Although there are a number of reasons why we have chosen to implement missional communities at The Austin Stone, there are a few critical reasons I want to highlight in this series of posts. First was a Theological Reason. Second is:
A Philosophical Reason for Missional Communities
Philosophy of ministry is the direct application of theological convictions into a unique cultural context. Our theological convictions about the character of God, the truth of the gospel, and our mission in the world don’t change, but our culture shapes how we apply those truths into functional ministry.
In Austin, Texas, we find ourselves ministering in a highly consumeristic, radically individualistic, and materialistic group of people.
Unfortunately the worldview of the culture has also pervaded the worldview of the local church, and many of the people who engage in our worship services, listen to our sermons, and participate in our ministries are more formed by their unconscious desire to consume than the gospel.
We are systemically discipled by the culture, and the church must have a systemic response to disciple in the way of Jesus.
The American church has often recognized the problem of individualism, presenting small groups as the typical solution for isolated people. Similarly, we recognize the problem of materialism, and have presented opportunities for radical generosity.
It is very rare, however, for the church to have a response to consumerism. We are still plagued by systems of thought that cater to consumers, rather than encourage individuals to be self-feeding missionaries.
Honestly, this is why The Austin Stone has gotten so much push-back from our people on the idea of missional community – we are actively combatting the idolatry and worldview of the church that has run deep into our hearts and minds.
In order for the church to be effective in discipling the people whom God has entrusted us, we need to have a systemic response to the pervasive worldview. We cannot expect to confront idolatry on a deep level if our systems are reinforcing consumerism.
Think about the typical small group-it is highly driven around the needs of the Christian, it is often centered around teaching or bible study from an outside source, and rarely does it demand more than simply a meeting once per week.
Missional Community presents a compelling alternative that calls people from consumerism to the life of a missionary in community in a way that is attainable for the everyday person to live out their God given identities and calling.
What are other ways we can be faithful to the Word and also confront consumerism within the church?
Share in the comments!
14 replies on “A Philosophical Reason for Missional Communities”
All I want to say bro, is this is from the heart of the Lord. I came across your article, and I celebrated. This is a truth that must be explored deeper and deeper until it begins to become infused into our DNA. “We cannot expect to confront idolatry on a deep level if our systems are reinforcing consumerism”. YES!
Just know Todd, that the Lord is speaking this message into many peoples hearts. Keep resounding this call. Keep laboring to develop systems to expose and squash consumerism in all of our hearts.
P.S. Met you at Verge this weekend. Sat up top beside you. I’m friends with Tyler Shepherd. Tell him I said what’s up. I praise God for you guys labor!
Thanks for the encouragement brother, and glad we had the chance to connect at Verge!
Love this, Todd! My wife and I have been changing gears in the way we do “small group” and it has been met with a good amount of push-back as well. I will confess that some of that push-back has come from myself, as God has graciously exposed idolatry in my own heart in some of these areas!
Thanks for this series!
Even I have pushback for it…it’s honestly the war of the flesh with the war of the Spirit. Everyone has a desires for community and will drift toward it, but mission is a work of the Spirit that we naturally drift away from.
I’m so encouraged that you are wrestling with this, and continue to pray that God would challenge us towards greater obedience to making disciples!
[…] Assimilation, therefore, seeks to respond to the individual stories of those involved. Quite simply, a process is designed to serve the widest possible group of people who have some things in common regarding their stories. The most common story at The Austin Stone for those who come through our doors is that of familiarity with Christian culture, but predominantly predisposed to approach engagement in church as a consumer. […]
[…] To be a word centered church doesn’t just mean that you have expositional preaching though. Because the church is a group of people, to be a Word-centered church means to be a Word-centered people. Practically speaking, we want every person in our church community to be engaging the Word of God on a daily basis. We want to cultivate self-feeders, not consumers. […]
[…] beyond just a once a week meeting. Many of the people who are starting out in these communities tend to approach life together as consumers, and also have a preconceived idea of what community practices should look like. Typically, […]
[…] and in my experience results in more missional communities dying than any other. It often reveals a consumeristic heart – the response is not to multiply, but to patiently address consumerism with the gospel over […]
Your stuff on missional communities is super helpful. As the director of a prayer-based missions base, I particularly resonated with, “Missional Community presents a compelling alternative that calls people from consumerism to the life of a missionary in community in a way that is attainable for the everyday person to live out their God given identities and calling.”
Do you have a starting point you recommend for church communities who want to make as transition to being missional community?
I’ll be posting a series in the next few weeks on transitioning…stay tuned!
[…] This post originally appeared on Todd’s blog. […]
[…] in my experience results in more missional communities dying than any other. It often reveals a consumeristic heart – the response is not to multiply, but to patiently address consumerism with the gospel over […]
[…] as an attitude that should not be prevalent in the people of God. We had learned, in part, from others who had diagnosed this. These critiques resonate with me. Yet, the label felt a […]
[…] harmful for Christians to hold. We had learned, in part, from others who had diagnosed this such as Todd Engstrom . These critiques resonate with me. Yet, the label feels a […]