Missional Families and a Vision for Gospel Saturation
When we set out to plant Crosstown Church, one of the first things we did was travel to Tacoma, Washington for training in missional communities from Soma Church. We were determined that Crosstown would be a church built around missional communities (we call them missional families), that every member of this church would be committed to the mission of making disciples with the content of the gospel and within the context of community. And no one seemed to know more about this than our friends from Soma.
Two Helpful Books
One of the books Soma had us read before we even arrived in Tacoma was Total Church, a book that has driven so much of our thinking about gospel, community, and mission. Our mission statement, "to make disciples of Jesus by exposing people to credible gospel community," came about because of the central argument of this book.
But it was from the week-long training we received at Soma that we began to see how we could put that mission into practice. That week-long training is summarized in Jeff Vanderstelt's book, Saturate: Being Disciple of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life. In this five-part book, Vanderstelt breaks down the basics of what a missional family is and why they are essential to the church.
A Primer on Missional Families
In Part 1, we are invited to challenge some of the common misconceptions about the church, specifically the belief that church is only an event to attend and that the mission of God is to be done by a few who are called to do ministry. Challenging this assumption, Vanderstelt argues that God is bigger than this and that his purpose is bigger than this. What if God is to be glorified and his work is to be accomplished in the "everyday stuff" of life? What if God is to be worshiped and adored and celebrated in all of life and not just on special days?
I appreciate that, in Part 2, we are encouraged to keep Jesus at the center of this different way of thinking about the church. The missional-family model of church is sometimes thought to be too focused on doing mission, but Vanderstelt keeps everything in perspective: Jesus has saved us in the past, is saving us in the present, and will save us in the future. Believing this, believing that Jesus is better because of this, "will set you free to lie a wildly courageous life of radical love for others" (p. 79).
Part 3 is about discipleship, and here we are given a solid definition of what discipleship is: "the ongoing process of submitting all of life to Jesus, and seeing him saturate your entire life and world with his presence and power" (p. 85). Vanderstelt shows us why, if we are going to see discipleship in this way, we must be committed to discipleship that is life-on-life, life-in-community, and life-on-mission. This is where the idea that missional families are an essential (rather than optional) ministry in the church becomes apparent.
In Part 4, we are reminded that the gospel of Jesus has given to us who follow him a new identity and that what we do always flows out of who we are. Understanding the new identity that we receive from the saving work of the Triune God shows us what we are now called to do (p. 132):
God is our Father and we are his family.
Jesus is our Lord and we are his servants.
The Holy Spirit is our Guide and Sender, and we are his missionaries.
Finally, in Part 5 we are given guidance on how to put all these gospel truths into practice. Vanderstelt shows us how to think like missionaries in everyday rhythms (chapter 15), with an everyday plan (chapter 16), and gives us a real-life example of how everyday people live on mission (chapter 17).
Not Small Groups
When we talk about missional families, I am frequently asked what the difference is between that and small groups. The difference is not in the name. It doesn't matter so much what you call them. The difference is in how we view the church, discipleship, and God's mission in the everyday stuff of life.
If you are interested in God's mission in the world, and you believe that every member of God's church is called to engage in that mission, and you believe that "church" is more than what happens on Sunday, then I highly recommend you read Jeff Vanderstelt's book Saturate.