One of the questions that I am ever revisiting is the question of what form should a church take to stay engaged in our culture. It’s the question that took hold of me as I began my transition out of student ministry in a megachurch in anticipation of being involved in church planting. It’s the question that consumed me when I helped plant a church in metro Seattle, and it’s the question that still consumes me, over two years into a church planting journey in Austin.
To ask such a question is an exercise in imagination, because it requires an ongoing stance of unlearning. A posture of questioning what is done, why it’s done, and what is the best way for it to be done. And often, the questions of what and why aren’t handled with grace or self-awareness, and a church is formed more as a reaction to those two than as a result of pushing into what is best. It is the what is best question that engages the imagination. Perhaps the avoidance of this question comes from the reality that imagination, as playful as it can be, is also a lot of work.
The journey I have been on in the last decade or so is one that is mirrored by many, some of whom have been asking questions before me, putting their imagination to good use, and discovering new ways of forming the church. I’m thankful that we are reaching a place where our imagination can be stirred by the work of others who have asked these questions well.
All that rambling was meant to serve as a lengthy (but I hope helpful) introduction to a brief review of Launching Missional Communities, by Alex Absalom and Mike Breen. This workbook comes out of their own experience of moving a church in the post-Christian UK to a thriving network of missional communities — medium sized communities engaged in Christian mission together. This is a book that is a maturation of a book I previously reviewed called Clusters, which Mike co-wrote several years ago.
The core question for me, and I think for many, in recent years has been what it looks like for a church to be formed around people sent out on mission, rather than formed around people gathered together for an hour or two on Sunday. It’s not that the latter is bad, but that to be the church is to find an emphasis on both of these. Launching Missional Communities serves as a case study and guide of what it can look like to be that kind of church.
The book is constructed like a workbook, both in it’s size and contents. Ideas are introduced, stories of different churches’ expressions are told, questions are asked, and space is given to work through the answers. Though the book offers a framework for what missional communities should look like, it is flexible enough to allow each reader or team to discover how this framework might be shaped in their particular context.
One the of the struggles that missionally minded church planters, like me, have faced is the ability to describe what our church might look like to those who are praying for us and supporting us financially. Launching Missional Communities is a good resource because it help us shape what we are thinking, and helps others see a viable model that has been working in multiple contexts.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”