Tuesday, April 28, 2009

what is a community ministry?

So I’m having a chat. As you do. With a person enthusiastic about mission in their community. ‘

Who has a problem. They run a community ministry. People come, but people don’t transition into church.

I suggested that rather than think about taking people from the community ministry to the church, that they think about taking the church to the community ministry. What would it look like to think about building a community of faith around the ministry? I politely inquired.

Vigourous shake of head. Wouldn’t work, because lots of the people who attend the community ministry go to other churches.

How many, I ask.

70%. 70% attend a church somewhere else.

Oh. Long pause. My mental wheels are turning.

So what makes community ministry a mission? Is it the intention and the hope, that we run this so that people from the community can come? Is it the numbers, when 50%, or 70%, or whatever number, are from the community (and not from another church) then it’s mission? Is it the baptisms or bums on Sunday seats, that it’s worth it when the Denominational stat counter can be clicked?

Personally, being blunt, I think it’s a load of hogs to call something a community ministry, and defend it as missionally important, when the majority of people who attend are already churched. It might be useful and important and have a role – in ecumenism, or community or whatever. But it ain’t mission!

Posted by steve at 05:34 PM


  1. I think for far too long many churches have grown from fishing in one anothers baptism font. I sense your frustration as surely we need to see churches growing by reaching their world and not simply transfer growth, which is church number growth but not kingdom growth.

    However I would not be so quick to dismiss the programme mentioned. I agree that 70% is a high number of Christians but 30% is still signifcant. I assume they have not actively targeted other churches but in the midst of offering something to the community they have found something that is appreciated by Christians also and would also assume Christians have felt more comfortable entering a church building which has put their percentages out.

    If mission is more about relationship then programme then this is giving the chance for relationships to be built.

    Yip the percentages could be better, but what if a large number of those 30% came to know Christ, would it still be inappropriate to call it mission?

    Comment by Aaron — April 29, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

  2. Aaron, always a pleasure to have your input.

    I like your scenario – they have simply attracted Christians, so fair enough. My brain then got obtuse – what if the fact they attracted Christians actually says something about their lack of missionality. For example, they played Christian background music, instead of a radio station or had cute flannel graphs. I’m being obtuse, but do you get my point, that the shape of a ministry might actually shape who comes?

    And yep, twould be great if those 30% came to know Christ.

    steve taylor

    Comment by steve — April 29, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  3. perhaps i’m tripping over some definitions here since i’m relatively new to the “missional” term but isn’t/couldn’t missional be about more than people coming to their first knowing of Christ? isn’t it also about a continued knowing and a building up of the relationship? so if folks are coming from other churches i still assume they are getting something out of the process and isn’t that still missional?
    i guess my question is whether or not missional is just about evangelism or is it also about equipping?
    sorry if that’s a silly or obtuse question. like i said, i may be tripping over some definition here or perhaps i’ve misinterpreted completely.

    Comment by Ian — May 1, 2009 @ 6:42 am

  4. Hi Ian,
    missional for me is about
    – mission here not there ie local not just overseas
    – mission as ‘we’ not ‘I’ ie communal cf superstar
    – we are expect to change

    I agree with you that there’s so much more than evangelism. Equipping is important also. But if that’s what one is doing it, call it that “equipping” or “serving other churches” or “building ecumenical relationships.” And it might be worth continuing the ministry for those reasons. But I dont thinks it fair or truthful to call it “mission” when it’s not,


    Comment by steve — May 2, 2009 @ 11:35 pm

  5. Some interesting points.

    Missional varies from person to person. We all have various areas we focus on and believe are important within Christianity, therefore we all bring different ideas to the term missional.
    Added to the three things you mentioned above Steve I would also add ‘intent’ to the list. I think there is something ‘deliberate’ needed when a church is missional.



    Comment by Ozy Mandias — May 3, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  6. I read some interesting thoughts on the term “missional communities” I am not sure I agree with his discprition of a missional community (just being the routine stuff of the church) but still do like the term gospel communities. Here is the comment made by Steve Timmis

    “I hope I’m not being insensitive with this question, but what is the obsession with dead languages? In fact, I reckon it has almost become a hallmark of contemporary, cutting-edge, hardcore gospel movements that we make up new words from languages that no one speaks.

    Gospel Communities
    Let me explain. The idea of missional communities has become trendy. This enables larger churches to devolve the routine stuff of church life to smaller groups throughout the week while retaining a central teaching session, usually on a Sunday. But why call them “missional” when we have a perfectly good word at our disposal in “gospel”? Gospel communities is exactly what they are: communities that are all about the gospel because they are formed by the gospel and exist for the gospel.

