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Kent Hunter leads Church Doctor Ministries, dedicated to helping churches to achieve missional effectiveness in the 21st century. He has a passion to recapture the biblical culture of the New Testament church. Kent is the architect of Healthy Churches Thrive! His new e-books are The Future is Now: How God is Moving in the 21st Century (www.churchdoctor.org) and The J-Dog Journey: Where Is Life? (www.sendnorthamerica.com).
|Threshold Church Immersion Experience
October 7-9, 2011
Location: Threshold Church, Toledo, Ohio
A weekend experience in missional living.
Threshold Church operates from a model of ministry intended to produce vital discipleship. The primary vehicles for this discipleship are Missional Communities.
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Healthy Churches Thrive!
Missional Communities work best in a holistic approach. Healthy Churches Thrive! is an 18-month spiritual pilgrimage guided by an experienced team that supports your church in the journey toward missional vitality. The team includes a professional Church Doctor, an associate Church Doctor, an analytic specialist, a prayer team coach, and monthly guidance by a certified ministry coach. This leadership team supports your church through consulting, coaching, and teaching. A support team at Church Doctor Ministries helps you at every step of the way.
Healthy Churches Thrive! uses the biblical strategy of receptivity, working with each member of the church who is ready for a missional lifestyle. It does not, from a top-down perspective, superimpose a missional culture on those who are not ready. This avoids the dangerous culture shock that dismantles so many well-meaning churches -- and their leaders. Healthy Churches Thrive! is a movement within your church.
Tapping those in the church God has touched with "holy discontent," Healthy Churches Thrive! begins with those who are ready now. They become the catalytic Vision Team -- and through modest monthly support, they collectively fund Healthy Churches Thrive! This protects the church budget. Vision Team members experience personal and spiritual transformation through participation in an organic Learning Community utilizing Healthy Churches Thrive! exclusive DVDs.
Click here to download your Vision Team Development Kit.
Boren, M. Scott. Missional Small Groups: Becoming a Community That Makes a Difference in the World. Ada, MI: BakerBooks, 2010.
Breen, Mike and Alex Absalom. Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide. Pawleys Island, SC: 3DM, 2010.
Ferguson, Dave and Jon Ferguson, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010.
Hirsch, Alan and Leonard Sweet. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Ada, MI: Brazos Press, 2009.
Hunter, Kent R. 12 Steps for Introducing Missional Communities to Your Church. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2011. (click here.)
Hunter, Kent R. The Future is Now: How God is Moving in the 21st Century. Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2011. (click here.)
McNeal, Reggie. Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
McNeal, Reggie. Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2011.
Roxburgh, Alan J. Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood. Ada, MI: BakerBooks, 2011.
Roxburgh, Alan J. The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World. Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2006.
Stetzer, Ed and David Putman. Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2006.
|June 2012 UK Immersion Experience
Catch the wave God is creating out of Sheffield, England. "You have to see it and feel it to get it." A move of God is relationally caught as much as taught. This 10-day excursion will help you experience one of the movements that is coming to North America, and has already begun!
Team Limit: 20
Now Accepting Inquiries for June 2012
Fill out our online application:
or e-mail Jason for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
|SEND North America|
Servants Equipping New Disciples is a unique, ten-month, training experience for young adults. It is an adventure! Living in Christian community, young adults participate in weekly teaching and hands-on ministry. Each month the team participates in a weekend immersion excursion, in a specialized ministry setting. Every aspect of SEND is based on relationships. The result is that young adults are guided to discover God's unique plan for them, based on identifying their gifts and calling. Grow in discipleship. Catch missionary DNA. Make a difference. Change the world. God is calling a 20-something near you! Want information posters and brochures for your church? Contact Jonathan Zinnel (email@example.com).
Changing the world begins with you at www.sendnorthamerica.com
Check out the latest Video Blog from SEND Leader, Josh Humberger
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What is the greatest challenge to Missional Communities? It is the danger that the concept becomes a fad - the next greatest program to tease desperate church leaders. In all the buzz and the hype, this article is provided for wise leaders to catch the tone and appropriate development of Missional Communities.
What is a Missional Community?
My definition: Missional Communities are a sensitive, relational, middle-step outreach alternative to inviting a spiritual inquirer to a worship service. Let's unpack this definition. Meet Jon, who belongs to Radiate, a Missional Community at his church. To tell his story, we'll focus on his friend, George, a non-Christian he knows at work.
