Three mindset shifts towards becoming a missional community

I have noticed 3 necessary mindset shifts in my own life and in others who are busy making “the missional journey”:

1. Church is an identity:

There is a sense we know this at a theological- intellectual level, but at a functional level for most people church is an event.  Church is something we attend on a Sunday or Wednesday or both or at other times in the week but not the lens through which we see and evaluate all of life.  It is not our identity.  Our primary identity is perhaps a worker, a father, a husband, a student, a South African etc, rather than as a member of God’s covenant people.

What difference does this actually make?  Ask yourself how you decide where you will live?  Near to work, safe neighbourhood for the kids, good job opportunities, near to a favourite leisure opportunity (mountain, sea, shopping mall), people of a similar culture/economic strata?  How significant in the decision is your role as a member of God’s covenant community?  Or even more pointed of a particular local expression of the church?

In fairness you may consider if there are any good churches in the area – but that is normally much further down the list – once the area, schools, economics, security, proximity to work/play factors have been considered.

If your primary identity is church – then surely the first consideration ought to be – how would this move affect my local community; how can this move enhance my current ministry; to what ministry is God calling me now – where can I live in order to better facilitate this?  It is out of our identity that we make these kind of life decisions.  Our actions often betray our functional beliefs.

For many of us church is an individual preference event that we attend (we can always find another if the event is no longer up to scratch) rather than a communal identity as the people of God on mission together.

2. Our structures work against being missional:

If we boil the missional movement down to Gospel, Community & Mission (like Total Church attempts to do), then there is almost no church who would not claim in their values to be missional.

The reality is that many churches may have their values and theology correct but their structures in fact work against their theology.  For many churches the people are kept so busy keeping the programmes running and attending meetings that there is little time for community to be forged.  There is no time for eating together, playing together, sharing life together outside of the formal programmes of the church.  So whilst there is some level of community formed it is often found to be lacking when life falls apart.  When people are unable to be a part of the programmes of the church – they suddenly find they have no community outside of the formal structures.

And if it is true that people within the church cannot find time to have another Christian couple round for dinner. What of their unbelieving neighbours?

3.  We are on mission together:

This is the shift that I and my community are busy making.  Because we believe that the gospel calls us into a community and that the best apologetic for the gospel is the local church, then the best way of doing evangelism is communal not individual.  If the only Christian that your unbelieving friends ever experience is you – they will simply think you are an exception.

When we go and enjoy community with them and invite them to enjoy community with us – we not only show them that we are a part of a community.  But because the gospel is not simply a message but a message that calls and transforms a people – they get to see the work of the gospel among us.  It is easy to dismiss me as spiritual, religious or nice but to see the gospel at work among us – should be a small taste of the world we all want.

This is not about idealistic, perfect community.  Otherwise we will either pretend or be perennially working on our community before we can reach out.  It is about a community formed by grace.  In other words there will be tangible, and significant life change so that we are a taste of the coming Kingdom.  But there will also be brokenness and sin, which reminds us and teaches outsiders that we are not a perfect community yet, and we live now in the light of the grace of the cross and the hope of the resurrection.  Grace not perfection marks the community.

~ by John on July 12, 2010.

4 Responses to “Three mindset shifts towards becoming a missional community”

  1. Thanks John. I am a hopeless blogger, so thanks for saying what I would have said!

    You know I agree with all three, but number 2 caught my attention as it is a special stumbling block – our structures which can become holy cows.

    I have felt for years that although our words and aspirations may be right, our practice – what we take people’s time up with as leaders, the context in which they hear us teach – is not the best context (thus our attempts to teach people ‘on the road’ with GO etc).

    I have put loads of time into ‘pastoral’ ministry but have had this niggling and troubling thought over the years that there is something counter-productive about most of what we have inherited as standard church practice – we are saying one thing, but saying it in contexts that speak louder. We are not missional by conviction.

    In point 2 you were mostly concerned with allowing breathing space for community to be developed and not to be jeopardized by structures. I agree, but feel that more importantly, mission is jeopardized. Being in a community that eats and plays together can easily become the new holy cow structure, and take just as much time up trying to perfect.

    I can hear you saying, ‘Banfield, you know I realize that so why are you splitting hairs? Just to get on my blog’?! Well, yes 🙂 Actually, it is one of those small issues that potentially become a problem if not spelled out. So here we go …

    I know you are aware of this, but building ‘community’ does not mean we are being missional (in case someone thinks you are saying that). Being aware of our corporate identity as God’s people and walking in step with the Spirit does make us missional – to be aware that we are actually created as a people by the Spirit who is on a mission (the gospel) and are being caught up and animated by the Spirit of Jesus in our participation with Him.

    There is a freedom in that ‘being’ which our well intended structures so easily suffocate and cement into place before we know it. And herein lies the problem. Of course, you clear that up to some extent in your point 3 – that we are on mission together, but your emphasis is on ‘together’ as opposed to ‘individually’ (crucial as well).

    I suppose the point of my comment in the end is to clarify that we are a people to whom something happens, not a people who have it all neatly wrapped up and can get on with the job as if we are in control. God has loved us in Jesus and His Spirit has brought us to new life as we believed Him. For the world to observe this as a God thing that we are not in control of with our tight structures and cultural idols, we need to continue to be a people to whom and through whom something is happening. The best way is surely to allowing God’s Spirit and Word to continue to have his way amongst us … together. And this means living lightly with structure while being Gospel and Spirit animated people.

    I hope this is not sounding like blah ….. thanks for the stimulation. Next time let’s invite Jack Black or Arthur.
    Blessings in grace

  2. Thanks for saying what I was going to say, but decided to keep it a bit shorter for brevity’s sake… 8)

    I focused on community rather than mission because I think people instinctively want community and would see community as most directly benefitting them… But the real “climax” comes in the last sentence of 2 above

    “And if it is true that people within the church cannot find time to have another Christian couple round for dinner. What of their unbelieving neighbours?”

    Point being if we do not “make time” for community then we definitely will not “make time” for mission. Or more correctly community on mission together.

  3. sure … perhaps If I get out more I won’t talk so much when I do!

    But ya, get you.

  4. […] my thoughts: “3 Mindset Shifts Towards Becoming a Missional Community” & “Biblical Community is choice not […]

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