Launching Missional Communities by Mike Breen and Alex Absalom – A Review (Part 2 of 2)
In Part I, I give a basic overview of the book. In Part II here, I will share with you what I think about the book.
MY PERSONAL REFLECTION
There are many things that I appreciate about Launching Missional Communities – A Field Guide. First of all, in my own experience as a church planter and practitioner, I have found mid-sized groups (missional communities), to be the most meaningful building block of the church. Ever since I came to Christ in college (1985 – I can’t believe that it has been that long), I have been a part of mid-sized missional communities. The bread and butter of the first church that I started at Virginia Tech – [nlcf] back in 1989 were Homegroups, which were mid-sized communities that grew through discipleship and mission. We had a dozen of these groups active before my departure to LA. Our church plants in LA have had Canvas Groups (mid-sized communities) at the heart of what we multiply. So while in the early days, I didn’t have the sociological evidence for the need for these sized groups [20 – 50], nor all of the theological reasoning, I have always sensed the power they have had both intuitively and practically. All this to say that I am a huge fan of missional communities, for they have been at the core of my practice since I came to faith, nearly 26 years ago. I just wish that this field guide had been written back then, for it is full of wise advice on how to start, grow and multiply missional communities.
I deeply appreciate the theological foundations Mike Breen and Alex Absalom lay at the beginning of the book, in regard to Missio Dei as well as their reflections on the biblical understanding oikos. Their thoughts on people of peace, as well as looking at the four social spaces which we live our lives – intimate, personal, social and public – is vital. Ever since I read Joseph Myers book The Search to Belong, I’ve seen the wisdom of pursuing discipleship in each of these four social spheres. I couldn’t agree more with Breen and Absalom on how mid-sized missional groups fit the description of the New Testament oikos and the social space in regard to the four spaces in which we live our lives.
I also appreciate their approach to leadership, where they speak of low control and high accountability as well as being lightweight and having low maintenance, for this allows for real growth. They lay out some excellent criteria as it relates to who is qualified to lead these missional communities as well as the four C’s that are needed in team-building – character, competency, chemistry and capacity. Their insistence that MC leaders cannot and should not be the only leaders in their MCs should be taken seriously. I also appreciate their call to a balanced rhythm of life, where we work hard and rest well. Having leaders engage in Huddles is an excellent way to help leaders to continue their discipleship journey.
The nine steps to launching missional communities is full of proverbial wisdom in how to do this in a way that brings synergy to the church in which missional communities are launched. Disregard this advice at your own peril. I found it sound, practical, and important for a successful launch of missional communities.
The simple focus on the UP, IN and OUT reminds me of how Henri Nouwen emphasized these three elements throughout his ministry and writings, especially in Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. The check-list for the health of these three vital signs (127) is important for every missional community to evaluate on a regular basis.
Their advice that a missional communities should determine their missional focus as a prerequisite to launching the missional community is an important piece of advice that should be heeded, otherwise the group will likely linger too long in determining their missional focus and bring unneeded frustration in regard to the groups missional endeavors. By discerning this in the launch stage with those starting the community, it allows new people to understand the nature of the mission of the group in which they will join.
Their advice on how to involve children is priceless, and I found that by involving real life case studies and testimonies where people share both their struggles and victories give a groundedness and reality check for those who feel called to launch missional communities. They remind us that while the cost may be great, the rewards are beyond belief.
While not everything could be included in a book like this, and Breen and Absalom speak to the importance of the five equippers and how the five equippers may lead these groups differently, a stronger focus on the five equippers may have yielded some additional richness to this already rich book. Though this probably would have added more length to the book than is helpful.
This book is a must for those who are new to missional communities and extremely helpful to those who are at an intermediate level in regard to leading and multiplying missional communities. And while it is even helpful for those who have much experience in leading and multiplying missional communities, it will probably seem too prescriptive to those with years of experience in this area. For just like a new chef needs to be taught the basic elements of cooking, and even how to follow recipes at the beginning, in time, the very nature of excellent chefs, is that they start to create unique dishes for their context which bring a rich variety of flavors to the world. It is the same in regard our approach to church, mid-sized groups and discipleship. This is ultimately the work of the local church, and just as no two fingerprints are alike, each local church needs to understand and live out their unique calling in light of their context.
It is obvious that Launching Missional Communities – A Field Guide is penned by two seasoned thinkers and practitioners, who approach ministry with a love for God, a heart for God’s people and a deep passion for God’s mission in the world. There consistent focus on the dual dynamics of discipleship and mission meets a tangible need in our world today. I highly recommend this book for fellow missional practitioners and for those who want to move into missional living!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”