The Practices of Missional Community: FAMILY GATHERING
Over the last few weeks, we have been answering the question, “What do Missional Communities Do?” and we have summarized it into three different practices.
The practice of a 3rd Place serves our outward, missional life. Last week, we looked at LTGs as a way to serve the deep inward life. This week, let’s look at how the Family Meeting serves our communal life together.
A Middle Ground
Our communal life together inhabits a kind of middle-ground between our inward life and our outward life. The Missional Community Family Meeting is a place for us to grow in our love for the Word and prayer, and close fellowship with believers.
But the Family Meeting is also a next step for mission, a place to prayerfully invite our unbelieving friends from our 3rd Place. Family Meetings are incredibly valuable, so long as they fulfill their purpose.
Bread and Bible
Family Meetings should always include two ingredients: a meal and a low-barrier Bible study.
A meal – When I say, “a meal,” I’m not talking about chips, dips, appetizers, or even a dessert buffet. I’m talking about one of our three daily meals. I’m talking about hungry people sitting down to dig in. Meals can wordlessly communicate “family”, andmeals can wordlessly communicate “mission.” Jesus often demonstrated His family and mission by eating meals with disciples and outsiders.
A low-barrier Bible study – Just as the meal communicated family and mission, so will our Bible study. By “low-barrier” we mean that a person doesn’t need to know a minimum amount of Bible or theology to engage the conversation. Hopefully, we’ll include some non-Christian friends who have never been in a Bible study! Let them enjoy the Scriptures with us. So, don’t prepare some long study. Pick a short passage each week and answer five questions together:
What does it mean?
What do you like or not like?
What did you learn about God or man?
Was there anything you didn’t understand?
No matter where you are spiritually, what would it look like to obey what you learned this week? (this question works best by splitting into groups of 3-4 to discuss it and then coming back as a group to share altogether)
You’ll need at least two hours to meet. Potluck meals are usually best with the host providing the main dish. If you are hosting, never clean up alone! Strangely enough, the deepest conversations and connections usually happen while everybody pitches in to pick up the house and wash the dishes. Don’t let efficiency spoil this opportunity!
A Word of Caution
Because this practice looks much like what many American Christians already do, this is the most misunderstood and misused practice. We must be diligent to ensure that our Family Meetings don’t just default to weekly Bible study mode.
Many well-intentioned, missionally-minded groups can quickly slide away from the rich life of disciple-making, mission, and depth to which God has called them. To make the Family Meeting the only thing your community does is to miss out on the fullness of communal life together.
In the last post, we’ll wrap up this series with some concluding thoughts on the three practices of Missional Communities.
Interested in learning more about missional communities? Check out the Austin Stone Institute. Get theological training and practical experience through a variety of internships and residencies.