I am helping a church think through how to develop their church life from a Sunday service oriented model to a missional communities model, and what it would look like to release and nurture the necessary leaders. Coming from a Christian Unions background this feels a little like returning to my roots. At best, CUs are missional communities - groups which understand that the reason for their existence is mission.
Missional communities are gathered around missional goals - beign good news and speaking good news to a place, network or people group.Missional communities don't let members define their participation in church according to to their relationships with other Christians, but according to their relationship to the misisonal priority. It is a group for whom mission is their very identity - perhaps more akin to a foreign missions model of sending people to embody the gospel in a particular areas than it is to much that passes for gathered church. Missional communities have clear, strong purposes for disciple-making.
One obvious question is "isn't that just what a church should be?" Isn't a church, properly understood, a missional community? The answer ought to be "yes", I think. And yet long-established churches tend to have accreted such a range of activities, responsibilities and members without a missional conviction over a lengthy period that it can be extremely difficult to shift them back into the mindset of being a missional community wholesale. It might be much easier to create missional sub-groups that eventually change the mindset of the whole.
Another question, therefore, is how to change the mindset? Or, more importantly, who can change the mindset? It's obvious that you want to include the 10% who are the most naturally pioneering frontier evangelists in your church. They are going to be trail-blazers. But they are probably not the ones who are going to change the overall paradigm of the church. That will be your key influencers who are broadly positive about future changes for the sake of mission, while they may not be great evangelists or pioneers themselves.
I am looking forward to going to the church elders next week to help guide their discussion about developing this new kind of team, with new kinds of team leaders. Praise God for churches and leaders prepared to think new thoughts, embrace creative opportunities and risk trying new things knowig there will be failures as well as successes along the way.