Mark: Mike, yesterday you laid the groundwork for us and gave us an overview of the missional community concept. How did you begin thinking that a larger group might have a different potential?
Mike: It actually started quite simply, something like this. I wanted to create a culture that had three dimensions to it just as Jesus lived out three dimensions in his life, UP/IN/OUT:
- UP: deep and connected relationship to his Father and attentiveness to the leading of the Holy Spirit
- IN: constant investment into the relationships with those around Him (His disciples)
- OUT: entering the brokenness of the world, looking for a response both individually (people coming into relationship with Jesus) and systemically (systems of injustice being transformed)
We began to use this as our language. UP/IN/OUT. It’s interesting, once you start to use language of a particular kind, language that’s simple, portable and repeatable, it really does start to shape and form a culture.
So very quickly questions like this started to happen: “Is your Small Group doing any OUT?”
We told some of our small groups, “Okay, this is what your monthly rhythm could be. First week do something UP, second week do IN, third week do OUT, and the fourth week…why don’t you get together with those other 2 or 3 small groups and do something together.”
Eventually the people came back and said, “You know, it’s interesting, we like the Small Groups, but we really like that bigger, mid-sized group. We love that time together. We’ve even given it a name. Is that okay? And is it okay if we spend more time in the bigger group and do mission together?”
It would be great to say we did all of this research or got the clearest, most discernible burning bush moment from God, but really…we just stumbled into it. Though in retrospect, it was easy to see how God was shaping this from the beginning.
Mark: Are you seeing this kind of ministry work in a variety of communities? Or is this more of an urban ministry strategy?
Mike: This is the beauty of the extended family size (20-50 people). In literally every single culture on the face of the earth, the extended family size is where every culture locates their identity. And if they don’t have an extended family, they go about re-creating it.
So yes, it happens in urban settings. But it also happens in suburban settings and rural settings. In fact, in you think about rural churches, most of the time it’s really just 5-6 families, but it’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc that are a part of it. It’s the extended family. In every continent we’ve seen MCs thrive.
In Sheffield, England at St Thomas Church, what I started with a few hundred people in these groups of 20-50 people, each reaching out to various mission contexts, has turned into thousands upon thousands of people in Missional Communities…in a city where less than 1% of people attend church. Untold numbers of people are finding Jesus. MCs for the creative class. MCs for former Iranian Muslims. MCs for former gang members and murderers who became Christians. MCs for students studying at the university. MCs for new parents. MCs for people living in particular neighborhoods. MCs for the homeless. MCs for former prostitutes and drug addicts. MCs for teenagers in the suburbs.
What Missional Communities do is find a crack or crevice of society and incarnate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to that specific culture of people by creating an extended family on mission together. And when this scattered church of Missional Communities gathers together as one large family, it is a picture of the coming Kingdom, or as Leslie Newbigin would say, “a sign, instrument and foretaste.” Every color, age, race and religious background. That is what the ‘gathered’ worship service has been like.
Mark: I love the sound of that! “Missional Communities in every crack or crevice of society, incarnating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to that specific culture by creating an extended family on mission together.” Very cool! You can take a look at Mike’s blog right here and find out more about 3DM Ministries right here.