February 22, 2015 — by Dana Allin


Building Missional Communities in Mainline Churches

Missional is being sent into the world with the same posture of Jesus, to bring people to faith, and to help them grow more fully devoted to Him. 

At my former church, Indian River, David Hancock, the Assistant Pastor for Next Generation Ministries, and I led the charge to help form our missional communities. We found this approach was more effective in reaching our community for Jesus, while also, the people involved in this type of ministry accelerated much more rapidly in their own discipleship. As Alex Absalom said, “Mission is the vehicle for discipleship, and discipleship is the engine for mission.”

David and I also found that by engaging people in missional ministry, it changed our existing congregation, and brought life to the dormant missional DNA I believe is present in every believer. In addition to a missional model, we also held onto the attractional model of ministry, and our attractional approach was greatly enhanced because a minority, yet still important, portion of our congregation was on mission together.

How might a congregation begin to develop a missional approach?

The best way I have witnessed multiple churches actively approaching missional ministry is they started with the small, 5-10% of their congregation who had an impulse to move in this direction. Usually it's not the leaders who have the urge to do this type of ministry, but the people on the fringes of the congregation that are not totally plugged into the mission of the church. These individuals are not fully satisfied by a purely attractional model. What we find is these communities need to be reformed by becoming more fully immersed in the gospel, begin the incorporation of missional practices, and finally develop a particular community to which they can actively engage. These people need to be freed up from the programmatic aspects of ministry, and be commissioned into their mission field.

There are plenty of resources to help a group get started. Many have used the Tangible Kingdom Primer by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, which is an eight week study guide. In 2014, along with David Hancock and Jim Singleton, I began writing a group study guide called "Together On Mission" for those seeking to develop an understanding of and ability to build Gospel-centered missional communities within their church or from the ground up. That workbook is now available!  It's called “Together on Mission: Building Gospel-Centered Missional Communities" This workbook is intended to be used in a five-month formation period. We are hopeful these formation groups will develop into more than small groups meeting with a little mission on the side, but instead, by taking the extra time and intentionality, we believe groups will have the chance to get to the true heart of missional community formation.

Learn more about missional living

We need to approach our culture in the same way a missionary would approach their mission field. In the very same way, Jesus commanded us when He said, “Go make disciples of all nations.” We must be sent into our world, emulating the same posture and attitude Christ exemplified when He came to us. If you desire to learn more about developing missional communities in established churches, David Hancock and I will be doing a pre-conference workshop at Exponential in Tampa, FL, on April 27. 

I’m really fired up and excited about the theme of this year’s conference. Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication It is EXACTLY the conversation we need in the US church, and it is the heartbeat of our network. Our leadership is enthusiastically embracing this year’s conference. We are excited about the time we can all spend relationally together amidst such an important conversation about multiplication. This will be an extraordinary conference for church planting, discipleship, and missional ministry. Click here to download the official flyer and find out about the special discounted rates for our ECO friends! We also highly encourage you to investigate more on the Exponential website and see if it's something you'd like to attend.

There are numerous resources for individuals who want to begin missional rhythms in their own lives. While it's usually more effective to be on mission with other people, these resources can help you take the first steps if you are unable to form a missional team. Some of these include Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost or Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood by Alex Roxburgh. 

I would encourage you to be thinking about ways in which you or your church might begin to incorporate missional living into your ministry, and to also consider joining me and David Hancock in Tampa for the Exponential conference.


Dana Allin

Rev. Dr. Dana Allin is the Synod Executive for ECO. He previously served as ECO President before accepting the call to be Synod Executive. Dana's passion to encourage and inspire leaders have led him to develop both the Missional Leader Training program and the Coach Certification Process.

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