    Using a word like gospel also helps us in our evangelism. If non-Christians want to know what a gospel community is, you can take them straight to Mark 1:15-20, where Jesus preached the gospel and formed a community around it. Alternatively, you have Acts 2, where Peter preached the gospel concerning Christ crucified and risen, and a community was formed around that. If the same non-Christians want to know what a missional community is, where will you take them then? A dictionary!”

    Comment by Aaron — May 4, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  7. thanks Aaron. I am not sure where this person is coming from and he seems to be confusing intention or language. Some thoughts
    – I have never heard the missional church described as he does
    – I don’t see missional being used as a “advertising term” but as a way of focusing discussion among church leaders about the intention of church. No-one is going out saying come join missional church, rather they are saying – what are we doing and why and the word missional gives us a way to focus on mission.
    – the quote links gospel to Mark 1 and Acts 2. Well the missional church would link itself to Luke 10.


    Comment by steve — May 5, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  8. Genuine question you don’t see a strong link between mark 1, Acts 2 and Luke 10? I would have thought all of these were missional?

    Comment by Aaron — May 6, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  9. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I read Steve Timmis as suggesting that ‘gospel community’ could be explained by scripture (Mark 1 and Acts 2) and by implication missional needed a dictionary. In response, I used Steve’s ‘method’ to say that missional could be explained by Luke 10.

    Now to your question – Acts 2 has some elements of missional sending, but it also has some aspects of attractional church. This is quite important and perhaps might explain some of Steve’s angst. Mission is for all time and all place. But mission is outworked in different ways. Scripture give us diverse pictures of mission. Our task is to ensure that we are using the most accurate pictures for our time. In Christendom, when the church is at the centre, then “temple models” of being large and attractional work. In post-Christendom, pilgrim and exile models work. It is my contention that “missional” is the attempt to speak of “mission” today.

    Mark 1 – i’m preaching that this Sunday, so i’ll let you know more clearly in a day or two.


    Comment by steve — May 6, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  10. Ahh I understand you now. I misunderstood and thought you were providing a very narrow definition of missional, got you now

    Comment by Aaron — May 6, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  11. Phew. thanks Aaron. I’ve written an extended blog post about my comment (8) –http://tinyurl.com/cg5pnu

    Comment by steve — May 6, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  12. I am not wanting to sound like an over the top pente but I have been thinking a lot about the role of miracles, signs and wonders as part of mission. Interesting Luke 10 has the presence of healings with the gospel being presented. Romans 15:19 “They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit.[a] In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.” Indicates that miracles are part of the full gospel. In different places in Acts it was the power of God through miracles which allowed the gospel to be preached (Acts 4 in particular). I am wondering if they are part of the key that is relevant to any people group and any culture?

    I don’t bring this up here to stir, one of the reasons I come here is it is good to hear the opinion of people who look at things differently to me. So is their a case for this or I am just being a Chandelier swinger?

    Comment by Aaron — May 6, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

  13. Aaron, that is a great insight, and that is exactly why I use luke 10. It has healing (penty’s raise their hands), it has preaching (Baptists role up your sleeves), is has social justice (out with the protest banners), it has contextualisation (alt.worship out with your video loops). All there.

    So it’s a great integrative text.

    My only pushback would be around an overly narrow definition of healing. It’s not just legs getting longer IMHO, it’s also relationships restored, broken hearts mended. My concern with signs and wonders is not whether they have a place in mission, but the danger they have been given a narrow, 70’s charismatic place in mission.

    On Sunday after church, I talked to a community mother. She was waiting outside church to pick up her daughter (who came to faith some weeks ago, but that’s another story). I asked how she was and over tears, she shared a health concern. Can I pray I asked and away we went.

    Prayers for healing outside a Baptist church! how’s that 🙂


    Comment by steve — May 6, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  14. Yeah great points Steve. The other week in Church I was speaking about physical healing and I mentioned that I have three key beliefs about what Gods is doing in this area.

    1) He is restoring the truth and of physical healing to the Church without the wackiness of the 70’s.
    2) This time He is restoring it to every day Christians and not superstars
    3) Increasingly we are hearing stories of people being healed in the market place so he is not wanting it be contained in the Church. (Interestingly my first experience of seeing God use me in the realm of healing was when I layed hands upon a work mate at Inland Revenue. And I was a member of Opawa Baptist at the time 🙂 )

    I do find it very intersting that Jesus is our example and yet we so seldom seek physical healing for people we come across when the gospels record it time after time.

    However now I have the pente rant out of my system I will also acknowledge this is just one piece in the puzzle. It is all about the bringing the kingdom to our communities and the kingdom is far too amazing to be limited to one function, action or style.

    Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. AMEN!

    Comment by Aaron — May 6, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

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