Social Design for mission and ministry (4): missional community with a twist (i)

In the previous post on what the Facebook Developers Social Design guidelines can teach us about Christian mission and ministry, I suggested that we shape our communities along the following three axes:

  • A heart for whatever context it finds itself in, expressed in…
  • A habit of faithful presence within that context and generous welcome of ‘outsiders’, calibrated by…
  • A distinctively Christian approach to servant leadership.

Where I feel this vision of Jesus-shaped community leaves us in practice is with something like what the church-planting literature describes as missional community.

I say something like missional community quite deliberately. I have number of reservations about some of what flies under the missional community banner. Let me mention one of a theological nature and two of a practical nature.

I’ll deal with my theological reservation today and leave the practical ones for Wednesday. And, hopefully, in the process my own ‘take’ on missional community will come into focus.

So, theologically, I’m wary of collapsing ‘church’ into ‘mission’.

It’s very common to speak of ‘the mission of the church’ and the like. But I’d hesitate to say (or imply) that church exists for the sake of mission.

Quite clearly, the church exists because of mission. But it’s the fruit of God’s mission in the first instance. The church owes its existence to the ‘sending’ (or missio in Latin) of the Son by the Father — to use the language Jesus does in John 17.

Equally clearly, we find ourselves swept up in God’s mission as a consequence.

To continue working with John 17, we who are sanctified by Jesus and joined together as a particular community are ourselves ‘sent’ into the world (and into harm’s way — to face the same sort of hostility and opposition Jesus faced, and from the same ultimate source: the evil one).

And as we’re sent, the part we’re given to play in God’s mission is to be one — displaying an ‘attractional’ unity that can only be the result of Christ’s presence with us by his Spirit.

But even then the mission remains God’s. It’s a God-thing before it’s an us-thing.

That’s why we’re to follow God’s leading, patterning ourselves on Jesus’ example as his Spirit works in us…

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