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This series will drill down on the missional community practice called “The Family Meeting”.  Although there isn’t a formula, here are some things to consider putting into practice:

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Celebrating Communion

For the final post in this series, I wanted to highlight how we practice the ordinance of communion together in a missional community setting.  Corporately, we celebrate communion in our Sunday worship gatherings and monthly we have a dedicated prayer service where we also celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  In addition to these corporate environments, we strongly encourage missional communities to celebrate communion together in the Family Meal or after an Evening of Prayer as well.

The ordinance of communion is an ancient act of worship that Christ instituted 2000 years ago for His church. It’s a visible sermon to our own souls of the concrete promises of God, obtained for us by Jesus’s death and resurrection.  And it is an important opportunity to let lost people who have joined your group know that they still must make the commitment to Christ.

In Jesus’s ministry, He had the large group that anybody could join, but from time to time He brought them to critical decision points (Lk 18:18-24; John 6:52-66; Lk 9:57-62). This gave them the important gift of knowing that they weren’t part of Jesus simply because they liked being in the large group. They still had a major decision to make about Him.  Communion is a similar way to have a decisive conversation with someone who doesn’t yet follow Jesus, as the Lord’s Table is only for those who have trusted in Christ.

Communion in Practice

In the earliest practices of the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ celebrated communion with a meal at the centerpiece.  Early in the meal, they gave thanks and broke the bread to initiate the meal, and to conclude they would raise the cup and remind one another of Christ’s shed blood.  In between was conversation and reflection centered around Jesus and his finished work.  We have tried to include this in our regular gatherings to reinforce that the community is at the heart of Christian discipleship.

For guidelines to practicing communion, first look to the Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.

When only believers are present a Family Meal, go ahead and break bread at the beginning, reminding those at the table of what is above.  Spend some time of simple quiet reflection, and allow people the opportunity to discern if there is anything that must be repented of or division that exists in the community before you eat.  Similarly, after you have had some good conversation, at the conclusion of the meal, gather some wine and remind the community of what Paul tells us about the cup.

If there are people there who don’t yet know Jesus and you still want to practice communion, I’d suggest that you do the bread and the cup altogether in one period of time, generally after the meal.  You can say something to the effect of “Communion is something that Christians do. It’s not really for people who are still making up their minds about Jesus. It’s for people who have staked their whole hope on Him and have said, ‘I’m all in for Jesus.’ If you are still undecided about Jesus, we’re glad you’re here and you’re completely welcome, but please pass the bread and cup without taking it. It’s not a slight or judgment on you, but something we hold dear.” Make sure they know that it’s not weird or a big deal that they are just there to watch during this short time!

Either way, pray or have multiple people pray and thank God for the enormous reality behind the bread and the cup. Thank God for all the blessings that come from the cross – for example, salvation, reconciliation, a living hope, freedom to love God, eternal life, a promised resurrection, hope of purpose in suffering, etc.

A Final Word

I’ve found that it is important to transition people out of a time of reflection and worship, so make sure after you’ve prayed that you give a next step – whether it’s inviting people to wash up the dishes, or go grab the kids, or something else.  Having a plan is helpful!

How do you go about practicing communion as a community?

http://toddengstrom.com/2013/08/26/the-family-meeting-sharing-a-meal/

This series will drill down on the missional community practice called “The Family Meeting”.  Although there isn’t a formula, here are some things to consider putting into practice:

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An Evening of Prayer

Many evangelicals have a “bible studies equal success” mentality, and I’ve found that it can often be a barrier to living life in community on mission.  A lot of people seem to have the feeling that it doesn’t really count in community or group life if you don’t study the bible, but there are plenty of other disciplines to pursue as we gather together.  Perhaps the most neglected is extended corporate prayer, which is one of the core values of missional community.

In our Family Gathering, occasionally we will gather solely for the purpose of spending an evening praying together for God to move in our neighborhood.  I want to unpack how we do it below.

Do One Thing Well Rather Than Many Things Poorly

One of the critical things that makes a community gathering successful, in my opinion, is focusing on doing one thing, rather than trying to accomplish a whole bunch of things.  Prayer is often relegated to the leftovers of a gathering, so why not take a night to do just that?  Some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in missional community life have come when my community simply seeks God together.  

Pray Through God’s Attributes

In order to put ourselves in a posture of worship and prayer, one of the best ways I have found to start a community prayer time is to pray through God’s attributes and character.  The opening statement of the Lord’s Prayer is “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.”  Jesus teaches us to pray by focusing our attention on God Himself, so we spend about 10 to 15 minutes praying one by one out loud, simply worshipping God for who He is.

This is both helpful for worship, but also for discipleship.  This prayer continues to help us remember the character of our God and be specific about all His attributes – His love, justice, holiness, independence, eternality, glory, beauty, mercy, and the many more things that God is.  This discipline cultivates an ongoing understanding and affection for God!

Pray for Repentance

After we’ve considered the Lord, we then spend time repenting of sin.  This practice helps to foster honesty as well as an ongoing recognition of our imperfection.  We repent of our lack of affection for God, we confess our sins of omission and commission, and we repent for the ways we have trespassed against one another.

We then conclude our time by praying in thankfulness for the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and for the power of the resurrection to be more manifest in us to overcome sin and have an understanding of, affection for and obedience to God. 

Pray Through Scripture

Often times someone will have a passage of Scripture that the Lord has laid on their heart or that has been impactful throughout the week, and following worship and repentance, we will reflect and ask God to conform us to His Word.  This is yet another way to keep the Word of God at the center of our community, and also moves us to specificity in what we want to ask God to do.

