Understanding Missional Community

Orientation to… 

GROUPS

 
 
 

Introduction

If we were to look at how and why God calls people throughout the Bible we would soon realize that God calls people into relationship with Him and sends them to others. The reason God calls us and redeems us is so we will be missionaries (sent ones) to our neighbours. The calling is for the sending. Missionaries reflect Jesus and what life under His rule looks like.

Furthermore, as with any organization, a church should organize itself around what it is called to do. The creation of missional community groups is an attempt to re-model the church from a centralized structure (namely Sunday morning and internally focused) which is designed for a society that no longer exits, to a decentralized model of church organization.

 

What are Missional Community Groups?

Definition:

A Missional Community Group (MCG) is a group of Christians who have together committed to living out the life of the Kingdom as a faithful presence in their common neighbourhood. They have covenanted to live strategic, missional lives for the sake of their neighbours as led by the Spirit of God.

Imagine if all the Christians who lived in the same geographical neighbourhood were committed to seeing God’s Kingdom come in their neighbourhood. What would they do?

They would

pray

for their neighbourhood. They would pray for their neighbours they know by name, the problems their neighbours have shared or they have observed and the burdens they know their neighbours carry.  And they would pray for one another as they sought to reflect Jesus and His Kingdom.
They would also

meet regularly

to ask the question, “Where are we seeing God’s Kingdom breaking in and how can we cooperate with what He is doing?” or they may ask, “Where is darkness reigning and how can we bring the Kingdom of light to help penetrate that darkness?”
They would

tell stories

of how God has been working, where they have seen Him moving, how they have been nudged and certainly, how He has been answering their prayers.
They would also strive to

model the Kingdom

that they long to make visible to their neighbours.  Wouldn’t they strive to love one another, carry each other’s burdens, seek to reconcile relationships and encourage one another? And wouldn’t they invite those who are on the fringes of their group into the centre to experience the Kingdom in their midst?

Now imagine that many of these MCG’s existed throughout the City of Burlington geographically, and once a week they gathered together to share stories, worship together, hear God’s Word taught and were resourced for more effective community witness.

This is exactly what NBBC is dreaming of.

 

What MCG’s are not:

An Affinity Group

: We recognize that we have followed an affinity type of small group and/or Bible study model in the past. While being part of a group where others like you are all together allows some needs to be met, being with those you may not normally choose to associate with provides opportunities to be challenged and grow in ways that affinity groups do not provide. Our common identity in Christ ought to be the source of our unity.

A Bible Study

: While we will look at what the Bible has to say, it will not be the central purpose of the group’s gathering. The MCG will engage other spiritual practices along with Bible Study.

A Community Outreach Team:

An outreach team tends to give the impression that outreach is a task and that people are projects. Often when the “task” is completed the projects/people are abandoned. Discipleship is more than just conversions. In this, “Us to them” mentality it can suggest that we are the “experts” and they need us. This kind of posture creates an immediate barrier between us and our neighbours.

An Encouragement Group: An encouragement group tends to be a collection of individuals all doing their own thing. We all have a personal responsibility to share our faith with others, but we gather in recognition that God has placed us in the same neighbourhood to reflect Jesus together.

A Counseling Group:

All of us, from time to time, need to be the recipients of ministry. Sometimes issues in our lives can cripple us from effective witness and we long for a group of people who will listen to and help us with our problems. From time to time this will take place in MCG’s, as we are there to help carry each other’s burdens. However, this type of counsel is not the focus of the group. There are other resources and supports available through NBBC for this type of need.

A Fellowship Group:

Naturally fellowship will happen and will be nurtured and encouraged, but the fellowship should never be mistaken for the groups’ focus. Fellowship is a means by which the purpose of the group is obtained; to provide a foretaste to those around them of the nature of the Kingdom of God.

A Replacement for Sunday Gatherings:

In the Bible, the word “church”  never refers to a building or a Sunday service.  It is always a reference to the gathered people of God. And while our MCG’s are expressions of church, there are still many aspects of the church gathering that are not met in MCG’s. Sunday morning gatherings are meant to fulfill some of those other purposes for why the church gathers.

 

Why do we have MCG’s?

As we organize ourselves around MCG’s it may seem different to those who grew up in a traditional church. Often the traditional church model had a high commitment to Sunday morning services, it was program based and focused around bringing people to the church building. While we still value Sunday morning gatherings, programs and inviting others to participate, we no longer see this centralized model of church structure as effectively reaching out to our increasingly secular culture.

Essentially, we see the witness of God’s people (the church) in three spheres for which we need to be equipping, training and teaching:

The institution

– NBBC has an institutional presence within our city. Our corporate life has a reputation. When we talk about NBBC most people think of it in this collective sense. This institutional aspect of our life together allows us the opportunity to influence other institutions.

The group

– While we gather at one location on Sunday morning, we each inhabit different neighbourhoods which are part of Burlington. The formation of MCG’s is an intentional effort to gather those who live in the same neighbourhoods for the sake of bringing the influence of God’s Kingdom to their neighbourhoods.

