Previous posts in this series:
Part 1: What’s the Big Deal?
Part 2: What Does It Look Like?
Part 3: The Early Church
Part 4: Oikos in the Bible
Part 5: Sociological Matters
Part 6: Being the “Right Size”
Part 7: Is Structure a Dirty Word?
Part 8: Making Disciples
Part 9: A Culture of Discipleship
In this series so far, I’ve been spending most of my time painting a picture of the end: the desired goal of dozens of missional communities bringing the good news of Jesus to dozens of neighborhoods and relational networks. Today I’ll talk about the beginning, at least for us: the practical, concrete actions we are taking to move toward this goal in Fort Wayne.
The first thing we decided is that the first step is definitely not preaching a sermon series! Instead, since all of this is built on establishing a culture of discipleship, the first step is going to involve making disciples in a more intentional way, and infusing this into the foundation of our culture. We’re basing most of our discipleship process on Mike Breen‘s work (which a lot of others are doing as well: here’s Dave Fitch’s notes of Bob Hyatt’s talk on the same thing).
To grow people as disciples of Jesus, we are gathering them in smallish (6-8 people) communities called Huddles that focus on teaching people to hear what God is saying to them and respond accordingly, in the context of loving, accountable community. In this context people don’t just learn information or how to “behave,” but how to really live an interactive relationship with God, seeking to shorten the gap between hearing and obeying, simply listening to the Spirit and responding in faith. In this way we’re seeking to establishing a culture of radical dependence on the Spirit, where cleverness, insight, and ability are not enough, where we take that whole “apart from me you can do nothing” thing seriously. Again, it’s all about being with Jesus to learn from Jesus how to be like Jesus.
Out of this initial group of people being discipled, we’ll seek to identify those who can lead new Huddles and/or Missional Communities. We’ll work with them to craft a plan that resonates with the mission vision God has put in their hearts, then we’ll continue to encourage and equip them to lead in the context God has called them to. In this way we’re seeking to cultivate a low control / high accountability culture where people are freed up and equipped to pursue the vision God has put in their hearts.
Since our community is about the size of a Missional Community right now (~30-40 adults), through the summer we’re going to give people a “taste” of Missional Community by moving away from our weekly worship service and into more of a balanced rhythm of UP (relationship with God), IN (relationship with one another) and OUT (relationship with our mission context). So, for example, last month one of our “official” church gathering was hosting an ice cream social for residents at a low-income apartment complex that one of our members regularly serves. Other weeks we have a more normal-looking worship gathering, other weeks we gather for a meal and stories of what God is doing in our lives.
Sometime this fall we’re praying that we can multiply into at least two Missional Communities, which will be networked together through 1) a leadership Huddle that will meet twice a month for encouragement and accountability, support and challenge, and 2) a monthly worship gathering where we can celebrate what God is doing, steward the momentum of the whole church, and hear stories from other communities.
In this way we’re seeking to establish a structure that is lightweight and low-maintenance, that can focus resource and energy on the missional edge of the community instead of pulling resource and energy toward the center. And because the whole thing is highly reproducible and adaptable, more and more Missional Communities can be birthed in all kinds of new contexts.
Of course an undertaking like this is full of challenges. I’ll do one more post in this series where I talk about about some of those challenges and give a few final comments. Thanks for following so far!
Next post–> Part 11: Challenges of Transition