Established Churches Cultivating Missional Communities

YouTube: Millennials haven’t forgotten spirituality, they’re just looking for new venues

Watching this shift from being attractional churches to becoming missional churches is so encouraging. This video, along with many articles and actual statistics, make it clear that our typical ways of being church together is far less attractive to our Postmodern culture than it was during the Modern era (pre-2000AD). Now, no matter how attractive our buildings and programs become, many people in our culture simply do not care. Church-as-we-have-known-it is not on their personal radar screens.

The angst created by this growing awareness is being channeled into renewed engagement with the Christian mission in some congregational contexts. These churches are incubators for missional movement, for the missional impulse. They are seeing disciples rise up among them, becoming spiritual entrepreneurs, initiating new missional expressions of church from and with their established church base. Here are a few examples:
• A pastor who facilitates a Bible study discussion in a bar one evening each week. Participants are highly unlikely to darken the doors of an established church, but are hungry for the stories, parables, teaching of Jesus Christ.
• Second Church – A church who sees social media as its second church campus. They intentionally cultivate relationships, engage in spiritually focused conversations, and build community where people are hanging out (internet).
• Hiking Church – They combine their love for the outdoors with their love for God, worshipping at designated places along their hike. They gather in an established church at times, with an ongoing connection with that congregation, yet their worship takes place outdoors.
• Hosting an F3 Fitness group on the church campus….and/or generally seeing the church campus as seamless gathering place for one’s community.
• Initiating a new monasticism group which is anchored in the established church (See David Brown’s book review below which describes this)

I can remember the day when churches partnered with their denomination to intentionally start new churches. This still happens some, but not with any regularity or much frequency. Perhaps this missional impulse is shifting, finding its expression in the missional church movement.

So here is what our world needs from our churches now: For us to become the kinds of churches who incubate and cultivate missional entrepreneurs who initiate new missional communities from and with our established church base. What I’m suggesting is that our churches initiate new missional communities as part of our ongoing ministry. Many of these will remain connected to our churches, yet will look and function very differently than church-as-we-have-known-it.

If your church has not initiated any missional communities recently, ask why. What impediments get in our way? Here are common roadblocks to moving down the missional road.
• We believe people will eventually realize our way of being church is the best way, enthusiastically returning to our paradigm.
• We prefer our way of being church and believe others should conform to this paradigm.
• We simply don’t care enough about those who don’t engage God like we do to take action.
• We are so immersed in church-as-we-have-known-it that we cannot empathize with those who don’t share our perspectives.
• We don’t actually believe living in the Way of Jesus Christ is this world’s best hope so we don’t push ourselves to share what we don’t value.

What would it take for more congregations to catch a vision for becoming incubators of missional engagement? Those congregations who are discovering, reclaiming, engaging their missional impulse are discovering new life and spiritual vitality. Yes, they have to become creative when it comes to measuring their progress and reporting to their denominations. The life and vitality they discover in being part of God’s movement in this world far exceeds their discomfort in pushing out their paradigmatic constraints.

May we more fully (and perhaps even slightly radically) join God’s missional movement on planet earth.

Mark Tidsworth, President, PLA