Category: Missional Church

How to Keep Missional Communities Healthy

One of the questions I’m asked most is: “How do you keep missional communities healthy?” “How do you help them grow?” At Austin City Life, we’ve learned this one the hard way. Among the many mistakes we’ve made, you can include:

  • Installing (unqualified) leaders too fast
  • Multiplying without vision or a clear process
  • Making mission a project and unclear in focus

We’ve rectified these failures through listening to our leaders, developing several tools, and then training them accordingly. Before pointing to the tools we’ve found helpful in nurturing healthy missional communities, I’d like to stress two key things.

Missional Communities Talk About Missional Community

If church really is a family, then there’s no taboo topic. Healthy families hash out problems, confront challenges, resolve conflict, reflect on their relationships, and plan to be better families. Healthy missional communities must do the same. Growing missional communities talk about their missional community (not theoretical ones). They celebrate the evidences of grace, encourage one another in their strengths, affirm growth in grace, and they talk about their areas of growth. We talk about the growth of our relationships and collective mission in terms of how we’re doing at having gospel conversations, practicing steady state community, and living around our identified mission. These conversations keep legalism from creeping in, or help us ferret it out, where we’ve come to judge one another based on missional community performance. These conversations also create space for repentance over selfishness or indifference.

Missional Communities Talk to God Together

Missional Communities that don’t pray practice a kind of missional self-righteousness. Prayerless MCs believe the lie that they can handle mission on their own. If they have the right conversations, do the right planning, and identify the right mission, then “Boom” they can have missional success. Last time I checked Luke 10, Jesus is the Lord of the harvest, not me, my missional community, or my strategies. As Lord, he calls us, not just to pray, but to plead with him. He instructs his groups of disciples to plead for more workers in his ripe harvest field, to pray for more people to turn from merciless lords to the one, true Merciful Lord.

Even Jesus prayed for the harvest. He asked the Father for strength, guidance, and grace throughout his ministry. Most of all, he prayed to the Father because, quite simply, he loved the Father (John 17). If it’s true that Jesus prayed a lot because he was the most dependent human being that every lived, then doesn’t it follow that we, not only imitate his practice, but also join him in prayer in pursuit of the harvest of his death?

If it is also true that he prayed because he enjoyed the Father’s presence, then shouldn’t love compel us to pray? And wouldn’t it be love that would compel us to go, to share the gospel when we are embarrassed, to serve the poor when we are tired, and to life up the name of Christ in the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit? Jesus put it like this: “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” Love gets white-hot in prayer. It glows. That’s what happened in the Transfiguration. Jesus glowed with white-hot joy in the presence of God, and then turned his face toward Jerusalem to secure God’s mission with his very own blood.

Prayerless mission is the height of self-righteousness. Plus, its pretty loveless. Its saying to God, “I’ve got your mission covered. I can handle hardened hearts. Why don’t you do something more important, like applaud at my missional ingenuity.” I don’t need your love; i’ll just use your mission to love myself. Get a whole group of prayerless people on mission together, and we’re asking for it. We’re asking for failure, humility, and sickness. Unhealthy missional community results from loveless, prayerless missional community. The good news is that the Father is waiting, not with his arms crossed, but with them wide open to receive our repentance and to hear our pleas! What a gracious God we serve!

3 Tools God Can Work Through

Here are three tools for the three issues I listed up top. They are imperfect but God has a history of working through imperfect people, especially when they bank on his perfection.

Lord, help us. Lord, use us. Lord forgive us. Lord reap your Harvest. Lord, be glorified. Amen.

Making the Gospel Viral (via discipleship)

I’m incredibly excited about what is happening in our church right now. We’re really dialing in on discipleship, more than ever, in a variety of ways. As we assessed the health of our church, we evaluated the four “selfs” of a viable church plant.

  • Self-Governing – a church led by a plurality of elders
  • Self-Sustaining – a church financially supported by its own people
  • Self-Reproducing – a church that multiplies disciples, missional communities, and church plants
  • Self-Gospeling – a church that is equipped to apply the gospel to itself and to its own cultural context
Our Steps towards Viral Discipleship
After sharing our progress on each “self” on a Sunday morning, we have focused in on Self-reproducing. In order to avoid becoming a church that has a shelf-life, we need to reproduce on a micro and macro level. We need reproductive gospel DNA. Although our staff and some of our leadership were practicing reproductive discipleship; it was not viral. Therefore, I wrote a paper on “The Missing Ingredient of Reproductive Discipleship” and discussed it with our elders and staff. Then, after refining our thoughts, we then turned our attention to practical steps for cultivating reproductive discipleship. Those steps included:
  1. Casting Vision to our Leaders about Reproductive Disciple-making
  2. A message on The Mission of Making Disciples
  3. Working through a Gospel/Community/Mission Primer in our missional communities.
  4. Our MCs making a missional commitment to disciple-making.
  5. Identifying & training disciples through 12: Making the Gospel Viral
We’re hopeful that this will lead to viral discipleship and missional faithfulness in passing the gospel of Jesus on. Pray for us if you think about it.

Alan Hirsch on Missional Discipleship

At our inaugural PlantR Microconference, we are hosting Alan Hirsch on the topic of Missional Discipleship. Session 2 is on Incarnational Mission (how to make disciples).

Incarnation As Mission

  • We are sent like the Father sent the Son–incarnation.
  • Jesus is in the neighborhood for 30 years and nobody knew.
  • This way of incarnating the gospel is the most profound way God has ever engaged the world.
  • If the incarnation is the way God sends, then we must become incarnational.
  • The apostles worked with the message Jesus is Lord and that was enough.
  • You don’t commute to your mission.
Incarnating the Gospel via Discipleship (6 Ps)
  • Presence – God is with you on mission not just for you.
  • Proximity – Context is everything. Take your “small group” and put it out in public.
For more on Alan’s work on Missional Discipleship see my 3 posts on his book Untamed or just buy the book!

6 Conferences I’m Going To

Here are some event & conferences I am looking forward to speaking at this Fall. I’ll be presenting fresh material at a lot of these. In particular, I’ll be focusing on what I’m calling Integrated Discipleship (theology meets practice big time), the Challenges of Missional Community (stories of failure, difficulty, and struggle to make MCs work).

Most of these are currently live for Registration!