I found this quote on our Missional Community blog from the Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch:
“In a remark ascribed to Gordon Cosby, the pioneering leader of that remarkable community Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., he noted that in over sixty years of significant ministry, he had observed that no groups that came together around a non-missional purpose (e.g., prayer, worship, study, etc.) ever ended up becoming missional. It was only those groups that set out to be missional (while embracing prayer, worship, study, etc., in the process) that actually got to doing it.” (p. 235)
This quote definitely contains a large degree of truth…groups that form with no missional impulse will generally never find a mission. I do, however, believe that there are potential outcomes from the formation non-missional groups, especially when there is a vision of mission driving those groups.
The most direct method of assimilation in a missional context is “assimilation to missional community”. We have also found, though, that there are several indirect pathways, especially when the vision is ultimately missional community. Sometimes the most efficient path is not the best.
In our experience with missional community at The Austin Stone, and specifically on the assimilation side of things, I think I’ve come to discover that in our context, entry into virtually any kind of community, missional or non-missional, is a good first step. We have utilized non-missional community as a venue for exploring missional concepts, and many individuals have begun to discover their calling to mission.
Although this may not directly result in missional community, it is resulting in individuals who are pursuing mission, and the hope and prayer is that over time, as individuals find a calling to mission, that they begin to unite around a common purpose to create missional community.
The phrase our community team likes to use is “teams of missionaries” (collections of missional individuals) and “missionary teams” (missional communities). The team of missionaries concept is a great intermediate step in the process of moving a body toward missional community.