A few weeks ago I read through Launching Missional Communities, a new book by Mike Breen and Alex Absalom. The super short review: it is the single best resource available on Missional Communities (MCs). I absolutely loved it.
The main reason this book is so good is that Breen and Absalom are practioners, not just theorists. Now, as an INTP, I can certainly get excited about a robust and elegant theory! But I shared the frustration of the church planter who wrote the introduction to the book. As he was searching books and podcasts for help on cultivating and implementing MCs, he found
There were a lot of people writing about the social theory and theology of movements and mission, but no clear practices for doing it… It seemed like there were a lot of thinkers who didn’t practice and a lot of practitioners who didn’t think.
The authors of LMC step into this void as practioners who think. Breen practically invented MCs 15 years ago when he was leading St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield, England. Absalom was there with Breen, and has since planted hundreds of MCs and worked with several established churches at a more strategic level, helping them transition to a MC model. Because of this, this book is dripping with wisdom that comes from the blood and guts experience of actually doing this stuff for many years.
Full disclosure, too: Mike Breen now lives in the US and leads 3DM, a coaching/consulting ministry helping American churches transition to a more discipling, missional way of being the church. The church plant I’m leading has been part of a Learning Community for the past eight months or so, and in that context I’ve been taught and coached by both Mike and Alex, so I’m perhaps biased to like this book from the get-go.
But whether I’m listening to them in-person or reading their words in this book, I find their input to be refreshingly down-to-earth and eminently practical. They understand the process of transition, what kinds of battles and roadblocks will present themselves, and what kind of resolve it really takes to move a church culture into discipleship and mission. Because of this, a lot of we-know-how-you-feel-but-you-can-do-it! encouragement comes through in this book.
There are three main sections to the book, along with a brief intro and a few case studies:
- Key Concepts (theological, practical, and sociological reasons MCs work)
- Launch Guide (practical steps to start MCs in your church)
- Missional Community Life (practical nuts-and-bolts of leading MCs)
The Key Concepts section is a great overview of the what and why of MCs: This isn’t just re-naming something or making a few tweaks to the small group ministry. There is a qualitative difference going on here, and this section helps people understand some of the underlying ideas that make MCs work.
For example, why is it so important for MCs to be “mid-sized?” Why can’t we just add a “missional” element to our current small groups and call them MCs? I’ve written about this before, but it turns out it really is an issue. Size matters. A lot of churches are discovering these things as they go. For example, my friend Bob Hyatt, who planted a church in Portland several years ago, recently tweeted that they’ve been “trying to do mission at the Gathering (80-120 people) and home group (6-12) level. Too big and too small respectively.”
The Launch Guide is an extremely practical (and flexible) plan for introducing MCs into the life of an established church. Lots of great practical advice there.
But the final section (Missional Community Life) was probably the most helpful for me. It’s simply page after page of nuts-and-bolts on the ins-and-outs of leading MCs: what to do with kids, where to meet, how they grow, how to develop leaders, what to do first, creative ways to worship together, ideas for developing relationships, fresh concepts for mission… etc.
In my opinion, this is the single best resource available on what MCs, because it’s not just about what they are, but also about how to start, lead, and multiply them, from two people who have probably been doing it as long as anyone on the planet. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking to understand MCs more fully, but especially to leaders who want some practical wisdom in leading MCs and/or transitioning a church to MCs. You can buy it from 3D or Amazon.
(As an aside, an interesting conversation is brewing because of a small chapter in this book called “Attractional vs. Missional.” JR Rozko, in a recent overwhelmingly positive review of this book, criticized the book for trying to argue that we need to be both “attractional” and “missional.” Breen wrote a lengthy response on his blog that seems to indicate (to me, at least) that he and Rozko are largely on the same page, but they’re using the word “attractional” in two different ways. Some interesting conversation has come up in the comments that would be worth following, especially given all the attention those two words are getting lately.)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the authors. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”