Greetings in the Name of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Lutheran circles in the West are discussing and implementing a new structure called “missional communities.” The roots of missional communities are usually traced to the activities of St. Thomas Crookes parish in Sheffield, England, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Under the leadership of Mike Breen, who became the senior pastor at St. Thomas Crookes in 1994, the concept and form of missional communities matured and eventually spread across the United Kingdom and Northern Europe. During the last decade, it entered the United States, where it has been embraced by many denominations, resulting in an impressive number of active missional communities.
Perhaps the largest and most influential missional community is SOMA in Tacoma, Washington, led by Jeff Vanderstelt, a community that is approaching a thousand members. Their success, along with Tangible Kingdom’s Hugh Halter’s following, is helping to sell out many conferences on missional communities. The Verge: Missional Communities Conference in 2010 was sold out weeks in advance, and the largest gathering of church planters in North America, Exponential, sold out in 2013 and has for several years given missional communities a strong presence in its schedule. Many Lutherans have attended these conferences, heard and discussed these ideas, and introduced missional communities as an effective model for reaching out to many who were not active in a traditional church. While not all missional communities are successful, the concept has proven itself as an effective model for reaching the Millennial Generation, Baby Boomers who believe but are not active in a church, and others who resonate with the incarnational and missional values of missional communities.
Missional communities are slowly becoming part of the Lutheran landscape. LCMS Districts are supporting the model, as are individual congregations, as a legitimate way of outreach and church planting. As the number of missional communities grows, it is becoming clear that there needs to be some theological reflection about the model, in part because most of the literature and those active in the larger movement have theological positions that run contrary to the Lutheran understanding of church and ministry. For example, most missional communities reject the need for church buildings and ways of organizing a congregation. Most missional communities by design are led by a mature layperson who may or may not be connected with an ordained pastor. The organizational value is one of low control along with high accountability. The administration of the Lord’s Supper also varies in how it is practiced, who may administer it, and when and where it is given and shared. These differences and others require Lutherans to create a hybrid model, bridging the gap between how missional communities are promoted by Evangelicals and are practiced by Lutherans.
The November 2013 issue of Missio Apostolica seeks to explore these and other issues introduced with this new model of doing ministry. We are seeking theologians, scholars, practitioners, historians, church leaders, laity, and others willing to write and wrestle with the issues raised by the missional communities movement. Serious theological reflection on missional communities is needed if this opportunity for reaching the lost is to be successfully used by Lutherans. We prayerfully ask you to consider weighing in on this important topic. Consider responding to questions such as the following:
- What aspects of the missional communities form of church are in harmony with the Lutheran understanding of “Church and Ministry?” What aspects of missional communities are not? What would a Lutheran missional community look like? How does missional communities differ from previous trends, including the house church movement, small group/home Bible studies, cell groups, etc.….?
- Would the history and practice of utilizing “circuit riders,” who oversaw several congregations in earlier days in the U. S., be an applicable model for providing pastoral oversight of several missional communities? What would that look like today?
- Most missional community models of church within Evangelical circles use lay leadership, while Augsburg XIV reads, “Concerning church order they teach that no one should teach publicly in the church or administer the sacraments unless properly called.” How is this tension navigated between lay leadership and pastoral oversight so that AC XIV is faithfully maintained with a network of missional communities? (One could also explore AC V, VII, VIII, XIII, and XXVIII.)
- Is it possible to launch missional communities from existing Lutheran churches? Has it been done successfully? What does that look like?
- How does the Lutheran understanding of the “priesthood of all believers” play into missional communities?
- What are the greatest challenges facing missional communities within the Lutheran tradition? What are some of the blessings of missional communities that are celebrations of the Lord’s work through this model of ministry?
These are just a few of the many questions that might be addressed regarding the important topic of missional communities for the November 2013 issue. If you have an article on a different topic for submission, the editorial committee is more than willing to publish articles that differ from the central theme. Scholars and practitioners are encouraged to submit articles on any missiological topic from a Lutheran perspective. The editorial committee will review and attempt to publish as many articles as possible up to our print limitation. With the blessing of an electronic platform (http://lsfmissiology.org), the editorial board is also able to publish other articles online, with the author’s permission.
The conversation on missional communities is important, and we hope that you will prayerfully consider submitting an article. For twenty years, the Lutheran Society for Missiology has been unique in producing a journal written through a Lutheran lens focusing on the crossroads of theology and practice of mission. “Missional communities” is just such a crossroad topic that offers an opportunity for missiological discussion and exchange of ideas. The English congregation that birthed missional communities experienced more than 500% growth in less than five years. Can missional communities be implemented to such effects in the Lutheran context? If you are inclined to submit an article, you are encouraged to contact the editor of Missio Apostolica with your article idea.
We hope you will contribute your valuable insights to the conversation on this critical topic.
The submission deadline is September 15, 2013. E-mail Dr. Victor Raj (email@example.com) if you are interested in writing for this issue.
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Victor Raj
Missio Apostolica Editor
Rev. Jeff Thormodson
LSFM Executive Director
For helpful submission guidelines, click on A Note to Future Contributors.