Last week I defined missional communities. I answered the question: What is a missional community at Redeemer? Our answer: a missional community is a family of servant missionaries committed to growing as disciples and making new disciples in all of life. In that post I unpacked everything in our definition except for the word “committed”. This word is important because every missional community should be committed to following Jesus in unique ways. It is important for us to understand that although every missional community has the same definition, in practice they can and should look different. Every missional community is a unique family, will serve in unique ways, and is sent as missionaries to a unique people. So, today I will unpack the world “committed” from our definition– answering the question: How do we discern and craft a unique missional community vision?
Crafting an Unique MC Vision
I don’t want to over complicate this idea of crafting a MC vision. This is something that we’ve done in the past. We’ve made the process very complicated at times— using primers and covenants— which have made our MCs clunky and robotic. We’ve also error on the other side, where we haven’t taken seriously them importance of establishing unique MC visions and our MCs have essentially become social clubs or bible studies, that spin their wheels and don’t grow as disciples of Jesus or make new disciples of Jesus.
Simply put, the process of crafting a unique MC vision is about pursuing God together with your missional community, asking him to show you how he wants to work in you and through you during this time and place.
- We do this because we believe God is working in this time and place. This is what we call Ancient Work. He is at work around us, accomplishing his purposes, using his people. It is our job to have eyes to see, ears to hear, and lives that are available to be used.
- We do this because we believe that evangelism and discipleship best happen in community. Disciples cannot be mass produced. Disciples of Jesus are made life on life, life in community, and life on mission.
- We do this because we believe that God speaks to us. He speaks to us about his work in the here and now. He speaks to us directly as we seek him in prayer, and he speaks to us through one another as we discuss and discern what season of mission we are in.
Discerning the Vision- “Pursing the Lord Together About His Work In & Through You”
Again, I’ve learned to keep this simple and reproducible. Crafting you MC vision is as simple as asking God to show you how he wants you to uniquely live out your gospel identity during this time and space. Below are some simple questions we use to help guide our leaders. This process gives us another chance to teach and reteach gospel identity.
1. How is God asking us to be the FAMILY of God?
- In what ways do we each need to grow as a disciple of Jesus? How can we help one another do this?
- How can we use the 5 component of MC life to help us grow in Christ and grow as family?
- How is God asking us to love one another?
- What will keep us from being family?
2. How is God asking us to live as SERVANTS of Christ?
- Who has needs among us?
- In your relationships with others, who has needs we can meet?
- What in our city breaks your heart?
- What will keep us from serving others?
3. Who are the not-yet believers in our lives that God is sending us to as his MISSIONARY people?
- What relationships with non-Christians do we have that others in our MC can come into? How can we begin to do this ASAP?
- What are some ways that we can cultivate friendships with those God has placed in our lives? How can we begin to do this ASAP?
- Who are we praying would come to Christ in the next year? How often will we pray for them by name?
- What will keep us from doing these things?
One great way to use these questions to craft your MC vision is to take 3 consecutive weeks to discuss these, tackling one set of questions each week. Give people the questions beforehand and have them prayerfully answer them. Then gather together to discuss and pray. Write down the things that are shared and discussed so that you can revisit them regularly.
**(Side Note: Sharing Leadership = Sharing the Vision)
One problem I’ve witnessed in many missional communities is failure to share the vision. Sharing leadership in the missional community is important because it empowers others in your MC to own the vision. If you do everything (or all of the important things) then the missional community vision will be only yours. You’ve taken people that God has gifted and turned them into spectators. Their role becomes “show up and participate”. We want to not only allow others to help us craft the vision of our missional community, but call them to use their gifts and own the vision. Ask the group to consider how God has uniquely gifted them for this work he has called you to. Another way that we have failed in the past is having rigid categories for shared leadership (meal plannner, kids person, etc.). Be careful not to limit people to these positions. It is better to craft your vision first, and then discuss how every person can contribute to the work God has called you to. This might lead you to identifying some people to plan meals and organize kids, but it will help you to make space for the Spirit to lead people into using their gifts and passion.
Evolving Your Vision— “During this Time and Space”
Once we’ve established a vision and shared leadership we need to be careful not to think about a missional community vision as set in stone, like you went up to Mt. Sinai and came down with tablets. It is the job of the MC leaders to be sensitive to the Spirit’s work in and around you, so that you can evolve your vision as you move into different seasons.
For example: what happens when people leave the community? What happens when God begins to do something different entirely? What if you thought you were supposed to serve in one way, but suddenly find yourself serving in a different way? What about when you get into your missional community and discover the needs within the MC are overwhelming? Then what? Are you allowed to change your missional community vision? Not only are you allowed, but your missional community vision should change if you are truly seeking to follow God.
1. Responding to Needs Within
Early in the life of a missional community discipleship and shepherding needs will continually pop up. As you begin to have fun together and people start opening up about their lives, it’s at this moment when the needs of the MC begin to be revealed. Things like theological issues, or areas where some folks need to be taught or corrected. In others, people reveal thoughts, hurts, pain, or needs that they’ve never shared with anyone before. Hardship or suffering set in in people’s lives. These are all things that have happened in MCs I’ve led. In these moments, the MC has the opportunity to respond to the work of the Spirit in their midst. These things are not a distraction to the mission and vision, but often times need to be seen a apart of the mission and vision. As these moments arise, take time to acknowledge them collectively and acknowledge them as a gift from God to form the community around His purposes and not our preferences.
2. Responding to God’s Movement
This is another opportunity to evolve the vision for your missional community. You’ve prayed, discussed the questions above, and identified ways that God is asking you to live as servant missionaries. You begin to obey and do some of the things that you’ve discussed. As you do these things God might begin to answer prayer and open doors in different ways than you expect. We must be ready to respond to God’s movement and put our plans aside for his plans.
3. Responding When Things Are Stagnate
Although it isn’t always fun, sometimes God asks us to lead a missional community that will go nowhere. The vision you dreamed of doesn’t happen, the people you hoped to reach move away, and the work that God does in you isn’t what you hoped it would be. In a way, this is God answering our prayers though it is not as we would have liked it. It is important to remember that all MCs have a shelf-life. Some will die, others will reproduce. This is not a failure for the MC! God uses stagnate MCs to refine the people and leaders in another way. Who are we to question his work? God can use stagnate MCs in a variety of ways, often leading to launching new MCs or strengthening existing ones by merging.
We cannot predict what God is doing or will do when we craft our MC vision. This is why it is important to revisit your vision regularly with your MC. It is also important to regularly discuss what God is doing in your midst. Celebrate his work regularly and pray for His Spirit to lead you. It is also important that you regularly meet with your MC Coach. Monthly coaching meetings exists to help you see what God is doing in your midst, solve problems, and respond to God’s movement appropriately.
In closing, establishing a clear vision and sharing leadership is paramount for every missional community within the first few months. If a missional community has not established and committed to a vision for growing as disciples and making new disciples it’s failed to fulfill our definition– but most importantly it’s failed to hear from our living God who stands ready to work within us and through us!