Bible study/small group vs. a gospel/missional community

This is taken from Tim Chester:

Small group/Bible study

gospel/missional community

Life together

House groups often tend to be a weekly meeting. People talk about ‘house group night’ – the evening in which they ‘do’ house group by attending a meeting.

A missional community is about a shared life, a network of relationships, a genuine community of people.


House groups are often centred around a Bible study.

The Bible is central to the life of a missional community, but the Bible is read, discussed and lived throughout the week in the context of a shared life.


House groups are often insular and focused on the mutual care of their members.

Pastoral care is a feature of missional communities, but they are also groups with a strong sense of mission. They can articulate their vision for mission and identify the specific people they are trying to reach.


House groups are normally managed centrally by the church leadership. Leaders are often fearful of house groups becoming independent.

Missional communities are given a mandate to reproduce organically or spin off into church plants.


As we continue our gospel initiative to establish CrossView Church in the L.A. community and make disciples here in L.A., I’m trying to think about how we’ll do structure smaller groups of the church.  My gripe with missional/gospel communities is that they seem to be the church making it a biblical local church on its own yet at the same time those who set up their “church” this way have elders from other gospel communities (churches) who lead and make significant decisions in direction for all the gospel communities networked together though they are not part of the other gospel communities networked.  It works out to a sort of modified presbyterianism according to Steve Timmis.  And I love my Presbyterian brothers and sisters in Christ, but I don’t think that is the most faithful ecclesiological understanding of how local churches function to worship God, nurture saints, and make more disciples of the lost.  So I don’t like the idea of these small churches being led authoritatively (by Hebrews 13:17 standards) by those who are not part of these small churches (gospel communities) which make up the big network of churches (which is also called a church according to many I look up to – Jeff Vanderstelt, Steve Timmis, Tim Chester).

But at the same time, I see the advantage in not making small groups and weekly bible study groups as relational only during scheduled meetings, centering edification almost exclusively on the official “Bible” lesson/sermon/lecture/discussion (it’s never intended to be that way but it often works out this way), focusing on care as opposed to mission, and not being tightly connected to the pastors of the church.  So how do I put this together without being a multi-site “church” that has a network of churches gathering on a Sunday yet keep these groups sharing life together for more than a weekly meeting, edifying each other daily, focusing on care while on mission to make disciples, and potentially spinning off to become a local church?

To be honest, at this point, I’m not quite sure.  But that is what I’d like to see happen if I could somehow reconcile this with my understanding of what the Bible teaches about the church.

Update: Goodmanson has reasons why small groups should be on mission here.


About pjtibayan

I love Jesus Christ and live to share life and share Jesus together with First Southern Baptist Church of Bellflower primarily to Southeast Los Angeles County.
This entry was posted in "Total Church" Model, church planting, church polity, Jeff Vanderstelt, Steve Timmis, Tim Chester. Bookmark the permalink.

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