Five Environments For a Thriving Missional Community

This article is based on my book, Creating a Missional Culture. Download a free chapter here.
One of the most overlooked elements to making missional disciples is recognizing how the culture of our group shapes us. It either pulls us down toward our base instincts or lifts us up to our redemptive potential. We create culture and culture in turn recreates us.
Creating a missional culture develops a current within the missional community that enables people to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit and live missional lives. So what are the different environments necessary to create a missional culture?

A Learning Environment

A learning environment allows people to inhabit the sacred text. A learning environment moves past monologue to dialogue and praxis. Praxis takes place when thought, action and reflection operate in a cyclical fashion. We demonstrate we have learned when we are better able to live faithfully to God’s story. A learning environment can be cultivated as people allow God’s future to reshape how we live in the present and as we avail ourselves to various sacred assemblies for mutual learning.
As you think about the missional community you serve, how would you rate it in regard to cultivating a learning environment? Here are some questions to guide your reflection:

  • In what ways does the Scripture shape the community you serve?
  • Is the community listening to God through the Scriptures and practicing in their everyday lives what they are learning? How?
  • In what ways are people actively reflecting on what they are practicing?
  • What percentage of the group is immersed in God’s story and teaching the Scripture to others?
  • How many are actively interacting with God’s story as it relates to their local context and mission?

A Healing Environment

A healing environment allows people to work through their past hurts and move toward a sense of wholeness in the context of community. A healing environment is developed when people sense an atmosphere of acceptance, where they understand that others are for them, no matter what they do. We are told to accept one another, just as Christ has accepted us (Romans 15:7). Being “for people” also means desiring God’s best for their lives. A healing environment can be cultivated as people find true friendships where they can be open and vulnerable.
How would you rate the healing environment in the community you serve? Think about these questions.

  • Do the rhythms of the missional community make space for people to have down time and just hang with each other?
  • Are there regular times for people to be genuine with one another – with no masks?
  • How well do people know each other and share life with one another?
  • What percentage of people would consider this community their family?
  • How many are experiencing healing from past hurts and moving toward wholeness spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally?

A Welcoming Environment

A welcoming environment reflects that we understand that our God is a welcoming God. From the call of Abraham to John’s vision of people from every tribe, tongue and nation gathering to worship the living God, we see God’s welcoming heart. We cultivate a welcoming environment by following Christ in extending the table of fellowship to those whom society has marginalized by being witnesses of his great love. When we practice the art of hospitality, we give God room to work in people’s heart.
Is your missional community cultivating a welcoming environment? Use these questions to attain a new vision for the culture of the group you serve:

  • How many people genuinely welcome others into their tight community?
  • How well does the group reflect the diversity of the neighborhood?
  • What ministries are in place to help orient people into the life of the group?
  • What percentage of people meaningfully connects with others in the neighborhood, at work or in other missional spaces?
  • How well does the community incarnate the good news within the various missional spaces?
  • How willing are people to sacrifice their own cultural comfort to meet people where they are?
  • How many people are living into connecting with people of peace and their oikos?
  • How many people willing initiate with people who are different than them?

A Liberating Environment

A liberating environment helps the missional community experience liberation from personal and social sins by forming Spirit-transforming communities. A liberating environment encourages people to overcome addictions, grow in personal holiness, speak truth to power and live in the power of the Spirit. A liberating environment is formed by connecting to our liberating God, the God of the exodus, the God of the cross, the God of the resurrection and the God of Pentecost, and by practicing the presence of God through the Spirit. For where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom.
How much of a liberating environment has been cultivated in the missional community you serve? Pray through these questions:

  • What percentage of the congregation is pursuing God’s shalom in the power of the Spirit?
  • How many people are actively using their spiritual gifts to build the body and serve the neighborhood?
  • Is the group walking alongside the poor and oppressed? In what ways?
  • How is the community speaking to the powers and subverting systems that perpetuate injustice in the neighborhood and city?
  • How much of the community seeks to be good stewards of all creation for the sake of the world?
  • What percentage of people are actively seeking God through listening prayer, solitude and silence?

A Daring Environment

Finally, if we desire to create missional culture in our communities, we need to cultivate a daring environment, where the group is encouraged to step into new territory for the sake of the gospel, as a sent people. To cultivate a daring environment requires developing a strong discipleship ethos that contributes to people stepping out in new ways, seeking to multiply disciples, in intimate and personal spaces in order to multiply social spaces through reaching people in the neighborhood.
This happens as people understanding their sense of calling and live it out. This will take place as people work out their mentoring matrix, finding experienced mentors, peer mentors inside and outside of their organization and mentor others.
So how is the missional community you serve doing in cultivating a daring environment? Take some time to respond to these questions:

  • How many people are stepping out into new territory, discovering their sense of call and living it out with great passion?
  • To what degree is the multiplication of disciples taking place?
  • What percentage of people are being mentored and are mentoring others?
  • Are there apprentices for each ministry?
  • What percentage of the people has a sense of ownership for the group and demonstrates a “sentness” to the neighborhood?
  • Are their ministries in missional community that intentionally help match people’s passion with the needs of the group, neighborhood, the missional spaces and social justice issues?
  • How many people see their work as a sacred vocation by which they are able to serve their neighbor and bring glory to God?

Each of these environments are linked to the five equippers in Ephesians 4, where Paul links the spiritual maturity of the church to the five kinds of equippers operating in the church: apostles (daring environment), prophets (liberating environment), evangelists (welcoming environment), pastors (healing environment) and teachers (learning environment).
Here is a chart summarizing things.
Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 4.12.58 PM
When your community seeks to have various people cultivate these five environments, you are developing a leadership pipeline for future equippers in the church, and helping people discover and live out their calling.  Remember, we create culture and then culture recreates us.
Register today to learn how to build missional environments in a  V3 Learning Cohort Today.  
Photo Credit Stefan Clocek

About the Author

JR Woodward


JR Woodward has been passionately planting churches on the East and West Coast that value tight-knit community, life-forming discipleship, locally-rooted presence and boundary-crossing mission for over 25 years. He is the author of Creating a Missional Culture (IVP, 2012) and co-author of The Church as Movement (IVP, 2016). He co-founded the Missio Alliance and currently serves as the National Director for the V3 Church Planting Movement. He is the co-founder of the Praxis Gathering and writes for numerous websites and journals. He has a Masters of Arts in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary and is working on his PhD at the University of Manchester (UK). He loves to surf, travel, read, skateboard and meet new people. He enjoys photography and film and tries to attend the Sundance Film Festival whenever he can.

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