My thanks to the Gypsy Road blog post on What Makes a Small Group missional. In this post, there is the following quote from Tim Killer's article on missional church.

“What makes a small group ‘missional’? A ‘missional’ small group is not necessarily one which is doing some kind of specific ‘evangelism’ program (though that is to be recommended) Rather,
1) if its members love and talk positively about the city/neighborhood,
2) if they speak in language that is not filled with pious tribal or technical terms and phrases, nor disdainful and embattled language,
3) if in their Bible study they apply the gospel to the core concerns and stories of the people of the culture,
4) if they are obviously interested in and engaged with the literature and art and thought of the surrounding culture and can discuss it both appreciatively and yet critically,
5) if they exhibit deep concern for the poor and generosity with their money and purity and respect with regard to opposite sex, and show humility toward people of other races and cultures,
6) they do not bash other Christians and churches–then seekers and non-believing people from the city A) will be invited and B) will come and will stay as they explore spiritual issues. If these marks are not there it will only be able to include believers or traditional, “Christianized” people.”

What do you think of Keller's defining markers for what makes a small group missional?

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Keller's list describes the potential PRACTICES of a missional group. What it does not describe is the RHYTHM of a missional group. Let me explain.

Every traditional small group has rhythms--they meet at a certain time and a certain place, they come to consensus in certain ways, they handle childcare in a particular fashion. Rhythms are very telling about a group's vitality and values. They betray the values that may exist unspoken. A group who chooses to send the kids to a back room has an unspoken value that kids can be a detriment to the time the adults have together. A group that chooses to eat together may have an unspoken value that eating together builds community. Behind every practice is a way of promoting, even protecting, a rhythm.

Missional small groups have rhythms, too. They intentionally nurture a particular rhythm made up of three movements: Engagement, Reflection, and Celebration. These three rhythms are cyclical, with one feeding the other two.

Engagement closely describes what Tim Keller has written. Whether it be through art, diversity, or service, missional groups engage their culture. They do not exist for their own sake. In this way, they are salt and light among others. They create space where Christ-followers can engage and invite people of all genders, races and faiths.

As they engage the culture, they reflect on their experiences. Again, this is space that is ripe for cultivating thoughtful responses to what the group experienced together. The reflection of a community is greater than the sum of the individual reflections of the members in the group.

The third movement is celebration. If there is a movement that is "for Christians only," it is this one. Groups of Christ-followers create space for worship, prayer, and mutual encouragement. Christ-followers need a place where they can come and be transparent with one another, devoting themselves to one another, expressing their joys and their hurts.

Finally, because these rhythms are cyclical, they admonish one another to return to engagement, to be sent out by Jesus into the world they inhabit.


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