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Missional Small Groups Don't Do Mission

Doing mission is part of my church tradition, as I’ve tried to illustrate over the last two posts. Over the last few years, there has been a large set of literature that has encouraged the church to shift its emphasis from a focus on internal ministry to external ministry, but as I look back on my experience, I cannot remember a time when this was not the focus of ministry. We were always looking outside the church to do ministry in some form or fashion. And if one really looks at how small groups have been developed over the last 25 years, there has been a constant focus in the various books on reaching out beyond the confines of the group to a wider community.

Having a focus on reaching out in various ways is not new to the church, so one might assume that we can simply apply this experience to the development of missional community. All we need to do is continue with our experience in prayer as a group and building community and then just add the outreach or a “missional” focus. We can choose from a slew of outreach strategies and we have more outreach curricula out our disposal than we know what to do with, but neither will lead us to the heart of what it means to develop missional community.

This “add mission” on top of prayer and community mentality propagates a “doing” mentality that has been the focus of the church for most of recent history. Mission is imagined as something a group of Christian insiders do for unchurched outsiders. It is based on the assumption that we, as insiders, know something that they, as outsiders, need to know and our job is to deliver it to them. We have a message that they need to hear.

A missional community realizes that it is not called to “do” mission. It knows that it cannot merely add outreach on top of its current life and really expect to make a difference in the world.

So mission is not merely a third component that we can add on top of prayer and community life.

Why not? I’d like to hear what you have to say on this.