One of the primary questions I answer from people new to C3 or trying to understand what makes this DNA unique is WHAT DO MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES LOOK LIKE?
I think that this question is a good one but there is a more important one to ask: WHAT IS THE END RESULT WE'RE HOPING TO ACHIEVE IN THESE COMMUNITIES?
I will try to answer both.
Beginning with the end in mind is something we often fail to do. The end game for us is to be a discipleship culture that is replicating at every level with both quality and quantity.
My experience is that many churches have this as their stated aim, but then allow their systems to betray them. For instance, some small group systems, while great at transferring ideas and information and fostering community among Christians insulates Jesus people from the broader culture and makes it very difficult for folks who are not familiar with church culture to 'break in'. This culture is not the healthiest version of a discipleship culture. Two reasons:
1. Instead of being sheep sent out among wolves, we are sheep that stick with sheep and make others behave and act like sheep in order to join the flock. This notion that you have to believe in order to belong is problematic, intimidating and exclusive for someone who is on the perceived "outside" of the group. The Missional Community culture we are seeking to create at C3 is one where no matter what we do, someone far from God or far from the Christian sub-culture can feel welcomed and feel like they matter. I'm not sure how we got on this road where we claim to follow the one who dined with sinners and try to take the sinners out of the equation or at the very least make them clean up before they sit at the table. You are allowed to belong without belief. A community that isn't invitational is something short of a Christ honoring community.
2. These communities rarely have any type of missional purpose. Many times, they fail to do kingdom things. So they might find a safe place to share about their marriage or their fear or to learn about the Bible but the muscles of kingdom agency aren't worked out at all and atrophy settles in. Without those muscles being stretched and build up, the cozy, complacent culture that is based on what we know rather than the kingdom reality we orient our lives around starts to take root. Do we pray for healing over people (in our group and out)? Do we care for the poor and the marginalized in our city/world? Do we share and live out the good news with People of Peace in our neighborhoods, workplaces and communities? A community that isn't activational (made up word) when it comes to doing the things of Jesus is something short of a Christ honoring community.
So for C3, being invitational and activational are critical pieces to the story. Because of this, we have rhythms, or predictable patterns that ensure that these core values are upheld. If we say that we want to be a church for people far from God or people who don't like church, then we better not break out a guitar and do hour long Bible Studies week in and week out. That stuff is creepy and inaccessible to someone who has never done it. So, what are the rhythms? There are 4 of them. They all start with S. And that is how you know they are from God...because alliteration!
SUBSTANCE or Study...even though we want everyone to feel welcomed and not be creeped out, we are still unapologetically Christian. No bait and switch. No misleading or hiding anything. But when we do things to connect to God they need to be done with intentionality, explanation and accessibility. Intentionality is the strategic piece. How do I make this relevant to both the lifelong Christian and the one who has zero interest in being a Christian? Explanation is the language we use to unpack what we do. I'm not opposed to singing or studying the scripture, but these moments need to be done with clear explanation. "As Christians, we have sung our faith for two millennia. It has been something that has been passed from generation to generation, so tonight we sing our faith to link arms with 2000 years of Christians. You can listen to the words and reflect on them or once you've caught on to the tune, feel free to join in singing."
SOCIAL...If we are really trying to create a culture that is about FAMILY on MISSION, then we need to be high play and high purpose. We should laugh together...have fun together...enjoy each other. So we have a consistent rhythm of having fun. Throw parties that are epic and creative and that people want to be at. Do events and outings that will allow for fun to be had and that are easy for people to invite their friends/people of peace to join in. Rotate from one household to the next having block parties to connect with neighbors.
SERVE...Do kingdom things that have the potential to build relational equity. (See part one of these Missional Community posts). Think partnership. Think long term. Think trust building. Go where there are people of peace who welcome you into their story.
SABBATH....Sometimes, the community just needs space to catch their breath. It's not lazy or slacking off, it's simply giving margin to a culture that is starving for it. Maybe this week is a week to connect with people of peace in organic ways over dinner or drinks. Maybe its a family night where you just spend the time as a family, having fun and quiet. Margin is Good news not guilt inducing. Give people space and pace. You can go further faster with a rhythm of rest built in.
These four rhythms are purposefully simple and reproducible (only things that are simple and reproducible can lead to the transformation of culture.) We are a church that believes in being Low Control and High Accountability. So we will not dictate when a Missional Community needs to have a certain rhythm, but we hold them accountable to having each of them at least once in six week period. So the leaders get to discern what their people need. Maybe it's a season where they need to welcome new folks in and be high on relationship building, so they hit it hard in the Social rhythm or maybe they've gotten an influx of new folks committed and now its time to do a little bit of development and teaching so maybe then they focus a little more intently on Substance.
By having these rhythms we allow people to participate in UP (connection to God), IN (connection to community), and OUT (connection to the Kingdom).