A Small Group Is Not Necessarily A Missional Community

When defining the term "missional community, "I often take time to clarify what it's not. One of the things I often emphasize is that a missional community is not primarily a Bible study.

The goal of most Bible studies is to study the Bible. The goal of a missional community is to be a family of disciples that makes disciples. A missional community necessarily entails study of the Bible, but many Bible studies don't entail the making of disciples.

In fact, I've discovered that many people have studied the Bible for years and have never led anyone to faith in Jesus, equipped people for ministry, or sent out others out to do the same. It's as if we have come to believe that knowing the Bible is equal to faith in and obedience to God. However, Jesus said that if we love him we will obey his commandments. In his commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:20, he directed them to teach others to obey his commands.

A Common Scenario

When people at our church gatherings tell me that they wish we did more Bible studies, I usually ask them what book of the Bible they last studied. Let's imagine they say, "James."

I then say something like: "That's great! You must be well equipped to care for widows and orphans, visit the sick, and serve the poor! We have a lot of socio-economic division in our city and we really need people equipped like you to help others."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, that's what the book of James teaches and, since you studied it, you must be trained in it."

Often there is a pregnant pause followed by something like, "Well, we did study it and we learned a lot."

"Well, did you do what it says? James actually exhorts us to not merely be hearers of the Word, but doers. Right?"

"Well, yes he does say that. But we've haven't gotten around to doing it yet."

"So how about getting involved in a missional community where you can practice doing what you've studied? In fact, before you add more biblical knowledge that you will be accountable to obey, let's help you follow through with what you already know."

Obedience in Community

I've found that the missional community is one of the best environments to study the Bible because it's in the context of community that you learn to obey what God's Word teaches. And it's while on mission making disciples that you come to see how powerful God's Word is for bringing about transformation.

I've also discovered that when we aim to obey God's Word together, we realize how desperately we need Jesus. We need his forgiveness for not obeying his Word. We need the power of his Spirit in order to obey his Word. And we come to love Jesus more as he meets us with grace in our failures and weaknesses. All of this inevitably leads us to love the Word of God (both written and incarnate) more and more.

I've found that our hunger for and engagement with the Bible only increases the more we obey its commands and experience God's faithfulness in its promises.


Comment

Jeff Vanderstelt

Jeff Vanderstelt is the visionary leader of Saturate, the Soma Family of Churches, and the lead teaching pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, WA. He also travels around the US and the world equipping the Church in the gospel and missional living. He is the author of "Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life." He and Jayne, his wife of 22 years, have three children; Haylee, Caleb, and Maggie.