I have been doing some studying in the differences between small groups and missional small groups or communities. Small groups have become a very effective means for creating an opportunity for church members to fellowship and grow spiritually throughout the week and in addition to the weekly corporate worship service. I have come across a lot of material that is offering a challenge to the traditional small group approach. It is not being said that small groups, as they are traditionally ran, are not effective for they often accomplish the task they are designed to do. They are often good at creating a welcoming atmosphere where prayer concerns can be shared and where a need for fellowship can be filled. They can be great places for Bible studies and other forms of discipleship training, but I can’t help but think that such groups could accomplish more in the way of meeting the call of the Great Commission. We are called to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel.
What if our small groups established an interest in reaching their community for Christ? What if they created opportunities and challenges for each member to meet the needs of those in their community and provided specific training in evangelism and apologetics? Now that would be a missional small group! It is all about the purpose that the group establishes for itself. If the Great Commission becomes part of the DNA of the group then the small group will have a certain intentionality in what it does and how it functions. There is an importance to meet the internal needs of the group, but there is also the need to reach out into the community that surrounds it. The community needs to know that the local church is there to be a light on the truth. We can’t effectively be that light if we don’t intentionally shine outside of the church doors.
In order to do this, we need church members in our small groups that are comfortable with meeting people in the community where they are. There they can form relationships and help disciple those they meet in the truth. This might be a cup of coffee together somewhere where you talk one on one with the individual about Christ. It might be a willingness to listen to objections and questions and then be prepared to give a defense or answer with gentleness. And it will probably take time and a commitment to mentor new people. This is being truly missional. It is a lifestyle. Mission trips are great, but missional living is the best. Jimmy Muir puts it this way, “Missional communities look for natural opportunities in the flow of our lives to which we can invite unbelievers to observe and experience our Christian fellowship.” Unbelievers often need to see Christ in us and out in their community and context before they will come to see it in the local church. This is the most natural progression.
Church worship services and discipleship training within our small groups then take on a new purpose and intentional tone. We train and get equipped for a purpose. We commune with God and with others in order to prepare for the outreach we will be doing as a natural expression of our everyday life. We will live on mission. Each member will be a minister to the place and people that God puts in their path throughout the week. We will then return to our churches to share the victories we have had throughout our week. We will hold each other accountable to the task. This is very reminiscent of the approach taken by New Testament missionaries like Paul and Peter. Missional small groups functioning in our churches could be a game changer!