Here’s a common question we get about missional communities: What comes first? Mission or community?
In other words, if you want to start a community that lives on mission together, do you start with a vision for mission and gather a community around it? Or do you gather a community and discern a mission vision together?
No “right” answer
There’s not really a single “right” answer to this question. One important thing to remember is that the best missional communities aren’t programs run by influential people with charismatic personalities. Rather, missional communities are where you equip, empower and release leaders to lead and discern mission.
So if we seek to answer the question with one “right answer” we end up absolutizing the way God must work in every situation. Instead, it’s better to train people to discern the way God actually is working in their actual situation, so they can participate in the work God is already doing!
Starting with community
One missional community we were part of for awhile was composed of a group of people that have an affinity for each other and live in the same neighborhood. So we tend to gather as a community whether we have mission or not.
The important thing for this group is to cast vision for being missional disciples and discerning mission in their context. (We have training that equips leaders to do this exact thing.) By doing this, we’re seeking to discern how God is at work and how we organize around his work.
Another missional community we were part of was in much the same position. They were focused on some neighbors, plus a few folks from church (some of whom happen to be neighbors as well). They started by just simply enjoying getting together.
The next phase of that group needed to be defining the mission a little bit more closely. Discerning where God is at work and then gathering around that grace.
Mission vision is a magnet
The vision of a missional community often functions as a magnet to draw people towards you or repel people from you. And both are okay because ultimately that vision is a filter for people of peace.
Remember the key is that missional communities are led by people who know how to discern where God is at work and how to gather around that grace with faith. It’s less of a question of: “Are we starting it the right way?” and more “Are the right people here?”
If we have the right leader and people (people who can discern), they can start and lead on mission. They can adapt and calibrate as the missional situation changes. As crisis happens, as needs present themselves, they will be able to adapt and overcome because they have the character and competencies of a leader who knows how to navigate those kinds of things.
Check out the video below if you’d like to hear Ben and Matt talk about this topic:
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P.S. Did you know we do in-depth training for the kind of leadership Ben and Matt talked about in this video? Click here to check it out.