I will helping to facilitate a FREE Missional Community Workshop for church planters June 7-8 in Pawley’s Island with 3D Ministries. If you’re a church planter, or thinking about it, you should come. It will be a great time.
Launching Missional Communities: A Review
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.
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Three Spheres of Relationship
We are learning a lot about discipleship at Christ Church lately. We have been using some tools developed by Mike Breen and others over the past 20 years when he was leading St. Thomas’ Church in Sheffield, England.
They’re called “Lifeshapes,” and initially they seem kind of silly. I was skeptical at first, but as we’ve engaged with them, we’ve found that they aren’t a program we’re running, but a language we’re learning. We have a common language to talk about discipleship together, and people are really growing in their relationship with Jesus. (For more on the big picture of what we’re doing right now, check out these three posts in the Mid-Sized Communities series: Making Disciples / Culture of Discipleship / Our Plan)
One of the things I like about these tools is that they don’t present anything new. Instead they are basically simple ways of conceptualizing and remembering the things Jesus taught and modeled.
For example, one of the “shapes” is the Triangle, which points to our need for robust relationships in three spheres: with God (UP), with others in the Body of Christ (IN), and with those who don’t know Jesus (OUT). This is rooted in Jesus’ own practice and teaching.
This is nothing new, right? You could probably find similar ideas in most church taglines. “Love God, Love Others, Love the World,” or some variation on that theme. It’s intuitive.
Scott McKnight blogged about a new book by M. Scott Boren called Missional Small Groups that points out three features of healthy missional groups:
- Missional communion — practices of presence (UP)
- Missional relating — practices of agape (IN)
- Missional engagement — practices of engaging the community (OUT)
Hugh Halter and Matt Smay say that the “Tangible Kingdom” happens when three spheres overlap: Communion (UP), Community (IN), and Mission (OUT).
Similarly, Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, along with many Reformed church plants are talking about the need for Gospel (UP), Community (IN), and Mission (OUT) in order to be a Total Church.
Or, simply a triangle labeled UP, IN, and OUT. And we learn to think about our lives, our communities, our churches through that lens.
Again, I like the tools because they don’t pretend to be the latest, greatest program to take your church to the “next level.” They simply give articulation to the kinds of practices that disciples of Jesus have done for centuries.