Since my last post, I have been leading seminars about missional small communities in both Phoenix and Oklahoma City. My presentations in both locations were full, we had to bring in chairs in OKC! I am learning that there is a lot of interest about "missional small communities". Reports from churches participating in Oklahoma's new One Day Initiative to equip lay Bible study leaders to lead their groups to be missional are incredibly encouraging. I believe that there are many Sunday School or small group leaders who are hungry for something more. I believe that people really want their group to have a Kingdom-driven purpose. These leaders are connecting with the idea of having a missional group.
In my last post, I talked about what a missional small community is not! In this post, I am going to share some things that a missional small community is, and because there is so much to dissect on this topic, we are going to look at just one aspect of missional small communities each day.
A missional small community is: Biblically functioning. There are two key words here; biblical and functioning. Small communities are focused on God's Word. While this may seem rather pedantic, the second word, "functional" helps describe the situation. Have you ever been in a dysfunctional situation, like maybe your home or workplace? In dysfunctional situations, people act as if everything is fine and ignore glaring problems for the sake of "unity". Mom and the kids ignore Dad's temper out of fear of an explosion. Dad and the kids ignore Mom's drinking problem. No one ever asks the oldest son what he was doing when he comes home at 2:00 in the morning. Dysfunctional families accept the status quo because addressing the situation is painful.
A biblically dysfunctional small group may acknowledge Scriptural authority in class, but refuse to live under biblical authority during the week. You know the drill… everyone nods their heads affirmatively in support of the lesson that day, like say, I don't know… let's pick evangelism. Every single person supports the importance of sharing Christ in their relationships at work or on the ball team. But a simple glance at this group shows that they have not led one single person to Christ… in years! Or perhaps the Bible study is about controlling the tongue, and earlier the group used their prayer request time to gossip about a church situation. Dysfunctional Bible study groups settle for less rather than expect more of their group members.
A missional group chooses to help each other live under the authority of God's Word in their every day lives. They hold each other accountable. We choose to live "life on life" with each other. When someone in the group shares how that week's study has impacted them, they get a couple of supportive phone calls during the week to see how they are doing.
So you may be thinking, "Okay, I get the idea of being biblically functional, but how is that missional?" An essential component of being missional is that ordinary people's lives are being transformed by the power of the gospel. This transformation is exciting and contagious. Missional small communities are contagious! But also, as we are engaging the people in our workplaces and neighborhoods, we are examples of heaven on earth. How can we ask people to make a commitment to a lifestyle that they perceive is no different than their own? To have a missional group, the group members need to live a lifestyle that is real and authentic, and this kind of lifestyle is darn near impossible in a biblically dysfunctional group.
Here are a couple of ideas of how we can develop biblically functioning small communities:
- First, leave more time at the end of each week's Bible study for application. In far too many of our groups, we spend so much time in Bible study that there is no time for personal application. This is a recipe for a biblically dysfunctional group! Now, if you are afraid of allotting 10 minutes of unstructured time for application at the end of your Bible study because you might have a lot of silence, guess what? You probably have a dysfunctional group! Allow more time for application and your group will gradually begin to respond.
- Second, as a group leader, you need to make a phone call or two each week and support and encourage anyone in your group that shared a personal commitment. Yes, technically this is called accountability. Your group needs to learn that we take this life on life thing seriously.
- Third, when someone in the group has a transformational experience, let them share what happened and how God worked in their life. In other words, start sharing stories of God at work in your group. Let's make the transformed life the "norm" instead of the exception.
You may have some other ideas about how to lead your group to be a missional small community. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comment section.