This interview was done a couple years ago while blogging for Missional in Suburbia…
Question: Thank you for being willing to answer a few questions! Tell us a little about yourself…
Scott: Husband of a beautiful woman, father of four kids (all seven and under), pastor and someone who cannot help but write and research. But even more basic, I am a hay-throwing farm boy from North Texas who felt God calling him discover what it meant to be a leader in the church. To my surprise, I found that traditional church leadership did not fit me well. This has led me down some wild paths, from extensive intellectual pursuits to very practical hands on experiments of alternative ways of being the church.
Question: Please define a Missional Small Group and explain how it is different than what we typically think of when it comes to Small Group life.
Scott: Definitions of experiences are hard in some ways, but I know they are necessary so that we can try to get a common understanding of what we are talking about. In my book, I talk about four stories of group life, the first two being normal and the second two providing stories of missional life. Missional small groups are about living a story of life together that steps beyond the normal group experience. By normal, I mean the small group that is a Christian add-on to the normal American way of living, the nice weekly or bi-weekly Bible study that helps us be better American Christians. Missional groups live out an alternative story. This story is shaped by a set of rhythms of life that we practice as a community.
Question: I really enjoyed this quote from page 139, “We no longer need haphazard gospel sharing that is not supported by visible community. We need much more than good sermons, big buildings, and professional video presentations. We need a people committed to specific places who are called to bring redemption to those places.” Explain why you believe it is so critical to missionally engage our neighborhoods “together” as opposed to an “individual” approach?
Scott: I’m finding that many people want more than the normal American church experience. They realize that they should be living differently, but they don’t know exactly how. The practices that I offer in my book aim to provide entry points for groups to discover together what it means to move into this “more” experience or this “missional story.”
Question: I was excited to see that you explained that being missional is not just another thing we do in the church, being missional is a actually part of our identity as followers of Christ. Why do you believe this is so important for us to understand?
Question:Personal or individual evangelism has been a major thrust of the church for decades. However, the “good news” of Jesus is much more than a message that I as an individual can offer one of my friends. The good news of the Gospel is a way of freedom, an alternative life to the entrapment and bondage of the normal life that we typically live today, characterized by isolation, individualism, rampant debt, fear, etc. The only way that people can receive the good news of the Gospel is when they see it. There will be a few who can see what the Gospel through words alone, but most people need to see and outpost of heaven in a war torn world. And they need to see it happening on their streets, in our neighborhoods and apartment complexes, in our schools and playgrounds. They need to see the good news lived out as we love each other and enter into honest conversations with people around us. This is the reason the word “engagement” is so crucial to being missional. But that gets into the next question.
There is a lot of talk about “missional” right now and many a using the Mission alongside the words Communion and Community to help clarify three parts of the life of a missional community. I find this highly problematic primarily because when we conceive of mission as part of our life we turn it into something we do for outsiders. Communion and Community is insider stuff, mission is outsider stuff. But “missional” is a being concept, not a doing concept. This is rooted in a rich theological heritage. God is a God of missional being, not of doing. He is a sending God, in that he sent himself through the incarnation and through the sending of the Spirit. God is an overflowing fountain of love who send himself out of his self gift.
Question: You write on page 49 that “When the focus of group life is on the meeting, we limit the gospel…” Explain what you mean by a “limited gospel”.
Scott: This is the reason I talk about the three rhythms of missional small groups in different terms: Missional Communion, Missional Relating and Missional Engagement. Some might think that this is unnecessary verbiage, but I think it is absolutely crucial. And my experience reveals this. When we think of missional as something we do, then we have strategic plans and activities for reaching people for Jesus. But when it is something we are, then our praying has just as much impact upon our way of sharing Jesus with our world as anything else. And our way of loving each other can be as good if not better than the best evangelistic sermons. Being missional is about living an alternative way in conversation with people in our neighborhoods. The point of my book is to help people enter into that life.
Question: What would you say to encourage the average busy Christian who just does not think they have the time to commit to a Missional Small Group?
Scott: A limited gospel might get us into heaven but we don’t allow it to change our lives now. A limited gospel has enough good news to forgive our sins, but not enough to set us free to actually love and sacrifice for those around us. A limited gospel opens the door for a personal relationship with Jesus but lacks the power to challenge us to be disciples. A limited gospel calls us to go to church or go to a small group but does not call us on mission with others.
Don’t discount this idea by using the excuse that you are too busy. You might look at this idea and think it is too radical for your life, but I guarantee that if you really consider it that your heart will resonate with the possibility of living on mission. Just consider it. Pray about it. Listen to your heart. And let the Spirit of God do the work in you. Don’t start with action steps or trying to make something happen. Start by listening to the Spirit of God within you and a new hope arise within you from the inside.
One final note: I have written a new study guide to help groups work through the ideas found in Missional Small Groups. If provides a simple and realistic process to help groups get started on the missional journey. And one more thing: It’s free. It can be downloaded at http://www.mscottboren.com/id5.html