Working at 3DM, it should come as no surprise that I am often asked the question, “How do you start a Missional Community?”
As such, I thought that sharing my own story from the past six months would be helpful. You see, after passing on our church plant and moving to Pawleys Island, S.C. to work with 3DM full time, this was the first time in about a decade I hadn’t been in vocational ministry — specifically meaning that local ministry wasn’t my JOB.
So we were having to answer the all-important question that anyone sitting in the pews asks: “How does this work when I have a regular 9-5 job?”
And remember, this is in a rural beach town that has about 15,000 people; in a place that would be traditionally thought of as the “Bible Belt.”
Here is what we did.
When we landed, we asked God two questions:
1. What people group (network/neighborhood) are you calling us to reach/minister to/disciple in this season?
2. Who are Persons of Peace (POPs), whose hearts you have already started preparing, who will help us accomplish this work? (A POP is someone God has already prepared to be open to you and the Gospel.)
In our case, it was the answer to the second question (a POP) that answered the first question.
My wife met Erin, a young mom who lives on our street, the very first day we arrived. They started walking the kids together a few times a week. She invited us to her son’s first birthday party, where she introduced Elizabeth to a dozen or so other young moms who were networked together informally. She was the gatekeeper to a group in which God wanted to move.
Elizabeth specifically started building relationships with the moms in a low key way. Lunches, playdates, dinners, the pumpkin patch. Nothing formal. Just building relationships. But all of the people we were meeting in this network who didn’t know Jesus were young couples with kids in diapers.
That really gave us a clue as to where our focus should be. That’s what these Persons of Peace opened up for us.
Next, we prayed for a group God wanted us to start discipling, using the vehicle of Huddle, and he sent us three couples who were dedicated Christians, but not actively plugged into a local church. A couple of months later we met a fourth couple who wanted to join, so now we were up to 10 of us in the Huddle. We started meeting every other Thursday, teaching them the basic principles of Jesus’ life, inviting them into a deeper level of accountability and relationship with the Father. That started in August.
Without explaining what a Missional Community (MC) was we started forming an extended family on mission by celebrating birthdays and baby showers, and doing meals and life together. And, after a couple of months, we added an MC dinner on the alternate Thursday nights (in October, about 2 1/2 months after starting the Huddle). This dinner consisted of the same people in our Huddle, plus we all invited people we knew who we felt were Persons of Peace.
The only spiritual content at those dinners, at least in the beginning, was going around and saying what we were thankful for, then blessing the food. At the last one in December, we read the Christmas story and sang carols, then helped the kids decorate Christmas cookies. At this point, a little more than half of the people in the group were ones we probably wouldn’t call “Christians.”