Missional Communities are sensitive. My name is Jon. Let me tell you about George, my friend, at work. George is a person I have been praying for for a long time. I have been asking God for an opportunity to reach George for Christ. Why do you think many people like George don't respond to invitations to attend a worship service? I think it is because worship, to someone like George, is foreign. It's scary. If George were to take the leap, and cross the threshold from the world of the world to the world of the church, it probably would be a traumatic experience. Smart leaders know this intuitively, so they encourage church members to bring their friends, like George, to church (as opposed to just inviting them to show up).
However, George, like most non-Christians (and most lapsed Christians), is a seasoned secularist. It is a significant leap for George to "jump into the deep end." Besides, George is under 30, and his attitude about institutions is already filled with doubt and suspicion. A different approach is more sensitive (read: "loving") to George.
Missional Communities are relational. A Missional Community is a mid-sized group between 12-25. The group gets together for a social event. The group is large enough that George won't feel like he is under the microscope. Yet, there aren't so many that George feels lost in the crowd. The key relationship is me - because I work with George. We work side-by-side at the shop. We have talked about cars, houses, plumbing problems, the Cubs, climate change, the economy - lots of stuff over the years.
A couple of weeks ago, George caught me in a quiet corner of the shop. He asked if I thought God really made a difference in a person's life. I was pleasantly surprised he had noticed my faith. I asked George why he asked, and he said his doctor found a small spot of cancer on his neck.
Bear with me, now. This is a key relational aspect of Missional Communities. You see, my church has taught me some important elements that are significant for my potential outreach to George. Without these, the Missional Community I belong to would be just another fellowship program.
Key Relational Elements
The first thing my church leaders taught me was (1) a Great Commission worldview. I learned that the mission of the church is to make disciples. It is not about me. It's not a country club just to meet my needs. I hate to admit it, but I needed that clarification. In fact, many Christians seem fuzzy about the purpose of the church, I've noticed. (2) I also learned that outreach is not the pastor's job or the work of the staff. Mission is the privilege of every Christian. (3) I discovered that the best person to reach George was me. I don't think George knows any other Christians. (4) My church leaders taught me to identify when a person was receptive. It is not rocket science. Some churches call a receptive person a "person of peace." George hasn't shown receptivity before. I have mentioned church or God and he changed the subject. But, this spot of cancer - God has his attention. Anytime a person asks about God, is going through a challenge, or a change of any kind, they are more receptive. (5) My church leaders also taught me to share my stories of faith. This isn't difficult, either. When George asked me about God, I knew to inquire why he was asking me. When I heard about the cancer, I knew what category prompted his question. I thought about my own health issues and remembered when the doctors found I had a heart murmur. I shared that story with George. I told him how I prayed about it and God gave me peace to replace my worry. I let George know that the murmur later disappeared. I told him that I believe God healed me. I let him know that I couldn't prove it. (6) Then I stopped. I have learned that George doesn't want a sermon. I waited. I listened to his response. George, then, talked some more. I sensed he was ready for an invitation. To what? Receive Christ? Probably not. To attend a worship service? Not very likely.
The Makeup of a Missional Community
An invitation to a middle-step alternative. I belong to Radiate. The leader is Martin. He works at our company, in a different part of the plant. Martin was discipled into a Missional Community called Outbound years ago. Outbound was targeted to reach homeless people on the north side of Chicago. One day, Martin got a passion for reaching people in our company. He started Radiate and began asking all those in our church who work at our plant to pray about a mission to our company. About thirty people in our church work in various parts of our company. So far, nine have joined Radiate, with their spouses. Everyone who joined Radiate did so for only one reason. It wasn't fellowship or shop talk. It was to reach those in our company for Christ. That's why Radiate exists. But it's not what we primarily do.
What Radiate does is have fun. Occasionally we do a service project. We like to eat. In the summer, we often have barbecues. In the winter, we meet in restaurants. It's not a Bible study. We have fun and fellowship. But we never forget why we exist. Our purpose is to reach non-Christians at our place of work.
Back to George. I recognized that George was receptive, I shared my health issue and what God meant to me. He acted like he was interested, and he continued to talk a little about spiritual issues. So what did I do next? I didn't ask him to come to a worship service at church. Instead, I shared with him that I belonged to a group called Radiate, consisting mostly of people from our church (who work at our company) along with a few guests (people who work at our company but do not attend our church - yet). I told George we were meeting at Martin's house for a barbecue a week from this Saturday, and asked if he and his wife, Marge, would like to come.
The idea of the Missional Community is that it meets in a social setting out in the community - not at the church building. It's not a religious gathering, but relational. Yet, I know George and Marge would meet some great Christians - who work at our company, and their spouses. They all understand the Great Commission, the primary purpose of Radiate.
