The word missional seems to be rapidly working its way into the vocabulary of all Christians. While the concept seems a little odd at first, once understood, it makes a lot of sense. One way of explaining it runs as follows.
Imagine you are a “missionary”. You are living in a culture that is closed to Christianity. People don’t flock to hear you preach the gospel, you have to work hard to find opportunities to speak of your faith. What’s more, you have to get a regular job to support yourself as funding is simply not available. Your strategy in this situation would be to slowly work at building friendships and loving people, trying to understand their culture, and praying that one day you will be able to share the gospel meaningfully.
Of course, by now you should have realised that you don’t need to imagine this scenario at all. It is the context that most Christians find themselves in, as we live in an increasingly secular Western society. We are those missionaries. And that is what being missional is about – realising that our whole lives are to be devoted to participating in the mission of God. All Christians are missionaries, not just those who travel abroad. Being missional is becoming conscious of this fact.
Now imagine another scenario. You are part of a church planting team. There are ten to twenty adults, some with children. You don’t have a building to meet in, you simply meet in a home, worshipping, praying, breaking bread, studying the word together. But there would also be a very strong outward focus. You would be considering how to reach out to people in the community, and build bridges. Though your resources would be small, you would look for ways in which together you could invite others to share in your community in order that you can share the love and truth of God with them.
But again, isn’t this actually the exact situation we are in? Most evangelical Christians already belong to a house group (or cell group, life group, etc). The only difference to a church plant is that we don’t feel the urgent need to reach others (the “church” can do that), and we don’t necessarily feel a strong need to form deep community amongst ourselves (because we have other friends in the “church”).
But what if we encouraged our small groups to have a “church plant mentality”? Or to coin a word that will never catch on (because its too silly), to be plantational? This would give a number of benefits:
- Increased Faith – church plants are faith-filled places because they know they need to step outside with the gospel if they are to survive
- Increased Prayer – church plants acutely feel their need of God. They know their limitations.
- Deeper Community – church plants have to work through personality differences to learn to love one another – because they are all there is
- Discipleship – church plants have to take responsibility for discipling one another because there is no official “program” to send people on
- Evangelism – church plants simply get on with evangelism, because they know that without it they will die
Of course, if small groups started operating this way, it may actually mean that the “main church” needs to organise less events, in order to free up people to be involved in creating deep community and reaching out in their individual small groups (church plants).
In reality, a small group can do all the things a church plant should be doing. Worship, prayer, discipleship, preaching, Bible study breaking of bread, evangelism, social action, even baptising. Possibly the only difference would be that a small group typically would not have an “eldership”, although in the context of the early church, which met in houses, an elder’s role may not have been hugely different from a modern day house group leader.
Comments are welcome. Have I gone mad? Or am I onto something?