One of the greatest needs in every church is authentic community. I say authentic because I mean real-life, up close and personal community. A place where we are allowed to be the “real” us. To know and be known. This includes all of our joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, strengths and weaknesses, laughter and tears, and so much more. This is a community that embraces one another without qualifications, provides space for questioning, openness, and then seeks to meet each other’s needs while joining together to meet the needs of others.

picSound good so far? Here’s the difficult part…it’s messy, and sometimes feels a little bit dangerous. That’s because being the real us requires some courageous vulnerability, which means that we must lower our guard and let people in. I like to call this life-on-life discipleship because we are sharing real life together as it’s happening. All the while, we keep Jesus right in the center of it all, which leads to tremendous change and growth in both the individual and the group.

I once came across missional community described this way, “Our Community Group explores the teachings of Jesus and how our faith in His teachings leads us to love God, care for one another and meet the needs of our neighborhood. We eat together, talk about the challenges we face in our lives, discuss the scriptures and how they influence the way we act together and in our neighborhoods.” Who in the world doesn’t want something like that?

We see the clearest picture of this in Acts 2:42-47. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

According to that passage, the early Christian Church was living life inside missional community. They were a group of Jesus-followers who committed together to build their individual lives and group life around pursuing God (UP), building in to each other (IN), and going out to befriend and serve the lost and “least of these,” (OUT).

I’ve talked about the community aspect and you’re still reading, so let’s go a little further. Now for the missional piece. For those not familiar with the term missional, let me give you a simple working definition: Be a servant missionary who makes disciples who make disciples…and do it everywhere! That means you’re looking for ways for your community group to serve each other as well as those around you. This is something that you never shut off. It becomes a part of who you are and bleeds over in to your workplace, your neighborhood, and even your local grocery store. It also means you’re watching for other people to bring along to provide them with a place of belonging. These things are done with the hope of introducing people to Jesus and bringing them in to His Church. This is evangelism…and it’s also discipleship.

At this point, it would be really easy to keep going, but my intent is for this article to serve as an introduction. I want to get the conversation going about how to make this a part of the DNA of Gashland Baptist Church. In the meantime, I’m going to begin putting this in to practice. I will be forming a small group built around students and their families that will meet a couple of times a month in homes. My desire is that this one group will do the things described in this article, and then start to grow and create more missional community groups within our church. This will naturally lead us toward growth as new people are being brought in to the family of God. I ask that you begin to pray with me as we try this out. I also ask that if this sounds like something you want for yourself that you won’t hesitate to join the conversation.

In His Service,