When most people think of planting a church, they think of launching a Sunday service. But that isn't the only model. Many church plants start with missional communities. Mike Breen is a well-known advocate of missional communities, and Soma Communities (an Acts 29 church) is also becoming well known.
Reggie McNeal's latest book, Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, is a helpful introduction to what missional communities are all about. McNeal currently serves as the Missional Leadership Specialist for Leadership Network of Dallas, TX. Reggie's past experience involves over a decade as a denominational executive and leadership development coach. He's also authored a number of books.
I'm grateful that McNeal was willing to answer some of my questions.
Could you describe what you mean when you talk about "post-congregational churches" and "missional communities"?
Post-congregational church/missional communities is the expression of church that is not tied to a geographical location and a traditional seven-day rhythm of the congregational modality of church. They can be geographically centered in a neighborhood or in a particular "tribe" of people. They fall into two basic types: Type One is where the missional community itself sees itself as a missionary--like the mcs in Austin with Austin Stone church or Soma Communities of Tacoma Washington. The mc does life and mission together, often in a neighborhood setting, incarnating the presence and mission of Jesus. Type Two is a community OF missionaries -- each person is living on mission, but not necessarily hooked together with the other people in the mc. They support each other, strategize together, participate in service together, but most of their missional expression happens outside the group in their everyday lives. However the mc gives them a spiritual home.
This is very different from the predominant models of church in North America. What would you say to those in traditional churches who may feel threatened by what you describe?
There is no need to approach this as EITHER/OR. Rather an AND approach should prevail. The people who will choose to participate in a missional community are not likely to show up at church on Sunday anyway. The mc is a strategy to create the opportunity for the church to be present in every crack and crevice of our culture. It will engage people who are not susceptible to being congregationalized, which is a growing part of our country. Many estimate that as many as 60% of our population is not amenable to our current church practice.
Is this just a fad?
No, It is a reality of a new world where increasing numbers of people won't or can't match their life rhythms with congregational rhythms.
What excites you about the development of missional communities?
The variety of expression of church that is taking place as people see their lives as a mission trip. In addition, I am excited about the people who will come into the kingdom because church came to them instead of waiting for them to come to church.
Are there any cautions you'd express to someone who is drawn to the missional community model?
Don't expect it to be anything like the program church. It is simpler; matches the rhythms of the participants, and will often feel like "nothing is happening" as relationships are built over months. But, don't be fooled by this. It actually requires more accountability to be in covenant with others than just to be a "member" of a congregation. Relationships have to be protected and worked out; hospitality and grace toward other community members has to be practiced. This is not a place to hide out; rather it is a place to be transparent and vulnerable and the neighbor Jesus talked about.
Find out more about Missional Communities at Amazon.com.