Mission First, Community Later?

February 11, 2009 — 4 Comments

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.

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

4 responses to Mission First, Community Later?

  1. This is an excellent post. For Christians, I believe it takes grasping and owning the Great Commission as primary for believers and followers of Christ. When that happens, mission is bound to follow in time.

    Also, nice clean new look you have here. I’m not a fan of the word “wispy” though…

  2. Go and do.

  3. Logs,
    You’re just jealous of my voluminous vocabulary. Wispy is an excellent choice, and is a great synonym for ethereal.

    and thanks for the props on the new look 🙂

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