where and how do we see him discipling?
- How can we live out the understanding of our new identity with our new commissioning to make disciples?
- How can we best see the ways in which our hearts, our church people’s hearts, and our neighbors’ hearts need the good news?
- How can we make sure that ANYONE can make disciples, not only a select few?
- Are there ways we can change our structures to aid an environment of disciple making? Meaning, are there ways our churches are using a fork to eat soup? (It might work, but not as well as it could work if we merely changed the how, not the foundation.)