“Missional communities” is one of the hottest trends and buzz words in Christianity right now. They have become so popular that in a recent campus minister’s meeting I was in one pastor commented, “I’d be interested to know what ministries that don’t do missional communities… do. What do they do for evangelism?”
The fact that some can’t even imagine what ministry looks like without missional communities is telling. There is obviously something to all the talk. This is something that the Holy Spirit is doing. What is easy to forget though is that this is something that the Holy Spirit has always been doing.
The term “missional communities” (and the curriculum that churches and ministries have developed to carry them out) may be new, but the experience and reality of what a missional community is and does has been in the church from the very beginning.
In Acts chapter 2 we see the birth of the New Testament Church. God’s ekklesia, His called-out assembly. It’s somewhat hard for us to imagine… but the New Testament Church as we know it didn’t exist prior to that time. Sunday mornings, prayer meetings, youth group gatherings, these things for many of us in the West are nothing more than our routine to maintain the status quo.
But the early church didn’t have an inherent cultural thought of what a week in the Christian life looked like. What developed there in the book of Acts was entirely the initiation and invention of the Holy Spirit. Immediately after Peter preaches and the 3,000 are saved, Acts 2:42-47 tells what the early church began to do.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. … And all who believed were together and had all things in common. … And day by day, … breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47, ESV)
Without a term for what they were doing and seemingly without any detailed teaching for how to carry it out, the church in Jerusalem began to:
Open their homes (implying a small group – v.46)
Eat together (v.46)
Fellowship over God’s word (v.42)
Preach the gospel (v.47)
If These Aren’t Missional Communities, I Don’t Know What Is…
What I’d like to draw your attention to is the fact that this is what God has been doing in the Church from the very beginning. While the concept and ministry method of “missional communities” may be new to us, it’s not to God. He’s been doing it for at least 2,000 years.
Throughout church history and even still today God is developing and nurturing small groups of believers in this way. A few here or there, in a home or in a dorm, on at team or in a workplace, knitting them together in the enjoyment of Christ that they then might intentionally bring the gospel to others.
Quite often the Holy Spirit will “organically” develop a missional community even apart from our systematic plan of action. He can. He has. And praise God, He will continue to. The term “missional community” may be new, but this is what we at Christian Students on Campus have always strived for in our 40 years at the University of Texas.
Chris Hall (@ChrisHa1l) is a campus minister on staff with Christian Students on Campus. Chris grew up in Irving, TX and played football for the University of Texas at Austin from 2005-2009, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies-Human Relations. He has been happily married to his wife Joanna since March of 2012. You can read his personal blog at EachOneHas.com.