The Austin Stone Community Church is one of several prominent churches moving in the direction of missional communities. Todd Engstrom is the Pastor of Missional Communities at Austin Stone and this is part two of a three part interview. You can read part one right here.
What are your goals for missional communities? What do you hope to accomplish?
Our goal for missional communities is that they be a community of Christ followers on mission with God in obedience to the Holy Spirit that demonstrates tangibly and declares creatively the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a specific pocket of people.
We hope to see our city and ultimately the nations engaged street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, region by region as God’s people incarnate the gospel as communities to their neighbors around them. When you think about a single missional community, we hope that they would build their lives around being a “good news” people to those immediately in their relational spheres, and that different pockets of people in Austin would experience the love of Jesus through a Christian community on mission. We want new disciples of Jesus to be made who go and make more disciples.
Matt Carter (Pastor of Preaching and Vision) seems to have been very instrumental in the decision to be more intentionally missional in your grouplife format. What do you sense were the things motivating him?
A watershed moment for Matt was when he was studying Amos 5 on a sabbatical and God provoked him to ask a very hard question: Have we become a church whose worship was just noise to God’s ears? This prompted us to think through what it would look like to be a church in the city for the city, and it changed the trajectory of our church and how we viewed small groups/missional communities.
How did you lay the groundwork for the beginning stages of the move toward missional communities? Were there things you felt like needed to be first steps? Or preparation for the move?
First, we consistently went back to the Scriptures personally and with our people, spending significant time in the book of Acts to see how the early church movement began. We read the book of Acts together repeatedly over a span of a few months. Next, we studied other people who were talking like this and distilled much of the patterns and practices from folks around the country and the globe.
As we began to think about shifting, we spent a lot of time working with our leadership and introducing the idea from the top down…Michael Stewart (Pastor of Missional Communities, New Initiatives) met with every single group leader and ministry leader in our church over the span of 6 months to cast vision and get feedback. During this time, we also piloted some missional communities and listened to stories from them.
Finally, we launched church wide through a coordinated preaching and host strategy of groups (we called it a Vision Series), and followed it up with curriculum that reinforced the ideas we were talking about. This really set the ball in motion and gave us a ton of momentum working toward becoming a church of missional communities.
What would say have been a few early indicators that you’re moving in the right direction?
I’d say a few indicators for us are a consistent stream of stories of men and women coming to faith in Jesus primarily through missional communities (check this one out: http://vimeo.com/22751415), not just through Sundays. I think we’ve seen a groups that have been in existence for some time willing to make complete overhauls of their group patterns and practices in order to be more engaged in the lives of their neighbors. Finally, we are now consistently growing in groups that have multiplied out from some existing healthy missional communities for the sake of mission in our city, not just because they’re getting to be too large.
The Verge Network
The Austin Stone launched the Verge Network to feature resources from and for the missional community world. They’d love to see any and all of you join them for the Verge Conference in 2012 in Austin, TX!