Missional Community Practices – Fitting Them All Together

April 5, 2013 — 10 Comments

This series of posts provides an overview of each of the missional community practices we foster at The Austin Stone:

How Do I Do This With a Busy Schedule?

So we’re teaching people to gather as family over a meal, as disciples in an LTG, and as missionaries in a third place.

As we train folks in these different practices, honestly people freak out just a bit. The common refrain is “You mean I have to do ALL of this in one week?!?”

I recently had a conversation with one of our leaders. He is an orthopedic surgeon with three kids. His community has something like 25 children, and about three months ago they were completely exhausted with trying to meet each week.

In training, we gave him the freedom to stop gathering their whole community each week. Instead, they’re gathering every other week for a meal, and focusing on LTGs and third place.

Three months into the change, they are being far more effective at both community and mission.

It’s because they thought through a month, not a week.

As you think through shifting your practices, consider that these don’t have to happen the same way all the time, and every member of your community doesn’t always need to participate.

In the same way a nuclear family has different seasons of life and different needs at different times, so too do missional communities.

I recommend that communities at minimum cultivate:

  • Gathering weekly in LTGs
  • Gathering at minimum every other week for Third Place
  • Gathering at minimum monthly for Family Meal
  • Gathering to worship corporately on Sundays

Missional community doesn’t have to be complex – it’s thinking outside the box we have built for ourselves, and asking the question “how do we obey what God has commanded?”

Whether you’re leading a missional community or leading a ministry, I want to challenge you to consider – how are our practices fostering obedience to Jesus?

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.

10 responses to Missional Community Practices – Fitting Them All Together

  1. Great ideas, Todd! 99% of the time, this is the first thing that comes up, “I am just too busy.” I think these are great practical steps in a MC, but also I feel there is a need to press on people in some instances of that fact that, “You ARE too busy!”

    We see so many people invested in far too many shallow relationships and are not known deeply and truly anywhere. Many people hang out with different groups of people every night of the week and then wonder why relationships and community seasons change so quickly and frequently.

    • I think a huge part of gospel ministry in our culture is re-establishing a strong-tie community. Because individualism is so pervasive, we are working from a starting point much like you’re talking about. Gospel ministry and missional community will need to be incredibly patient as we teach and disciple away from such a radical idolatry that nearly all of us have capitulated to.

      I’ve had to learn grace and patience for the “I’m too busy” line, recognizing that it is partially a sin of the heart, but also a result of the culture.

  2. Todd – thanks for these words of wisdom. They have been really helpful as finding the right rhythms has not been easy for our MC.

    You can read more about our own journey and learnings regarding rhythms here – http://theuntaming.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/missional-community-rhythms-ouch/ – the start of a small series in which your advice (and blog link) will feature quite soon 🙂

  3. Todd – wanted to say I have shamelessly adapted some of your content – please see http://theuntaming.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/missional-community-rhythms-secret-sauce/ and let me know if you have any concerns! I have given you credit and a link to your blog so hope that is OK. Best, Richard

  4. Travis Woronowicz March 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Hey Todd,

    Thanks for responding to my previous post… I have 2 other practical questions about starting from scratch and how not-yet believers fit in the mix of MC life–

    Re: staring from scratch, I have some Christians on my block who have the heart and desire to live as missionaries to our city; these Christian neighbors are from a few different churches in my city, though, so we don’t specifically have one sending church; I’d love to see a new MC multiply and multiply and ultimately see numerous churches planted with a missional DNA that saturate the city…

    From my understanding of what I have read, you start with a leader and a vision/specific pocket of people in mind; that leader asks others to join in the Mission… they start getting to know people there in the Third Place (meeting there every other week and reorienting the rhythms of life around meeting there more regularly); as we meet there, we are praying/looking for a person of peace; beside this, we should also start meeting in LTGs to go deeper in the Word and gathering monthly for a family meal…

    I guess my question is, where do we invite not-yet believers? Is there an invitational order, so to speak? Do we invite them to our family meal? To hang with us at our third place? Do we ever invite them to an LTG? And do the believers have a specific time of training set aside at the Family meal… or does that happen elsewhere? When do we pray for the harvest and visioneer? In the LTGs? It would seem that we need time as just Christ-followers to pray and cast vision… and another time that is open, neutral, natural, etc. to invite not-yet believers into our lives… does that make sense?

    I guess I am trying to anticipate ahead of time (maybe pre-maturely) how this might go if we really try to do this in my city… I’d love your thoughts on this! Thanks so much, Todd.

    • The 3 practices are designed to be “steady-state” rhythms…they aren’t necessarily definitive for all times, so things like visioneering and prayer definitely need to be a part of the early process of launching. I’d schedule in different kinds of gatherings beyond these three liberally over time. Keep it fresh!

      As far as inviting unbelievers, I’d say bring them to whatever they will participate in! Usually, the first ask is a Third Place, but I’ve had those who don’t know Jesus jump into any and all of these things. I think that it’s up to the person…if they are a person of peace, they’ll be interested in pursuing more than just relationship, so invite them into anything they are willing to do.

      Hope that helps!

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