We are honored to welcome writer Ramon Mayo for a guest post here on the Multiply Vineyard Blog.
There are so many misconceptions about missional community. It’s the latest buzzword for something that’s been going on for over 2,000 years. If, like Emil Brunner said, the “church exists by mission, like fire exists by burning” then missional communities are just the church actually being the church. So it’s not some postmodern navel gazing Kumbaya session, but a return to the core of what it means to be church.
The early church was given a commission and they fulfilled it just by being themselves. They were followers of Jesus sent out into the world with the gospel. They had no budget. They had no sound systems. They had no PowerPoint or projector screens. What they did have was dangerous cargo. They carried a message of an upside down kingdom and a resurrected Savior. Those who have embraced missional communities aren’t doing anything new. They are just radically returning to the core of who we are and why we exist as the church.
One thing that we want to get straight from the outset is what missional communities in the Vineyard are not. Here are five misconceptions that we want to blow out of the water:
1. Missional communities are not overgrown small groups.
Most of missional community activity centers around a home and because of this people associate them with small groups. A couple of things differentiate a missional community from a small group. First off small groups have normally been presented to churchgoers as a way to connect beyond the larger service. Missional communities are great avenues for relational connection, but that is not what drives them. The mission of God is the main driver for missional communities. The purpose of the group is to band together to live and proclaim the gospel in a particular context. The second thing that differentiates missional communities from small groups is that they are not centered on a weekly meeting. They are centered on the gospel being displayed in all of life.
2. Missional communities are not gripe sessions.
Missional communities are not a place for disgruntled ex-church or current church members to complain and gripe about what the church is not doing. They are designed for folks who want to be on mission with God and who want to be a part of the fellowship of doers. They are not places to deconstruct or contemplate the existential nature of the church. That would be bad news and that ain’t the gospel. Missional communities are groups of people who are rallied around serving and blessing the community and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.
3. Missional communities are not void of the gospel.
Some people may have the misconception that missional communities are for those who just want to be friends with those who are unchurched or not yet believers and never pull the trigger and share the gospel. Missional communities are not just about being friends with people. If that were the case then that would not be in alignment with the mission of God. The mission of God is to rescue men and women from the clutches of sin and death in all its forms. To avoid sharing the gospel is to compromise the missional aspect of missional community
4. Missional communities are not replacements for traditional models of church.
Missional communities are just one form of church. They are not the one size fits all model for every pastor or church planter. They are just another expression of the body of Christ. It’s just another way for God to use us and our creativity to be on mission with Him. In fact there are some places where traditional models of church may work better than a missional community model. Some places like the rural south or a blue-collar town in the Midwest may not be the best place for a missional community. It’s not about replacement, but more about diversity in seeing the mission of making disciples accomplished.
5. Missional communities are not unstructured
You hear the word missional community and you may think “an informal gathering”. Just because something is informal doesn’t mean it’s unstructured. In order to make disciples structure is needed. In order to reproduce and raise up leaders, structure is needed. In order to make sure we stay on mission…structure is needed. Some people see the word community and think it’s a free for all with no direction. No. The direction is to make disciples and that involves people. One thing I have learned over the years is that the more people you have the more structure you need.
So those are five things missional communities are not. Can you think of any others?
Ramon Mayo has lived and worked in various different social and cultural contexts. He has worked as a hip hop artist, a pentecostal preacher, a missionary to Ethiopia, the pastor of a multiethnic Vineyard church, and now works as a writer/editor and speaker. All of these things give him a unique perspective to share on diversity, the church, and culture. Check out his website or follow him on Twitter.