Sunday, October 21, 2012

small missional communities and the Uniting church

Jonny Baker describes the growth of small missional communities, with around 30 groups from the London Diocese gathering recently to network.

most were a small community that had moved into a particular area (often one with a lot of deprivation and poverty), meeting together in a bar or home or allotment, seeking to follow christ but their focus is simply helping transform their community – in arts, environment, in social needs, with youth and so on. they are not that focused on growing big – but more like the yeast of the kingdom that jesus talked about infecting the wider batch of dough. a couple of people spoke of the challenge of weaning members off their addiction to consumer approaches to church where they get their fix of worship and teaching and meeting with friends before they could properly engage in this more local, outward focused community approach (maybe we need a 12 step detox programme for leaving consumner church!?). what was also interesting is that many of these described a positive relationship with their local churches – they were not competing for punters – far from it. but they brought a mission energy to the area that could really help a local church or do things a local church was not able to do.

I also see it as a way of getting out of the “alt.worship” mode, in which the energy mainly went into re-creating gathered worship. In small missional communities, the energy is focused on life-as-mission. Both are ways of beginning a mission, but I suspect different beginning point suit different personalities and also different contexts.

The question, as one who who grew up anabaptist, is how these missional communities relate to the wider church. This piece for me is addressed in Pete Ward’s Liquid Church, in which the use of “flow” becomes a way to envisage relationships. What is fascinating about Jonny’s quote is the way this flow is being located locally – within local churches. Good stuff.

Within the Uniting/Adelaide context in which I now work, I see a number of distinct possibilities. We need a way of being Presbytery (dare I say, mission network/s) that allows accountability and resourcing to be shared. The gift of the Uniting church is a church in every suburb and thus a physicality about being neighbourhood. The other weakness of being small and missional is resourcing when you start to connect with the marginalised. Again a Presbytery-as-network would address this.

A further facet about being Uniting is the potential for partnerships with Uniting Care, who can provide professional resourcing but can’t be “church” without conflicts of interest around proseltyising. Is there a 3 way synergy that needs to emerge – Uniting Care; local church buildings; small missional communities? ie professional resourcing + local presence + engaged life-as-mission groupings.

Now all we need is a motion at Synod that invited a new mission network around small missional communities; and a College committed to training missional pioneers.

Oh but wait, haven’t we got the second already?

Posted by steve at 08:30 PM


  1. Reading a bit of Peter Rollins “The Idolatry of God”. Moving away from the ‘product satisfaction’ of ‘church’.

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — October 22, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

  2. tis tricky, cos that’s the way punters stroll on “Mainstreet.”

    Do you start with the presenting desire and seek discipleship? Or provide a gate called “pure motives” that “punters” have to hop over?


    Comment by steve — October 22, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

  3. Maybe there are clues to be found in the “experience economy”, viz., recognising that we all have needs for tangible ‘things’ and also experience that transcends the things. Perhaps as, I think, Paul Ballard says (put it in my thesis) we begin by “brailling the culture”. (would fit with your course I attended I thoroughly enjoyed last year) A much wider and varied engagement with our needs (?) in the culture.

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — October 24, 2012 @ 8:51 am

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