Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Missional Community an Oxymoron?

Like jumbo shrimp, steel wool, decaf coffee, good morning, microsoft works, speed limit, and my favorite - wicked good.

Missional - the church scattered, going out and hanging out with the lost, developing real relationships with people who don't yet know Jesus.

Community - the church gathered, developing authentic, committed relationships with other believers, living in frequent, close fellowship with them.

I wonder about this often. How do you do both? Where do you invest yourself? It seems like to focus on one is to only give lip service to the other, and I think it is missional that usually gets lip service.

What do you think?


aBhantiarna Solas said...

Heeyyyy ... now you're tromping on hallowed ground. "Wicked good" a much favored New England phrase meaning so good it must be bad ;-)

I do like your thoughts about missional and community, Grace. It's very difficult to maintain balance. You begin with a circle, but then the gravitational pull of one or the other makes it look more like an egg and you're off balance. I think it can be done, but only if the community is aware of the balancing act and is willing to make it more of a dance than anything else.

The other thing is that I think it's good to have lots of conversations about how porous your community walls will be. That can change the nature of whether or not the term is oxymoronic.

Alan Knox said...

I believe you have hit on one of the many both/and "balances" in Scripture about the church. If we lean too far one way or the other, then we miss the point. Yes, the church is to be missional. But, it is also to be a community. How do we do that? Very carefully.
- Alan

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Don't forget military intelligence.

I understand what you are saying about missional and community, but without the community don't you think our missional attitude starts to get a bit skewed. We have a tendency as Christ Followers to let the culture influence us instead of us influencing the culture. But you are right about us giving lip service to missional activities.


Mike Croghan said...

Hi Grace,

I think my good friend (and, in the interest of full discosure, fellow community member) aBhantiarna Solas is on the money - living this oxymoron is possible, but the community as a whole must be willing and able to participate in a never-ending, intentional process of critical self-reflection regarding how we are living in this tension. I'm having an interesting e-mail debate right now with a good friend of mine regarding whether this is remotely possible in a large (say, >100 members) church community.

I'm not sure it is possible with a large church (which, IMHO, is necessarily more a "neighborhood" or even a "village" than a "community"), but with a small, faithful, mutually (*not* top-down!!) self-critical community, I'm completely convinced that living faithfully in this tension *is* possible.

In any event, exploring this question is more or less the focus of my life right now, so...we'll get back to you in a few years? :-)


Missional Jerry said...

the balance is truly difficult

but its a needed goal for us all

Alan Knox said...

If I can add one more thing... I believe this tension is not only difficult, but extremely important. If it were easy for us to leave as the church, then we could do it on our own. But, in order to walk to fine line between living in community and living in the world, we must rely on the Spirit... perhaps offbalance... in order to be dependent.

Anonymous said...

The church and assembly, a gathering. Scripture talks about the assembly, and it also talks about us being sent. I see our getting together as a change to encourage one another for the work we do "out there."

"Steel wool" might be an oxymoron, I don't know, but it works.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there it is, a gathering to encourage each other to get back out there and also in some cases the means (monies) to go tell. The worship environment itself should be relevent enought for even a non-seeker to be encouraged I think. At the old church I left there was a little deaf lady that would come to service and then "panhandle" for change and/or canned peaches.
She was encouraged by some to be a part of the family but some major "insiders" finally had their way and she was shooed the poor being shooed away from the Body of Christ is an oxymoron but I'm not sure what the word is....

BarBarA said...

I have nothing to add but I love this topic you started. Great comments.

Robbymac said...

Missional community = a gathering of like-minded people who live missionally in all aspects of life, including the gathering but certainly not restricted to it.

Does that work as a starting point towards some level of definition?

grace said...

This is a great discussion, and I plan to continue it on the other side of the latest Driscoll post.

I plan to start dropping "wicked good" into my conversations in appropriate and inappropriate places. :)

I almost wrote something about both/and in the original post. It is definitely where my thoughts are headed. Relying on the Spirit is uaully a good place to start.

How about cheerleading scholarship. ;)

Mike, I can totally relate to this being the focus of life right now!

jerry and others,
I hope we can continue the discussion of how we practically live the balance.

It's nice to meet you. My concern is that we remember our focus on the "out there."

That is a tragedy, especially when the mission walks right into our midst and we don't recognize it.

I'm looking forward to more discussion about this also. I have your blog relinked again. Somehow I lost you when I switched to bloglines, but I've been enjoying reading at your place again.

Thanks Robby. Now could you describe living missionally in all aspects of life?

Pastor Astor said...

Here is what we are doing:
First, try to loose the opposites; gathering - reaching out, fellowship - evangelism, church - mission, and realize that these are not opposites unless you make them to be. Reach out by gathering, become a church through mission, invite people to fellowship in with and around Jesus.

Fellowship is not something that can be accomplished BEFORE doing mission. Mission - our lives for others before God - is what forms fellowship. As long as we keep trying to reach fellowship as a basis for reaching out, later, we won´t.

Here is what we did: We did it. We moved into a new area with one other family. We are in no way enough people to be a church, and we are definately not enough to fill each others social needs - we need th people around as. The friendships that form is aur mission. Half of our "church" are not saved (and maybe will not be in the near future. We are not pushing it, we are available to people. Gods work is Gods work, and we are at his service.

grace said...

pastor astor,
Thanks for sharing these ideas. I think the fact that you moved into the area of your mission is really important. I plan to post more on this topic soon.