This is the audio recording of the third reading of week one of Start, entitled What is a Missional Community?
“The goal is not to run a program called ‘missional community.’ The goal is to learn how to function as an extended family on mission."
I (Heather) still remember the first time I opened my Bible with a group of people. I was sitting on the floor in a scarcely furnished apartment in Sacramento with eight other college students. There was something different about reading the gospels and talking about Jesus together. My mind engaged, the questions came, and the ‘aha’ moments multiplied as we wrestled with scripture together week after week.
My faith grew, and I am different today because of the hours spent on that living room floor. Each week we read Scripture and talked about transformation. We discussed how God is in the business of making all things new and how the lifetime pursuit of a Jesus follower is to be formed into the image of Christ. All these years later, I remember those uniquely formative times.
Perhaps you have memories like mine. Maybe you can look back to an earlier season where you experienced the transformative power of Christian community. And maybe you long to experience it again. Or maybe you’ve never had that kind of community, and you want to experience it for the first time. Either way, it’s all too easy as adults to get so consumed by the demands of life that our capacity to invest in relationships suffers. More than that, outlets like Netflix and social media are readily available to us, and they don’t require as much from us as interpersonal relationships do.
But if we can find a way to invest in life-giving relationships, we will find the return is massive. That’s part of why we created Start. Our hope is that through this experience you are able to make friends and eventually start a missional community. Throughout this class we’ll talk about concepts like spiritual disciplines, hearing God, radical love, empathy, forgiveness, community, and mission. All of these concepts are vital for our own spiritual maturity and for thriving missional communities.
We talk about missional communities a lot at Bridgeway. A missional community is far more than a church program. It is a place to create spiritual friendships with other Christ-followers seeking a transformed life. We like to say that a missional community is a place to make friends and make a difference with Jesus at the center. It’s a place to build meaningful friendships while growing spiritually and impacting others. A missional community isn’t a program to attend, it’s a place to belong. Some communities meet weekly, while others meet 2-3 times per month. Some engage in intensive Bible study, and others keep the content lighter because the group has a lot of young children. Each missional community at Bridgeway has a unique feel, but they all seek to incorporate five key practices:
Grow: We desire everyone who calls Bridgeway home to have an intimate, accurate, growing relationship with God. While individual study is beneficial, adults learn differently than children. We need to be more practically engaged to adopt new ideas. Spiritual growth happens when we combine learning with lively discussion, practical application, and truthful accountability. Some ways our existing groups learn together are by watching videos from RightNow Media, reading books together, and discussing Bible passages or the weekend sermon. All of our groups are supported by a Bridgeway staff member who can recommend study material.
Pray: Communication is essential for an intimate relationship with God. Praying out loud in community allows us to seek the Lord together and gives us opportunities to see, learn, listen and practice. Our faith is also strengthened when we see our prayers answered for the good of others. Existing groups regularly share prayer requests, spend time in prayer during their meetings, and engage in specific prayer events with our church.
Eat: Sharing a meal is one of the primary ways relationships are established, deepened, and enjoyed. Meals provide a comfortable environment for conversation and sharing of stories. Jesus spent a lot of time around a table with good food and conversation, and so should we. Existing groups enjoy regular potlucks, picnics, and lunches out after church.
Play: Play and laughter are essential building blocks of strong, healthy relationships. The Bible consistently highlights the importance of the Sabbath, a day of rest, and this rest is meant to be enjoyed with others. Authentic life together is more than studying and bearing one another’s burdens. It’s also filled with laughter, fun, and joy. Existing groups enjoy hiking, camping, bowling, knitting, or organizing games and date nights.
Serve: We are blessed to be a blessing. Jesus demonstrated compassion for the lost through proclamation and care. In the Great Commission, Jesus instructs all believers to live their lives in a way that reflects the truth of who He is to others. Existing groups serve with many Bridgeway partner ministries, including Mercy Multiplied, Union Gospel Mission, Salvation Army, Equestrian Therapy Centers, and World Relief. Groups also rally together to meet practical needs in their existing networks, such as assisting with household repairs, helping neighbors who are fighting a long-term illness or volunteering on school boards.
The hope is that we make meaningful friendships as we eat and play together. We make a difference in the lives of others as we pray and serve together. And we keep Jesus at the center as we mature and grow spiritually. We strive to make missional communities a place to make friends and make a difference with Jesus at the center. You may not be able to be a part of an organized missional community in every season of your life. Caring for young children or aging parents, overloaded work schedules, or health issues can make committing to a group challenging. But we can always seek genuine relationships with people and intentionally invest in spiritual friendships to help us live a transformed life.
- What are your thoughts or reactions to being a part of a missional community? What about it sounds exciting to you
- What specific challenges might hinder your ability to be part of a missional community? How can those challenges be overcome?
- If this isn’t the right time for you to join a missional community, are there a few people in your life with whom you could invest in close spiritual friendship? How can you prioritize those relationships?
RightNow Media is a streaming service that provides hundreds of different Bible studies and other Christ-centered curricula. Bridgeway pays for the subscription and it is 100% free to you. Sign up for your free account at www.bridgeway.church/rightnow