The individual

– Not all our time is spent with other church members. We each have a personal sphere of influence where we seek to live and witness faithfully for Jesus Christ.

NBBC strives to enable the church in each of these three spheres of influence to become increasingly effective in reflecting Jesus and His Kingdom.

The rationale for these three spheres is grounded in several areas:

Biblically

– In the book of Acts we read of the early church meeting at the temple and in people’s homes. The temple gathering would have been a larger corporate gathering similar to Sunday mornings, while the home gatherings would have been neighbourhood based fellowships which were within walking distance to one another.

Historically

– Whenever God has revived His church, He has orchestrated the development of small group gatherings of people who focus on mission. The small accountability groups that Wesley organized and the Moravian mission circles are just two of many examples that could be shared. If this is what God does to revive His church, we want to cooperate.

Culturally – There was a time, not too long ago, when “going to church” on Sunday mornings was the norm. We could assume that references to Christian stories would be understood (i.e. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Daniel in the Lion’s Den) and that most people held a Judeo-Christian moral perspective that was endorsed by society and other institutions. This is no longer the case and going to church is an increasingly foreign, and to many, scary, even threatening, prospect. When the people won’t come to the church, the church must

go to the people – this was Jesus’ command!

Pragmatically

– In many countries the needs of society that church helps to meet are material and physical. The church comes offering food and health care for instance. In Canada, specifically in Burlington, the needs are not physical as much as they are social. There is an epidemic of loneliness. How do we help people to get plugged into relationships? MCG’s provide an instant connecting point for those who are new to our church community. The smaller, neighbourhood focuses MCG’s provide an opportunity for people to become known that does not always happen in the anonymity of a larger Sunday gathering.

Theologically

– There are certain foundational theological affirmations upon which Missional Communities are based:

Christianity is about shared life:

  • where mutual submission is practiced
  • where communal discernment is engaged
  • that implies time spent together
  • where we hold one another accountable

A theology of place:

  • to be a faithful presence that reflects Jesus requires that we are in, with and for the neighbourhood
  • we recognize that the example of Jesus was geographically located and specific

The centrality of Mission:

  • mission is not simply an activity but an attribute of God, God is missional by nature.
  • the story of the whole Bible is focused upon telling about God’s mission, and therefore God’s mission should help to serve as an interpretation principle for Scripture.

The priesthood of every believer:

  • each believer is gifted and is needed to serve God’s mission.
  • we support one another in prayer
  • where we minister to one another

 

How will MCG’s work?

  1. Where are they?

Within the city of Burlington, NBBC has identified 23 neighbourhoods or missional communities.

Our goal is to have at least one MCG in each of the neighbourhoods in Burlington. However, because of the broad geographical distance from which our people travel, some neighbourhoods may have to grouped with others so that there are enough people to sustain a healthy group gathering. In other instances, there are neighbourhoods which have more people than one group can handle and we will need to divide these neighbourhoods into smaller areas – wouldn’t it be great to see a MCG on each block or street of the city!
 

Once a person has identified their neighbourhood, they will know which missional community they are a part of and can be introduced to the Missional Community Group near them.

  1. What’s the difference between a Missional Community (MC) and a Missional Community Group (MCG)?

We have imagined each of the 23 neighbourhoods in Burlington as Missional Communities. Within each missional community God has His missionaries – people like you. We read in Scripture that Jesus sent His disciples out in small groups. When we gather these local community missionaries into groups, they form a Missional Community Group.

 
 
 
Essentially in any neighbourhood or Missional Community
there will be 4 types of relationships to NBBC:
 
 
  1. Covenanted – Those who have covenanted to meet regularly
  2. Committed – Those who are committed to NBBC but have not yet joined in a MCG
  3. Connected – Those with whom we have begun a relationship: friends, Kids’ Club, Garden Patch, etc. – people who have trusted us with their information
  4. Contact – any others who live in the MC

 

Our hope is to move people from contacts towards becoming covenanted members of a MCG as they embrace a life of following Jesus.

 
 

What will MCG’s do?

The MCG’s will gather weekly. Of the four meetings each month, two will be with those who have covenanted together as a Missional Community Group. One of these meetings will be a time for table fellowship which will include friends and neighbours and one of the meetings will be to engage a missional project or practice that the MCG has discerned together.

While it is not possible to tell everything a group might do, here is a list of what might be envisioned:

  • use the MCG guides for group gatherings
  • prayer walk their neighbourhood
  • watch to discern where they might join God on mission
  • support one another in prayer and discernment for life decisions
  • eat together
  • work towards healthy, loving community
  • hold one another accountable to their covenanted practices
  • share stories and share attempts, wins and failures in missional engagement
  • build one another up
  • play and celebrate together

 

A Word About Spiritual Practices

Each week the MCG members will strive to engage in shared “spiritual practices”.

We recognize that all skills are developed through practices:
  • There are music practices like scales
  • Athletic practices like weight lifting or in football there is tackling and blocking drills
  • These practices are not the skill itself but they enable the skill.
  • The purpose of a practice is to make automatic what might not normally be automatic.
  • They form how we respond and how we think.
  • To be a practice it must be intentional and repetitive

There are also spiritual practices that form us.

