When you think about a Missional Community, I find that it is helpful to think about a team of missionaries in a foreign context. What characteristics would you expect to find in a healthy team of missionaries in another country? We expect certain things of missionaries who go serve in another country. Why would we not expect the same things of team of missionaries serving locally in our context? As I think about the expectations of teams of missionaries and apply those to a Missional Community, here is the list that I discover.
1. Qualified and Accountable Leadership
In a healthy missional community, just like in a healthy church, there needs to be qualified and accountable leadership. Qualified leadership means that the Missional Community leaders are people who meet the Biblical qualifications of a deacon in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 . These leaders can say, “follow me as I follow Christ.” Accountable leadership means that they are connected to a coach who can provide shepherding oversight and insight into situations or decisions that will need to be made as they live and lead on mission. We always want to empower leaders to lead, but never to lead alone. Understanding that the missional community is not an autonomous group, but rather a smaller expression of a larger church family and a bigger story is key.
2. A Shared Mission Vision
A healthy missional community must have a clear mission vision for why they exist and what they are trying to accomplish. They need to be able to articulate who they are on mission to. When it comes to defining their shared mission vision, they should start with choosing to focus on either a neighborhood, network of relationships, or need in the city. Then they can work on the vision over time to bring more focus and definition as the giftings and passions of their team collide with the mission vision.
3. Devotional Life
A healthy missional community will have a consistent rhythm of engaging in devotional practices throughout the month. The MC will regularly meet together to engage with the Word of God, Spirit of God, and Community of God so that they are being informed and being transformed by the Gospel. Our life on mission with Jesus flows out of our devotion to Jesus. We see this in Acts 2:42 as the church in Jerusalem devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. As they engaged regularly in these basic spiritual disciplines, the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
4. Missional Life
A healthy missional community will have a consistent rhythm of engaging in missional practices throughout the month. They will pursue opportunities to make the Gospel known by serving and practicing hospitality among the people they are sent on Mission to. They will see new and creative ways to live on mission in the stuff of every day life. Mission can happen in the things they are already doing, the places they already go, and the people they already know. But this will require them to think missional, and to begin to evaluate how they spend their time, treasure, and talent by the mission. A healthy missional community will regularly ask the question, what do we need to start doing and what do we need to stop doing to be more intentional for the gospel?
5. Multiplying Disciples
A healthy missional community will be regularly adding and assimilating new people that they are discipling in the Gospel. If your missional community has not added anyone new to the community in a long time, you are probably not a missional community. You might be a small group or a bible study, but a missional community is about making the gospel known and making disciples and therefore will naturally have a consistent rhythm of adding and assimilating new people.
6. Multiplying Leaders
If a healthy missional community is regularly adding and assimilating new people, then the MC Leaders will also need to be proactive in identifying and investing in new leaders. They will have an apprentice that is being trained up to be sent out to start a new missional community or who will take over leadership of that missional community so the leaders can start a new one.
7. Multiplying Communities
If in a healthy missional community the MC Leaders are proactive in identifying and investing in new leaders, then they will manage the numerical growth of the MC in a healthy way by sending out leaders they have trained up to start new MCs.
I’ve traveled the world to 18 different countries so far. I’ve had the privilege of working with global partners and team of missionaries in many of those countries. In every place where I’ve had the privilege of working with global partners, I have found that healthy teams of missionaries are qualified and accountable leaders who have a shared mission vision, and are living a devoted and missional life together as a team. As a result, the fruit of their ministry is that disciples are being made, leaders are being trained, and the Kingdom of God is expanding.
I believe whole heartedly that this can and should be true of our churches if we pursue a life on mission in healthy missional communities. We are invited into the adventure of living on mission to make the gospel known, not as individuals, but in team with other believers.