Missional Communities Aren't the Point (But They Help)

Missional communities are the training wheels that teach us how to ride the bike of "oikos," a group of people functioning together with a common purpose.

For a whole host of reasons, we have unwittingly embraced the fragmentation of the extended family and tried to live primarily as individuals and nuclear families. The results of this experiment have been utterly disastrous, and you probably see the aftermath all around you. Loneliness and depression are rampant, we are more stressed and busier than ever, and many people feel they are barely keeping their heads above water as they try to advance in their careers, raise their children and seek some semblance of meaning in life.

In the midst of this sea of chaos and confusion, however, those of us who follow Christ have the remarkable opportunity to literally rebuild society by reforming “extended family” oikos communities centered not on blood or ancestry, but on Jesus. Our commission is to compassionately reach out to those around us, invite them to join us in community, share the story of the gospel, make disciples, and gather them into families to follow Jesus together.

That’s really what being a missional community is all about. This is not a fad or the latest church growth technique or a new name for cell groups. It is rediscovering the church as oikos, an extended family on mission where everyone contributes and everyone is supported. So, it isn’t that missional communities aren’t important. They are, and that’s why we wrote a new book about them. But they are simply the initial vehicle we learn to drive that gets us to the real destination: learning to live as oikos, extended families functioning together on mission with God.

Missional communities are the training wheels that teach us how to ride the bike of oikos. They are the scaffolding that allows us to rebuild the household of oikos. They are the cocoon that allows the butterfly of oikos to emerge. They are the vehicle that takes us to the destination of oikos. You get the picture. In fact, as I’ve said before, I think that in 50 years, people will look back and say, “It’s hilarious—they used to make people join these things called missional communities because they didn’t know how to do this family on mission thing! Isn’t that amazing?”

We believe oikos is something the Spirit of God is doing in this time to restore the church’s ability to function fruitfully in discipleship and mission the way the early church did, publicly living out our faith in the various neighborhoods and relational networks of our cities. We firmly believe this is the make-or-break issue for the Western church. We simply will not see God’s dream for the world come true unless we learn how to function as extended families on mission. Missional communities help us relearn how to do this.

So of course we think missional communities are important, but only because they are a vehicle that takes us to the true destination: the dynamic reality of oikos.

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Mike Breen
Mike Breen is former Senior Rector at St. Thomas Sheffield, one of the largest and most progressive churches in England. Today, he lead 3DM, the global home for an organic movement of biblical discipleship and missional church that is centered in the United States.