Taken from a talk by Michael Frost

ideas from the edge – Missional Church Practices – Missional Spaces/Zones (Target Communities) & Five Commitments

The following thoughts are taken from Michael Frost – an Australian professor of Evangelism & Missions in Sydney, who has written a great newish book ‘Exiles’ (worth reading) & also previously co-authored ‘The Shaping of Things to Come’ with Alan Hirsch (another good book). Michael was also in NZ speaking at the ‘Changing World, Changing Church’ conference at Palmerston North Baptist in 2006. (I have the complete audios of this as MP3s on CD – let me know if you want a free copy)
The following is 2 important things (my interpretation of them) taken from what Michael said at the Conference & in his book “Exiles’.

Evangelism in NZ (& in the West) is too hard (& too important) for us to do by ourselves – we need to do it in community if possible – because it is so hard to do on our own, it can be more effective to do it in communities. Michael suggests that each church (faith community) adopt / target / focus-on several “missional spaces or zones” – communities that it has natural connections with (or can make connections with). For example, there might be several families in your church that are involved with a local soccer club, or business group, or community centre etc. An effective aid for communal evangelism is for the church to identify several of these natural communities & encourage church members together to focus on these people within communities (as well as other missional things they are doing). This allows for mutual support, overlap in relationships, various giftings to be used etc. Michael is not talking about programs to evangelise these communities, or inviting these communities to church events – instead he is suggesting focused friendship evangelism. (I’m sure it would be done in such a subtle, quiet & careful way that the community being reached out to doesn’t even know it is happening – it would probably hinder the effectiveness if the community knew that this local church had ‘targeted it’.)

Michael is part of a church called smallboatbigsea (www.smallboatbigsea.org). In this church, they encourage people to make 5 weekly commitments, & also to be part of a ‘DNA’ group (Discipleship, Nurture and Accountability) (a group of about 3 people who meet together weekly to hold each other accountable & encourage one another in these 5 areas)

The 5 weekly commitments are built around the acronym BELLS

B Bless at least 3 people every week – 1 within the church community, 1 in the missional space/zones (target communities), and 1 of either.
This could mean a phone-call, email, a note, a gift. To bless means to give strength to. Often it is words of encouragement.
E Eat 3 x a week with people you don’t live with. It could be a coffee or a meal. 1 within the church community, 1 in the missional space/zones (target communities), and 1 of
L Listen intentionally once a week to the voice of God — a reflective experience – not a Bible study
L Learn once a week from the Bible, with particular emphasis on the gospels (not daily bible readings, but eg one period of say an hour of focused Bible Study)
S Sent. Journal how you have done the work of God in your normal work-day life. It is liberating for some people to realise that their work is the work of God.

These are simple thoughts … but they are also profound & missional – imagine if half (or all) of the people in your church became more intentionally missional through adopting practices like these … it has the potential to bring good change to individuals & a church community. Communal mission (joining together with common purpose) also helps build community – or ‘communitas’, as Frost & Hirsch describe it ..
“Communitas in the way I want to define it is a community infused with a grand sense of purpose; a purpose that lies outside of its current internal reality and constitution. It’s the kind of community that ‘happens’ to people in actual pursuit of a common vision of what could be. It involves movement and it describes the experience of togetherness that only really happens among a group of people actually engaging in mission outside itself.” Exiles p123