In my own experience (and in my own head), when church leaders think of church-planting, they immediately think service-planning. To plant a church is to plan a service. Church planting = planning new church services, at least initially. And churches have grown from such beginnings in the past, so of course that’s where the thoughts of church planters tend to go.
But I’ve been wondering lately if planting missional churches demands a different approach. Perhaps if we start with a church service, it will feel like a bait-and-switch to start talking about being the church 24/7 ("Hey wait, I just come here because I like the music. What’s all this about being salt and light?"). Perhaps missional churches need to be started in a different way, a way that’s more organically integrated to a missional mindset. If we’re saying that there’s more to being the church than going to a service, is saying that in a service the best way to get the message across? We might perhaps end up saying one thing while our structure says another. We would be trying to fit the square peg of a missional community into the round hole of consumerist thinking. I am more and more convinced that actions speak louder than words. What you do says more than what you say, and is the message that people hear loud and clear.
So what is the new wineskin of planting a missional church? A different kind of service? Something that doesn’t really look much like a service, but is? A small group? A class? A store-front in a mall? An activist group? A grassroots revolutionary movement? Several families choosing to live in community in order to transform a neighborhood? An informal meeting at a "third place?" Loosely connected relational webs become more connected and integrated (not necessarily by everyone physically meeting in one location at one time – online connections, smaller cluster meetings, meet-ups to bless a neighborhood, etc)? No real answers here, just some questions rattling around in my mind.
I have this sense that missional church planting will require some radically unconventional thinking and open-mindedness to stuff that doesn’t look like "church" as we’ve experienced it. We’ll need some patience to wait for fruit before writing something off as a bad idea when we don’t see full-grown trees in the first couple months.