Missional Field Notes

Quotes, Examples, and Ideas from My Missional Frontier

The 3V Movement talks about why it’s so hard to be missional in the suburbs — the suburbs divide us up and keep us from running into each other in relationship. What is needed, they say, is REPEATED SPONTANEOUS CONTACT.

The way the gospel becomes rooted in people’s lives is through the well-worn paths of consistent relationship. Relationship is the netting that allows people and communities to catch and spread the gospel virus. Without the web of friendships formed by regular spontaneous contact, our best gospel intentions tend to slip through the cracks and spill out onto the over-paved ground of the suburbs. Like friendship, discipleship takes repeated spontaneous contact, which is why the physical environment of the suburbs is such a difficult place to plant a missional church!

So, that leaves me thinking about the places of “repeated spontaneous contact” in our own communities.

I serve two small churches…with one being, well, really small. And the churches I’ve served throughout ministry have been small.  I’d say three of them have been healthy and two have not. And, I confess to looking with envy at times at the bigger churches. They have such “shiny” programming and it seems they have the cool, young families. But there’s something about smaller churches that have appealed to me — even as we’ve been trying to reach out in concern and service to the world.

So it was a joy to stumble onto Erica Schemper’s words today over at Think Christian as she reflects on the State of the Church:

One of the things I’ve learned is that there is much more to congregational health than numbers. Every church I’ve served has been a healthy congregation, sustained by decades of faithful work by gifted congregants and dedicated pastors. No one would question the health of a 500-member church that was continuing to grow. But we might easily forget that there can also be incredible health in spite of numbers. For instance, my most recent church might have 70 people worshipping on a Sunday, but frequently 20 of those 70 are under the age of 18. Of the 70 people attending worship, 50 of them are engaged in at least two ministry areas or programs besides Sunday morning worship. I describe this sort of congregation as “small but mighty.” There are larger church congregations that can’t touch these percentages of young worshippers or congregational involvement in multiple aspects of church life.

A small but mighty congregation may have some advantages over larger churches in a shifting religious landscape. For instance, a smaller church can be more nimble—pivoting and responding to the needs of its community more quickly because there is simply less structure involved in a change of course. Smaller churches are also more likely to be the sort of place where everyone knows your name, making it easier to create a sense of interwoven community. (Every larger church I’ve worked at has been forced to create small group experiences, whereas tiny churches are naturally a small group experience.) What’s more, smaller churches, particularly those that are healthy, are forced to do the work of pruning: deciding what is really central to their identity as a worshipping community and fellowship of believers, and letting the stuff that doesn’t matter as much fall away. A smaller flock isn’t such a bad way to do church, and perhaps what this Barna report tells us is that there are many Christians who appreciate the benefits of small community.

“Small but mighty!” I like that.


The question missional folks are asking is a good one: How can the church carry out the Great Commission within its own neighborhood?


September 28, 2016

A Missional Community is the church on mission. It is a group of 10-40 Christ followers who embody and declare the Gospel to a specific people, neighborhood or network of relationships. The goal is to help people become and grow as disciples of Jesus as they work to consistently and creatively serve their specific mission focus. An MC exists to love their neighbor, love God and love each other.

(Via Renew Communities)

I know that it can be hard to move people out of their comfort zones — towards new places, towards new people, towards new neighborhoods. Heck, even changing a worship time by 30 minutes in a large church can seem like trying to steer a cruise ship around — painful and a slow process.

And much of what you’ll find here, on this site, talks about the need for change in our local churches and how hard that can be.

But, I want to give a shout out to the process of building relationships and community that is good enough and strong enough for persons to hold onto — to not want to change even if they know they should; even if they know that the Gospel demands change.

Because it is a beautiful thing that we have churches who are filled with persons who really do love each other and really have supported one another through good times and bad, who have served and loved, and worshipped in ways that have brought them closer together and closer to God.

It’s a movement towards relationship.

Jeremy Hatfield puts it this way over at the Sojourner Network:

I have seen firsthand that congregants of a church very quickly settle into a comfortable norm with fellow worshippers. Introductions are made, friendships blossom, meals are shared, work is done, mission trips are taken, losses are grieved and joys are celebrated, and before you know it weeks, months and years have gone by. Over time, deep and cherished gospel-centered relationships are formed, and people grow to love and trust the family of God.

That’s beautiful. It’s a good thing. It’s a holy thing.

However, it means all the more that moving outside of this is going to be painful. And it’s going to require trust in each other. And it’s going to require a focus upon the missional impulse of God. And it’s going to require the faith that God can form new relationships outside of our various worlds where we are so comfortable.