  • One of the dangers with any practice is that we treat them as ends rather than means.
    • An example might be reading the Bible everyday to check it off a list, but not allowing the Bible to read us, to change and challenge us.
  • If we want to be formed as neighbourhood missionaries, then we need to model and encourage practices that help us to be formed as missional people
  • If we and our people are not engaged in practices that form us, you can be sure that culture is encouraging practices that will deform us; that will disciple people in the ways of secularism

Some core spiritual practices of a MCG are:

  1. Daily engage in reading Scripture and pray for God to bless NBBC in it’s missional calling.
  2. Weekly purposely and intentionally bless another person.
  3. Monthly practise table fellowship with someone in your Missional Community.
  4. Respond to the Spirit’s prompting as you sense Him leading and directing.
  5. Share with others the stories of what God is doing in your life as opportunities arise.
 

What will it mean to you?

Intentionally committing and covenanting with a group of other people can be intimidating. It goes against the grain of our culture. There are several “forces” at work that will pull at you that are in opposition to the values of the Kingdom. We will need to be diligent in guarding our hearts and encouraging each other to resist the pull of such things as:
  • Consumerism – Consumerism has been defined as “the search for meaning, identity, purpose and belonging tied to the consumption of products.”
  • Individualism – It can be defined as “the doctrine that the interests of the individual should take precedence over the interests of the state or social group.” 
  • Materialism – Materialism is a desire for wealth and material possessions with little interest in ethical or spiritual matters. Materialism is in direct opposition to Jesus command to “Seek first the Kingdom of God.”
  • Commodification – The social process by which something or someone comes to be regarded and treated as an article of trade or commerce. Over time the commodities we consume are seen in abstraction from their origins. In a world dominated by consumption, commodification is becoming more and more of an unconscious worldview.
  • Hedonism – Hedonism is the belief that a person’s chief reason for living is to pursue pleasure and avoid pain.
  • Narcissism – It is defined as inordinate fascination with oneself. It is a breeding ground which kills sympathy, empathy, generosity and all kinds of virtues and it is a natural progression of un-guarded individualism.
  • Busyness – Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.”

 

We must learn to see these powers for the destructive forces that they are in keeping us from growing and maturing in our Christian walk. Theologian, N.T. Wright explains, “When humans worship part of creation or forces within creation, they

give away their power

to those aspects of the created order, which will then come to rule over them.” Worship takes place when we give our hearts and our allegiance to something. Many of these powers are worshipped within North America.

 


Will it make a difference?

We believe that forming MCG’s will help to bring positive transformation to the lives of those who are committed to them, to the neighbourhoods within Burlington and to NBBC as a whole. However, like any other activity, people often get out what they put in, or as Paul wrote in another context, “we reap what we sow.” This is why those who belong to a MCG are first asked to sign a MCG covenant.

Our MCG covenant reads as follows:

We desire to grow as followers of Jesus who represent Him and His Kingdom well in all of our life. We recognize that God’s plan is for us to grow in and through relationships with other like-minded disciples. As those who identify as neighbourhood missionaries we enter into this covenant so that we might be transformed by God’s grace and that together we might be transforming agents in our neighbourhood.

To this end, this year, we therefore covenant to:

  • Meet regularly for weekly encouragement, accountability, and fellowship in our Missional Community Group and corporately with all of NBBC.
  • Seek to grow in likeness to Jesus by engaging in NBBC MCG`s shared practices.
  • Nurture loving relationships within our Missional Community, accepting others as Christ has accepted us.
  • Faithfully steward the resources that God has given us: time, abilities, resources and energy.
  • Together discern where God is at work and join Him in His mission to bring the Kingdom of God to our neighbourhood.

In all that we covenant we recognize that we are dependant upon the grace of God to enable us and so we joyfully enter this covenant in hope of what He might do in and through us.

 

How will success be measured?

Success within MCG will largely be measured by qualitative result rather than quantitative results. In other words, it will be less about numbers and more about experiences. Growing as disciples of Jesus is hard to measure numerically, but we hope that each person will be able to identify for themselves if they are growing. As we intentionally seek to be on mission with God, we believe that we will hear more and more stories of God at work, doing incredible things through us. This is why we have been encouraging sharing stories of where you’ve seen or sensed God at work.  

 

What kind of support will be available?

NBBC is committed to making the MCG’s a central aspect of our ministry to our neighbourhood and it is our aim to provide on going resources to the groups and facilitators. At present, we are developing:
  • On line training videos
  • Weekly MCG guides
  • On going facilitator training events
  • Outreach resources and ideas to help build community in your neighbourhood
  • Integration of MCG’s into the Sunday gathering
  • Integration of MCG’s into the organizational structure of the corporation
  • Social media resources
We have partnered with BURLINGTON LOVE MY HOOD PROGRAM!
 
While we are admittedly only on the cusp of seeing NBBC become more missionally focused and engaged we are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead and we hope you are too!

 

GET STARTED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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