Pray Specifically

Finally, we want to pray by name for our neighbors, our city and the nations.  We want to spend time interceding specifically that God would reveal Himself to those whom we are seeking to share the good news of Jesus with, and that the powers and principalities of Satan would be undone.  We pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done specifically in our neighborhood.

Concluding A Prayer Gathering

The list above is certainly not prescriptive, but has been very helpful in having a guide for how to pray as a community.  Generally we’ll pray for about an hour total (sometimes shorter, sometimes longer!), and often we’ll wrap it up and stay and chat.

Celebrating communion together is also an excellent way to close out this time, which I will talk about in the next post.

What have you found helpful in facilitating prayer in the life of a community?

This series will drill down on the missional community practice called “The Family Meeting”.  Although there isn’t a formula, here are some things to consider putting into practice:

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In the previous post, I covered the meal part of our gathering.  I am also often asked the question “what should we talk about?”  I want to unpack a few different options that I have used, and point out a few others that others I know have put into practice.

Who Will Be There?

The first question I think you need to answer when thinking through discussion topics is “who is going to be there?”  One of the major ideas of missional community is allowing those who aren’t yet following Jesus the opportunity to belong before they believe, and part of that is considering what you talk about.  Often, rather than having a standard bible study, I will simply ask the question “what were your highs and lows over the past week or two?” It’s a great opportunity for those who are believers to speak about God, the gospel, and the Word, and it’s an accessible question for anyone, regardless of your faith, to answer.

Studying the Bible

If you’re going to study the bible together, I’d highly recommend that you do it in such a way that anyone can meaningfully participate in the conversation.  If you’re following a reading plan in your LTGs, then I would just use a chapter from that days reading as the passage you’re going to discuss.  I have found the following questions to be a good standard set if you’re going to do a bible study:

  • What did you like/not like about what we just read?
  • Was there anything you didn’t understand?
  • What did you learn about God?
  • What did you learn about humanity?
  • What did you learn about Jesus?
  • Regardless of where your faith is at right now, if you were to apply what we learned about God to something in your life this week, what would that look like?

These questions give an opportunity to consider the gospel, and reinforce obedience to the Word rather than just learning.

I’m not the biggest fan of curriculum in a missional community, and prefer to focus on individuals reading the bible for themselves and collectively studying that together.  That being said, I think there are some strategic seasons to use curriculum…just don’t rely to heavily on it!

Other Resources

Lastly, my friends at Soma Communities have developed a tool that has proven to be very powerful and effective for missional communities called The Story Formed Way.  I have seen communities at The Stone use this tool, and it has been a great way for believers and non-believers alike to explore the story of God in the bible in a powerful new way.

What are some other ways you have tried to lower the bar of engagement to participation in a discussion?

This series will drill down on the missional community practice called “The Family Meeting”.  Although there isn’t a formula, here are some things to consider putting into practice:

  • Sharing a Meal
  • What Do You Talk About?
  • An Evening of Prayer
  • Celebrating Communion

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How to Conduct the Missional Community Family Meeting

Rather than dive into practical, “how-to” answers, I usually spend most of my time on “why?” Against my normal tendencies, in these next posts I will try to be immensely practical and explicit about what we do in the different gatherings of missional community life.  Before I go too far, though, we are immensely flexible with forms as long as they are pursuing the proper function.  What one missional community does, another may do completely differently, yet hopefully they are pursuing the same purpose.

For the Family Meeting, the objective is to live out our identity as a spiritual family.  The primary focus of this gathering is the meal – together as a community preparing, eating and cleaning up from a shared meal.

As we train missional communities, I’m often asked a bunch of practical questions…everything from “should we go potluck or have one person prepare the meal?” all the way to “do you have any recipes for large groups of people?”  I have the spiritual gift of grilling, so that’s usually the route I go if I’m on point!

While there is not a single way to do this, here is what I would suggest.

Find the Right Time

First, find a time of the week where you won’t be under a time crunch.  For most families, one of the best times to gather is on Sunday evenings.  Mid-week is so often crammed with activities and events that it is really difficult to pull this off.  Second, I’d highly recommend that you aim for an every other week rhythm on this in order to cut down on some of the stress of a larger gathering.

Planning the Meal

For the meal itself, I have found it works best in our community for one family or person to do the meal planning, but to involve others in the preparation.  This cuts down on a lot of the planning and communication that is often necessary to do a potluck-style meal (and also limits the number of leftovers that get left behind!).  If you rotate through who is taking point, then it shares the burden over time.  Some meals that have worked well for us, and been relatively easy to prepare are homemade individual pizzas, oven-roasted chicken tacos, lasagna and other pasta dishes, grilling with a variety of salad options, and a bunch of others.  I keep bugging my wife to share some of her tricks!

When Do You Start?

Our Family Meeting will usually “start” at least 30 minutes prior to meal time.  This allows for people to pitch in for some preparation, as well as to have some conversation before the meal.  Because we have small kids, we will often aim for a 5 pm start so we’ve got enough room on the backside to get the kids bathed and ready for bed.  We’ve also found that it’s a good idea to either feed the kids before the adults, or to let the kids play outside while the adults are eating, in order to give us some uninterrupted time.

Generally, we will gather in the kitchen and the host dad will pray for our meal together and sometimes provide a topic of discussion for dinner.  We eat for about 30 minutes, and often will have some kind of dessert following the main course to appease the kids and provide a little more opportunity for conversation.  At the end of the evening, we generally invite people to help us clean up after the meal, then it’s time to head home.  In general, from start to finish we usually take about 2 to 2.5 hours.

Conclusion

There’s nothing special about what we do, but then again we’re aiming at being a family together, rather than doing something special in this time.  In the next post, I’ll walk through what we spend our time talking about during this kind of gathering.