Thought I'd throw a few thoughts down regarding Missional Communities that we have been processing at C3.
So first, a definition, for C3, Missional Communities are groups of 15-40 people who do life together (Family) and serve a specific context together (Mission). And contrary to what some would suggest, Size Does Matter! Smaller than 15 causes a sociological shift in the dynamics in the group that makes it function more like a small group and less like a family on mission. I will say more in the future about why the larger group is preferred.
One of the points of discussion I've seen recently is whether your Missional Community should be organized around a cause (place) or a neighborhood/network (people).
Here's the general back and forth:
"It shouldn't be organized around a place, because you can paint a wall over and over but it will never become a disciple."
"It shouldn't be organized around a people, because when you make a person your mission, they don't seem to like it. Because they become projects, not people."
I think both of these arguments actually have validity, that's why it's not either/or. We need both.
You need a mission. For us, the serve must be grounded in two things, 1) Is it close to the heart of God? (Is it something that we can see clearly in the Scriptures that matters to God and should matter to us.) 2) Is there relational equity? (Painting a wall or picking up litter are nice things, but let's not confuse them with loving our neighbor.)
So, our MCs have a missional focus. The one I lead seeks to invest in children and families and teachers at an inner city school. We want them to feel supported and cared for. At first the relationship was minimal, but relational equity is built through trust and trust is gained in inches (and lost in miles). So we have tried to do whatever the schools have needed so they know we care about them. No strings attached. Just love. And the trust has increased (we were honored as the Outstanding Community Partner to the entire family of schools in Columbus last year!) Children matter to God, so they matter to us.
Another MC adopts refugee families who move to Columbus and help them acclimate to the city, to learn English, to have a move-in ready apartment.
Another MC works with a local organization to help support and provide for local victims of human trafficking.
Still another MC works with an organization that cares for families with kids with terminal or chronic diseases to help them feel more like families and less like patients or diagnoses.
Care for children, foreigners, the exploited and the sick. All of those are close to the heart of God.
The cause matters.
But we want people to join us in doing the things that matter to God, so rather than making someone into a project (which is not close to the heart of God), we invite people into the mission with us. Time and time again, people who aren't particularly interested in the "churchy" stuff of going to C3 on a Sunday or talking about faith/the Bible during the week, are willing to help out with causes bigger than themselves. They may not understand or endorse the whole faith thing, but caring for those on the fringes of our city is something many people will help out with.
Sometimes joining a cause (Mission) with a group of people (Community) is the path to discovering faith.
Is it a place? Absolutely! Where are you called to be good news to the city you live in?
Is it a people? Absolutely! Who are you supposed to invite to be good news with you and how can you give value to the people you are serving?
If it's Family or Mission, we've missed something!
If it's Family as Mission, we've made people into pawns.
But if we can chase Family on Mission, it invites people to be who they are, where they are and to join in the story of a better Author, whether they trust his penmanship or not.
Belonging precedes Believing.