We are increasingly finding that larger and larger portions of the population see the institutional church as just one more subculture or community of people. The same way missionaries wouldn't expect a group of people in India to sing in English, and follow the format of American churches, so also our hope, in this rapidly changing climate, is to adopt a model that is missionary in nature, that takes the gospel to different cultures and groups of people finding a diversity and variety of gospel expression rather than trying to force these different communities into a particular expression of "church".
Rather than sending individuals out on their own to try and accomplish this kingdom growth, we believe that we are called as a body, as Missional Communities, to work together each with their own gift, to reach a particular group of people that God has placed on our hearts. The basic structure of a Missional Community, should look similar to how the church functions, because these groups are the church, the body of Christ, in the world.
These missional communities are Families of God, Learners of our Lord Jesus, and Servants in the world. They each in and of themselves are an expression of God's Church on mission to seek and save the lost, they are families of servant learners.
They are families that love one another because Jesus said "By this everyone will know that your are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35) The Missional Communities are family and practice eating together, fellowship, loving, and caring for one another.
They are learners that teach each other, disciple each other, in order that we are prepared as missionaries to "give a reason for the hope within us" (1 Peter 3:15). The Missional Communites, as learners, listen to their people group, and discover a way of telling the story of God as a gospel proclamation in a way that particular group of people can understand.
They are servants to their chosen groups of people because our Lord Jesus "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The Missional Communities listen, alter their lifestyle patterns, and find ways to serve their particular groups of people as a demonstration of the gospel.
Again, these Missional Communities will take different expressions and forms, much like the Church takes different forms in different cultures and countries, but one possible pattern, after weeks of listening, could be the following:
Week 1: Fellowship with the Group of People (Neighborhood BBQ) - Invite all people to Week 4
Week 2: Meet together for prayer, planning next event, and teaching on questions that came up at the BBQ.
Week 3: Meet in groups of 2-3 for accountability and discipleship.
Week 4: Love and Serve the Group of People (Clean up neighborhood park) - Invite all people to Week 7
Week 5: Meet together for fellowship, eating a meal together.
Week 6: Meet together for discipleship, working through a study on sharing the gospel.
Week 7: Community Story Telling: Share with those who are interested God's story in their language
Week 8: Repeat pattern
While the above is not based on actually listening to a particular community, hopefully the idea of participating in their community, loving and serving them, and communicating the gospel in an understandable language comes across as primary goals of the Missional Community. The glue, in between and throughout those weeks, is actual daily involvement in the lives of the group of people chosen.
The first step in forming a Missional Community, is much like that in sending a long term mission team. A body of believers, a core group, must understand the vision and devote some time and effort to this endeavor. Follow this link to find videos that dive deeper into what a Missional Community is.