We would imagine that the phrase “missional community” would be somewhat self-explanatory given that the name seems fairly straightforward. However, since the word combo emerged several years ago, there has been a great deal of confusion regarding what a “missional community” actually is.
The confusion mixed with the hype has led many to become disillusioned with the concept. With this post, I want to bring a little clarity to the language.
What a Missional Community Is
The Bible claims that the world is an extension of God’s generous nature and creative acts. It is an overflow of the very person of God, not a silo-ed “God project.” However, the advent of human rebellion caused the very fabric of humanity to shift into disharmony with the creator and the creation.
After a series of unfortunate events takes place, God decides on a plan to “restart” the world – he selects Abraham and sets him out on a mission to bless the world (Genesis 12). It is this scene, this moment, this slice of time that becomes the defining event for Israel, their coming Messiah, and the new creation that follows the Messiah’s resurrection.
Paul calls this Abraham-moment “the Gospel in advance” (Galatians 3:8). This is God’s mission – to bless the earth, and He began this blessing project through Abraham, which grew to a community called Israel, which (through Christ) later grew into a community called the church.
Therefore, a missional community is a group of people committed to the mission of God. It’s a group of people gathering together for the purpose of blessing the world.
What a Missional Community Is Not
We’ve seen various expressions of “missional communities” throughout the nation these past couple of years as the phrase has gained increasing interest. As a result, I’d like to clarify what a missional community is not.
A missional community is not a group of church folk that meet in a bar for a Bible study.
A missional community is not a group of church folk that meet at the local church youth room for an acoustic night of worship.
A missional community is not a group of church folk that are committed to lives of poverty for the sake of poverty and in the name of “living in community.”
A missional community is not a group of church folk that are committed to lives of comfort and leisure because they love to have a good time with their Christian fiends at their local pool.
None of these are necessarily wrong (except for maybe the third one, but that is for a different time), but the above aren’t actually “missional communities.” They’re bible studies in bars, a worship night, and hang out sessions.
What a Missional Community Looks Like
In my next post, I’ll talk a little more about what a missional community looks like in practice, but for the time being this will have to suffice. A missional community is not defined by study, worship, or economics (although all of those can be a part.)
At the heart of a missional community is the practice of generous acts of creativity towards and for the people that are “in orbit” of the community’s life for the purpose of blessing the world and participating in what Paul called “the Gospel in advance.”
Austin Helm is the College Pastor at ONEchapel – a growing, thriving community of faith in Austin, TX. His specialty is working with young people as he has been leading and teaching students and young adults for 10+ years. Some of these 10+ years were spent at Eastside Christian Church, one of the ten fastest growing churches in the United States. He also speaks at many retreats and conferences across the country, from Orange County, CA to New York City, NY.
In addition, Austin also facilitates leadership training for various ministries and missions organizations. Austin has a B.A. in Communications from Oral Roberts University and a Master of Arts in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the Director of ONEchapel’s ministry school – ONEchapel College (www.onechapelcollege.com). In addition to ministry, Austin also serves as a consultant for creatives and start-up companies.