A Pragmatic Reason for Missional Communities

March 8, 2013 — 8 Comments

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. Third is:

A Pragmatic Reason for Missional Communities

As a church, we believe that God has called us to make disciples EVERYWHERE in our city.  71% of the city of Austin, if asked to come to a worship gathering, would decline.

If we want to engage the entire city with the gospel of Christ, we have to take the church to them.  This requires every single member of the body of Christ to life a missionary life, not simply the organization itself.

Practically, missional communities provide the vehicle by which the church scattered can engage every sphere of society.  Thousands of people gathered on a Sunday makes little to no difference missionally in the lostness of our city.  Thousands of missionaries incarnating the gospel together in our city has the power to change a city.

Also, as a large church, we must have a place where the saints are cared for and pastored, where the “one anothers” of Scripture are lived out, and where we can exercise oversight and authority consistent with the New Testament.

If all we were to do was corporately gather, and corporately engage in mission, our elders would still be lacking in our execution of the biblical vision for shepherding the flock of God.

Pragmatically, we need a vehicle by which the church can care for one another, support one another, and where we can practically meet the needs that arise in the community of God.

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.

8 responses to A Pragmatic Reason for Missional Communities

  1. Would love to see/ hear your thoughts on what it looks like to”exercise oversight and authority consistent with the NT.” What does it/ should it look like for a church to truly care for and shepherd it’s body.

    I think it’s hard to get lost in the balance of seeking to be taught, cared for and shepherded while not seeking to be a “consumer”.

    Hope you don’t mind all the posts. Good stuff!

    • Great questions, and I’m right there in the tension with you. This has been our greatest challenge – balancing these pieces. To be honest, we’re pretty weak at the “care” side of things, although we’re seeking to grow.

      We’ve termed it this way – we want every partner (covenant member) of The Austin Stone to be one phone call removed from an elder. For us, this means placing multiple teams of elders over our multiple campuses, and those elders both proactively pursuing and reactively caring for the partners of our church.

      It also means that we rely primarily on the community to meet everyday needs, and we press our communities to be the primary care takers and meeters of needs.

      What do you think the balance is?

      • Todd, would your church see an MC leader as equivalent to elders and meeting the biblical qualifications of elders in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1? This is one of the big questions I’ve had when it comes to think about assessing and raising up new MC leader since it’s important to know what you’re assessing them against (what qualifications or standards they must meet). It seems like the MC leader in some ways plays the role of not only an elder in providing care/leadership but also a church planter in that he’s seeking to start new MCs out of his MC. But then this would seem to imply that only very few are called to be MC leaders and that the starting of new MCs would be much slower since finding adequate leaders takes longer.

        Thoughts? Thanks!

        • JB,
          We definitely would not see MC leaders as elders. The key idea to point out here is that elders are indeed called to shepherd the flock through the ministry of the Word and prayer, elders are not the ONLY people in the body called to do those things. Our MC leaders serve under the headship of qualified elders and deacons, and we ask them over the span of a year to covenant with our church as a member if they haven’t already. (I expanded a bit on it here: http://toddengstrom.com/2013/06/07/caring-for-missional-community-leaders/)

          I would also say that while we want new churches to be planted eventually, what we’re primarily orienting MC around is making disciples, which is the New Testament command for all believers, not just for a select few.

          The missional community structure empowers the people of God to participate fully in the mission of God and the ministry of the church, but it isn’t the sum total of the structure of the church. We still gather corporately for worship, preaching and the celebration of the sacraments.

          Does that make sense? Let me know if you need more clarity!

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