George and Marge said "yes" and my wife and I picked them up for the barbecue. When we arrived, I introduced George and Marge around. George knew some of them. Others he didn't know. Marge only knew a few. By the time we ate dinner, I think they had been introduced, one-on-one, to just about everyone. We had a great time. Toward the end of the evening, Martin called us all together, as usual. He asked if anyone wanted to share what movie they had seen lately, that they really liked. Several shared, including George and Marge, and a guest Martin had brought from the accounting department at work. Then Martin said that many of us are Christians and wondered if anyone wanted to share what God had been doing in our lives since we met three weeks ago. Three people shared.
In a relational context, George has heard a story of God in my life, and, now, a few stories from others. He knows I am not the only one. He also knows that Christians have fun. George has begun a journey toward faith. I think Marge is on her way, as well.
Beyond the Middle Step
Just in case you think we don't consider worship important, let me tell you the other side of George's "middle step." George and I continued to talk in our quiet corner of the shop. The day before the doctor did a biopsy on his neck, I offered to pray for him. He eagerly said "yes," and I did. We had several increasingly deeper faith talks, over several months, at George's pace. He and Marge became regular guests at Radiate. They like to party, too!
Our church has a Sunday evening service each week. But one week a month, in that service, there is an opportunity for Missional Communities to attend, sit together; and our leader, Martin, gives a report to the whole congregation about our outreach progress.
After several months, I sensed it was time to find out if George and Marge were ready for a worship service. I mentioned to George and Marge that we weren't having our usual Saturday night dinner because it was the weekend our Missional Community sits together at church (and we usually go out for a snack afterwards). I asked if they would like to come and sit with us. If not, we would meet in four weeks. They said "yes" to church. You see, I let them tell me if they were ready. So, my wife and I picked them up. And they sat with all the folks from Radiate. Of course, they knew everyone by then. They were already somewhat "assimilated," and it was their first time in church. It was the first time they met our pastor.
Missional Communities come in all sorts of shapes and descriptions. Radiate is not the only way they operate. However, it does follow the general pattern of most Missional Communities. It's not that difficult. Yet, it sure makes a difference. Imagine what would happen if, in your church, there were a dozen Missional Communities. However, before your church begins, make sure you go through a very slow, intentional process that aligns all the elements so people live the Great Commission. Prepare your church well, because this is a very different way to do church - a way that God blesses!
As for George and Marge, they liked church. We, then, invited them to join us on a Sunday morning. They didn't do it right away. Several weeks later, they came. They continued to worship on Sunday evenings, also. When Radiate gathers, George and Marge are with us. I helped get George and Marge into a small group. I attend, also, because I am their discipler. They are learning about Christ and are developing a relationship with Him. This is the way God uses Missional Communities to make an eternal difference among those who already exist in our social networks. They are, after all, your primary, personal mission field!
Fourteen Realities about Missional Communities
- Missional Communities are a sensible, middle-step, relational, outreach alternative to inviting a spiritual inquirer to a worship service.
- Missional Communities are not a fad, program, or gimmick.
- The goal of developing a Missional Community is easy. The strategy is complex and challenging.
- Missional Communities, developed properly, have the potential to turn your church inside out, with powerful impact to reach the lost for Jesus Christ.
- Missional Communities, developed improperly, often create spiritual culture shock, divide the church, result in pastors and staff being terminated, discourage members, run off weaker Christians, cause financial mayhem, and destroy the congregation.
- Missional Communities must emerge from a missional culture within the church. This culture does not exist in most congregations. To develop this culture often takes 12-18 months in an intentional, guided, process-oriented and sensitive approach. Only then are most congregations ready for Missional Communities.
- Missional Communities must begin with those who have missional DNA, those who have a shared passion to reach out to a specific target group, follow a unique strategy, or focus on a specific geographic area for outreach.
- Missional Communities that begin as fellowship mechanisms are programmed for frustration, and, most often, for failure.
- Effective Missional Communities maintain a strong corporate identity.
- Healthy Missional Communities are led by those who are regularly held accountable, especially for outreach effectiveness.
- Missional Communities operate well when they are led by low-control and characterized by low maintenance.
- Missional Communities are strong when they operate relationally, not institutionally.
- Missional Communities are effective at introducing unbelievers to Christ, when every Christian in the community (1) has a personal Great Commission worldview; (2) understands how to identify receptivity in a person who is just beginning the journey toward faith; and, (3) is well-practiced to share their own "God narratives."
- Missional Communities have enormous Kingdom potential when they divide and multiply. They change the spiritual complexion of the church. They change the world.