Both of these words are hot–“missional” and “community”–but rarely are they well-understood or practiced. As a church planting novice, I claim no final word or expertise in missional community; however, what I can offer is our experience in ACL.
Last week about a dozen of us met in our home to discuss our value of community. We started the discussion by reflecting on how we would feel having an non Christian with AIDS show up at launch team meetings. We honestly explored what our response would be to having sexually out of bounds people join us. Most of us, like many Christians, have spent too much time quarantined from the world. The Christian subculture is sticky and hard to climb out of. The general response was encouraging–we should treat them no less than fellow humans created in God’s image. As Jerram Barrs has said: “We should love the sinner not, in spite of his sin but because of it.”
I then asked how the community felt about inviting their own non-Christian friends into our meetings. Though not everyone felt like they would act the same as if just Christians were present, they did share that they want to be a community where unbelievers feel loved, respected and welcomed. If we aren’t missional now, during our formative core team meetings, will we ever be truly missional?
Some expressed concern to not compromise right and wrong, while also displaying the love of Jesus to whomever would join us. We concluded there will be tension when we mix Christians and non-Christians in our meetings, but that if some would be willing to join us for dinner and discussion, we could learn a lot from them. We also realized that it takes time to deprogram from Christian Culture Land, but that God’s Spirit is committed to growing a deeper love for others and our city in our hearts.
We want to cultivate a value for all peoples, valuing their perspectives and their lives. Having dinner with them and discussing big issues like the brokenness of Austin is one way forward.