something really interesting continues to bubble up in the church in the uk - small missional communities.
yesterday there was a gathering in london diocese of around 30 groups like this and church plants. and well done the diocese for encouraging such a gathering! i don't want to create a glossary or anything but a church plant is generally someone starting a new church and the language of plant means it often takes something of the character of what it's planted from and usually looks like a church - people gathering, worshipping, reaching out, making disciples, giving money and eventually embedding into the wider structures of the church. it used to be quite something to be able to get permission to plant a church but now certainly in london there is a lot of activity in this area which is great.
but what was so interesting yesterday was that most of the people in the room were doing something else, often a bit looser, harder to pin down and perhaps harder to see, more missional. most were a small community that had moved into a particular area (often one with a lot of deprivation and poverty), meeting together in a bar or home or allotment, seeking to follow christ but their focus is simply helping transform their community - in arts, environment, in social needs, with youth and so on. they are not that focused on growing big - but more like the yeast of the kingdom that jesus talked about infecting the wider batch of dough. a couple of people spoke of the challenge of weaning members off their addiction to consumer approaches to church where they get their fix of worship and teaching and meeting with friends before they could properly engage in this more local, outward focused community approach (maybe we need a 12 step detox programme for leaving consumner church!?). what was also interesting is that many of these described a positive relationship with their local churches - they were not competing for punters - far from it. but they brought a mission energy to the area that could really help a local church or do things a local church was not able to do. on the basis of what was shared, if i was a parish priest (which isn't going to happen) i'd be on the lookout to see if i could encourage a mission community or two in my area. for those up with mission thinking this is a great example of what missiologist ralph winter termed sodal and modal expressions of church working well together (see also this follow up thinking from george lings). the challenge of his paper is that our language has so bought into the local church as what church is that we easily forget it is actually langauge that describes both structures.
anyway if you are interested in missional communities ian adams gets interviewed about starting them here, there is a list of 20 tips for getting started here, cms has a facebook page for mission projects and communities here, along with a growing network of small missional communities some of whom are developing a stronger relationship with cms by being rooted and connected (contact ian adams or mark berry if you want to know more). something's going on and i like it!