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Leading Missional Communities

April 13, 2008

Leading our church into somewhat uncharted waters, I am constantly on the look out for helpful influences in cultivating missional communities, what we call City Groups. City Groups are local, urban missional communities of disciples who redemptively engage people and culture. These groups are intended to foster the church being the church to one another and to the city and world. They meet in homes three weeks in a row and on mission in their communities every fourth week. Each CG has been charged with the task of finding a strategic social partnership, through which they can be a blessing to the social needs of Austin, while also learn how to love the city better. City Groups are the lifeblood of Austin City Life.

The influences I have found profitable are few and far between. So many models and methods of the church are not based on missional ecclesiology. However, the resources that have shaped my thinking and our practice have been good. Churches like Soma, Providence, and Kaleo. Books like The Missional Church, The Forgotten Ways, Exiles, Missional Leader, Total Church have been a help. But nothing beats personal reflection and prayer as we do our best to express the call of the church in the world.

I am currently working on new curriculum for our City Groups that covers the biblical storyline, while also discovering the place of the 21st century North American in that larger Story. It’s called The Story of Scripture and Our Place in It. Tim Chester’s The World We All Want has been some help as I reflect on how to cultivate gospel thinking and living at the intersection of the biblical and personal stories. The challenge is to always keep the missional nature of the church in view as I write the material. It is so easy to fall back into “Bible Study” mode. Yet, as Alan Roxburgh has pointed out, “these ministries of leadership are given to enable the church to carry out its fundamentally missiological purpose in the world: to announce and demonstrate the new creation in Jesus Christ” (Missional Church, 185). Alan also points out that “leaders will need to become like novices, learning to recover practices that have become alien to current church experience…it requires waiting and listening to the Spirit’s directions…in a strange land” (199).

My hope and prayer is that we are listening to the Spirit’s directions in Austin. That direction has led us to build our church on City Groups, not Sunday services. These City Groups are based on four principles and four practices (that will, no doubt, be revised in the months and years to come), which shape our identity and practice of being a missional church. I look forward to continuing to learn from and with Austin City Life and the larger missional Church.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2008 7:13 am

    Bro I’m working through this also. Would love to pick your brain.

  2. April 14, 2008 7:30 am

    Yes, yes and yes to your statement that there are many wonderful resources to assist in thinking through and developing a missional ecclesiology, BUT there is nothing more important than prayer and reflection in the local context. I prayer many blessings on your efforts!

  3. April 14, 2008 7:55 am

    Two of our leaders went out to Soma school in January and were helped out a ton. We’re in the infancy stages of transitioning our small groups to missional communities (not sure if that’ll be the final name). Like you we’re in the prayerful reflection stage.

    Mark has been using the Bible-storying that Soma uses. It seems similar to what you’re working on. Are you familiar with it?

    I hope to read through your notes today when Zeke is taking his nap!

  4. April 14, 2008 8:00 am

    I have talked to Caesar some and looked at his leadership development stuff for mcs, but have not looked at the Bible storying. The phrase “bible storying” is not to my liking, but I am willing to bet that the practice/material is solid. Glad to hear you guys hooked in with them; it sounds like a great school!

    What are the distinctives of BSing?

  5. April 14, 2008 10:33 am

    From their website:

    The purpose of Storying is to create an environment for us to connect with God through His Story. As we participate in Storying, we hope to…

    * Become a story-formed community – shaped by and centered on God’s story.
    * Listen for God to speak through his story and through each other.
    * See the Bible as one big interconnected story… revealing God’s plan to rescue and restore us.
    * Gain a sense of awe, wonder and amazement of God.
    * Discover our identity and role in God’s Story – as a distinct people called to live in God’s ways.
    * Fulfill our role as a community bringing God’s blessing and restoration to the world.
    * Grow in our desire to read and dig deeper into the Bible.
    * Develop a mental timeline of God’s story, giving context and a foundation for future Bible learning.
    * Incorporate creative learning methods into our community to connect with varying styles.
    * Encourage more Bible “Storyers” to emerge!

    As you read on you’ll see that this method has been used in foreign mission work for sometime. It’s also called “Chronological Bible Storying.” I don’t particularly like the phrase either.

    I’ve only skimmed through their resources but what I’ve read seems to use Biblical Theology in a more progressive way than a whole-Bible approach. To preserve the chronological progression and discoveries along the way there aren’t many jumps forward to Christ and back to the text. Certainly they don’t begin with New Creation and head back to Genesis 1-3.

    That said, I love what they’re about in teaching biblical theology in way that helps us see Scripture more clearly and our mission in God’s world.

  6. April 18, 2008 3:54 pm

    I like the phrase “strategic social partnership”…

    don’t be surprised if you start to hear more people use it as they pick it up from you

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