Trey, this is a great question. Alan Hirsch, one of my teachers at Fuller, writes about this in his book The Forgotten Ways. Just this week, he posted about this on his blog. He quotes Gordon Cosby, founder of the church of the Savior, who said that:
"In over 60 years of significant ministry, he had observed that no groups that came together around a non-missional purpose (i.e. prayer, worship, study, etc.) ever ended up becoming missional. That it was only those groups that set out to be missional in the first place (while embracing prayer, worship, study, etc. in the process) that actually got to doing it."
The most successfully missional small group that I have been a part of has been a Starbucks outreach group. This group had as its purpose to invite non-Christians in to read spiritually-themed books, and to bless the lives of the workers there. Here is the vision on how to start this kind of group with this kind of focus and vision. Making this the clear purpose is essential. Otherwise, the inward focus of the group is simply too strong to overcome.
Having been a member of the church for over 49 years, I have never seen a group be truly evangelistic without that being the focus of the beginning of the group. Back in the late 60 and early 70 we have created "Home Bible Study" small groups that the entire purpose was to meet together,share a meal, encourage one another, exchange ideas, and help each other as individual couples taught others. Though this was not a small group that had its purpose of inviting the unchurched to the small group as we would do today to share together, it is the only small group experience I have had that really had the focus of "evangelism"--. Since the "small group" movements inception in our congregations, the purpose has never truly been missional in our personal experience. So....... my personal conclusion is the small groups purpose has to be missional from the beginning-- for what it is worth.
in order to answer this question...I must first explain some of my personal/spiritual situation. for many years, i have not made God my focus, he has been present, but very far on a back burner. i would pray, but only when i needed help. i would go to church, but only to keep my family participating as a unit. it has been most recently that i feel i am 'returning to God" and making him the center, once again. that being said...my form of worship is "doing for others". i am not one to remain silent in prayer, or listen quietly to music, or just "be" for any amount of time in my fellowshipping with God. i must be "doing" and showing others...that is my worship. i want to find those that need me most, because in turn, they need God most.
all of that being said...i long for a missional group. i long for a group that's sole purpose is to get out into the world and get their hands dirty...all the while showing people that they are doing it as a servant of God. this is why part of my focus now is to reach out to those kids in my neighborhood that are much less fortunate, that need something to strive for, that feel as if they have been forgotten.
the only missional group i have been a part of was my youth group, when i was a youth director. our focus was outward...because that is where the souls were that needed us. we worked at the daycares that didn't have enough funding to feed all of the kids each day, in the mountains of tennessee where running water is a luxury, and in the urban streets of Denver with gang members trying to get out. i believe that is the only way that we as Christians can truly appreciate the lives we have been given...by affecting others and watching their lives change because of us.
this is a good thing. this is a God thing. and i look forward to it!
Wow, Jennifer. I was struck by your words and your passion. You said, "i long for a missional group. i long for a group that's sole purpose is to get out into the world and get their hands dirty...all the while showing people that they are doing it as a servant of God."
There is a complacency to our American Christianity. We drop our kids off at class, sit passively to more information, nod our heads to teaching--and rarely live out the kind of life that God calls us to.
I believe, like you, that we can only gain appreciation for what we have by serving those who are less fortunate. What you are pointing to is what people like Alan Hirsch have been saying: that our own discipleship is accomplished through mission. When we focus on mission, we are spiritually formed. When we sit around trying to be formed, so much of the time, we never get to mission--or spiritual formation.
I'm glad to know that there are people like you who long for missional groups and missional leadership.
Trey, unless a group decides that their focus is to be missional my opinion is that they won't be. The church I attend has had a very missional focus because there is leadership that has led us in that direction and we have done our best to stay on that pathway. On the other side, I formerly worshipped at a congregation that was very self-focused and even though we intellectually knew we should be telling the good news outside the job never really got done. Hopefully that has changed for them (we've been gone from there for several years). Being missional has to be the focal point of the ministry to be effective in my opinion.
"Father in the name of Jesus Christ restore mobility back too her life restore ordor back and finally This will make a Differance in her hold life Give her you father for my sister Kishinev Davis and my sister tanksley Dovie. Amen"