Missional ecclesiology has led the the expression of new church forms and structures. This innovation is exciting, challenging, and constantly changing. How can we be the church on mission to reach our context? The answers must be mined theologically, worked out practically, and applied contextually. Austin City Life is committed to a form of decentralized missional church growth, fostering mission through small gospel-centered communities that renew the city in geographical pockets all over Austin. As we continue to grow, we face the challenge of remaining small as we grow big. Several models have been helpful as we continue to process.
I met John Tyson of Trinity Grace Church at Q (more Tyson here) this year when we spoke on a panel on American Ecclesiology. John is a very thoughtful, missional leader. I have benefited from his writings on his church website, and recently came across his article for Catalyst called On Reaching a City. The article is more specifically about how Trinity Grace is structured to be a church that reaches a city. It’s helpful and insightful. TGC uses mid-sized groups for missional communities which fit within a larger Parish Model of church. This model appears to be too layered for Austin City Life. TGC has what appears to be 4-5 layers of church:
6 Week Gathering, Neighborhood Churches, Missional Communities, Life Groups, and Triads.
Austin City Life currently has three layers of church:
Sunday Gathering – City Groups – Fight Clubs
However, as we continue to grow, a new structure or missional expression of ACL will be necessary.
Models of Decentralized Missional Church
The Parish Model is just one among several ways to configure churches comprised of missional communities. As Austin City Life continues to grow, we are considering various models of growth. Will we use a mid-sized structure or just move to plant new expressions/church of Austin City Life? We will remain a decentralized missional church, but the question before us is “How?”As we attempt to work this out, we have found other models and partners in ministry to be very helpful.
Other friends who have been helpful in thinking through decentralized missional church are:
- Soma Communities Church – uses the term Expressions to communicate the gathering of missional communties into a larger forms of church
- Kaleo Community Church – missional communities gather into three church locations.
- Kairos Church – uses the term Canvas to communicate the gathering of missional communities to form Neighborhood churches
- The Crowded House – uses the term Gospel Communities for missional communities
- Trinity Grace Church – uses Life Groups to form bigger Missional communities which form Neighborhood Churches.