Long-time missional community leader Doug Paul lists ten sure-fire ways to ruin the mission before it even starts.
As a quick reference, a missional community (MC) is a group of 20-50 people on mission together to a specific mission context. Now, ten reasons why missional communities fail:
1. The missional community leader doesn’t know how to disciple the other leaders in the MC.
This can result in a few different outcomes. For example, the missional community becomes the warped version of the culture they are trying to bring the Kingdom into. The leader doesn’t know how to disciple people to be missionaries to a culture, therefore they never truly learn how to be “in the world but not of it.” Because of that, they are more influenced by the culture than redeeming the culture they find themselves in. In this case, there is a lot more cultural relevance than there is Jesus.
The missional community becomes a very religious space and is all about who is in and who is out. Doctrine is used as a weapon of defense and not something that helps to describe the reality of God’s Kingdom. People who don’t know Jesus find the MC the equivalent of running into a brick wall. In this case, there is a lot more law than there is Jesus.
When people become Christians, there is no one to disciple them, as neither the missional community leader or the other leaders in the group know how to disciple people. New believers become stagnant, the life they were told about in the Gospel never comes to fruition, and they become disenfranchised and divisions within the MC start to occur.
2. Lack of a clear mission vision.
Every single missional community could say, “We exist to love God, love people and serve the world.” The point of a missional community is to find a crack or crevice of society where there is a lack of Gospel presence and form a Jesus community in that particular crack/crevice. It’s not generic, it’s specific. But if you never truly identify the place God has called you to (either a neighborhood or network), or if you don’t do the things necessary to incarnate the Gospel in those places, it’ll be very difficult to sustain, grow or multiply the MC.
For example, one of the MCs I’ve worked with was a missional community that focused on artists. In this case, the mission vision was very clear: reach out to artists. However, this particular group of people in the burgeoning MC were also VERY eclectic (and I mean that as a sincere compliment), and many of the things they commonly enjoyed weren’t necessarily artistic, but eclectic. What the MC ended up doing was many activities that eclectic people would have liked, but artists wouldn’t, so they never really grew by adding artists.
At the same time, the eclectic friends they had were never terribly interested in the community because it was stated that it was for artists … but they weren’t artists. So neither artists nor eclectic people found a family within this MC. In this case, the leader needed to decide: Does this group exist for artists or for eclectic people? Because it can’t be both. And because of that, the group found itself stuck in the middle, unable to grow or gain momentum.