I am in Phoenix this weekend for their annual ACE Conference (Arizona Church Equipping Conference) at North Phoenix Baptist Church. This is a great church growth conference by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. The entire ASBC staff participates in this conference and it is a pleasure to be asked to be a presenter at it.
One of my topics while here is about missional small communities. Small communities is a term that has been coined by Ed Stetzer to try to span the Sunday School and small group movements. While I have been trying to deliberate how to present this topic, I decided to go with a "not" and "is" style of presentation. What a missional small community is NOT and what a missional small community IS.
There is way too much material here for one post, so I will split it up over 2-3 days. First, let's look at what a missional small community is "not".
A missional small community is not:
- A weekly gathering of the biblical intelligentsia. Now I truly appreciate great Bible studies that help us understand the scope and context of a Bible passage. But seriously, when a small group or class gets so focused on impressing each other at Bible Trivia, I think we have lost the point.
- A biblical separatist movement. Classes sometimes huddle together in an attempt to protect each other from the big, bad world out there. The talk begins to center around keeping oneself unstained by the world, and apparently the best way to do that is to avoid all contact with it. This worldview is the total opposite of a missional worldview. Remember, Jesus hung out with tax cheats and harlots (In light of the next point, I'll make no political commentary here). Stetzer says it well, "A Christian should have dirty hands and a clean heart."
- Moral Majority attitude. Christianity is not a political movement. Period. Classes that attempt to change the world through laws and politics miss the point of Romans 13:1-5. The Kingdom will not be advanced through human, political means.
- Outsourcing evangelism. A group that expect the pastor and denominational missionaries to do the evangelistic work has outsourced evangelism to the hired guns.
- Organized for ministry. Read this carefully, I'm not saying a missional small community does not minister to each other. Tomorrow's post will explain this more fully.
- A group that seeks comfort. Getting comfortable may be one of the more telling attitudes a non-missional group has. Comfort is another opposite of missional.
- Protective of class identity. Non-missional small groups are protective of their group. Self-preservation becomes a driving class principle.
- Come to our class. Non-missional groups have a "come to us" mentality. We have often heard it stated as "the community knows where we are, if they need us.. they can find us".
- Authority is acknowledged on Sunday and denied during the week. Non-missional classes are not living under authority. They study God's Word in the group, and then rarely put it to practice in their daily lives. Non-missional groups grumble under church authority too.
Okay, the bad list is over. Sunday and Monday we will look on the bright side – what a missional small community does that makes it missional.