How do missional communities relate to the broader Soma vision?

Jesus commanded us to make disciples. We believe that disciples are best made in environments like a missional community. Therefore, when we think about pursuing Gospel Saturation, we seek to establish churches planting churches and Missional Communities until we reach the saturation point of one Missional Community per thousand people in a place.

Does Soma believe churches who aren’t organized around missional communities are failing to make disciples? 

No, we see God using all kinds of approaches when building His church. That said, where disciples are being made we believe you’ll find some of the common Missional Community priorities present (e.g. Gospel/Word, Community, Accountability, Spiritual Disciplines/Liturgy, and Mission). These commitments may come in different avenues, in different sized groups…but when Jesus is exalted, the Gospel is preached, the church is living together faithfully and accountability, and the lost are loved and evangelized, you will find disciples making disciples. We seek to remain faithful to these commitments in Missional Communities. We celebrate other ways God is using to build His church.

Isn’t Soma a house church movement? 

Nope. Soma is a Greek work for  Body. We regularly remind ourselves that the Church is people. We are no more defined by homes than other churches are defined by steeple or a warehouse. Our emphasis is not on where a community meets but on who the church is faithfully called to be in the Scriptures. All Soma Churches emphasize both the Gathering and Scattering of God’s people. Soma Churches have weekly Sunday church services (or Gatherings) that look like many services in the western church. We engage through Gospel Liturgies, Sermons, children’s ministry, fellowship, etc. Soma Churches are committed to Missional Communities as the everyday expression of being the church for one another and for those God is sending us to.

Where can I go if I want to learn more about missional communities? 

Visit www.saturatetheworld.com for:

  • Saturate Articles, Blog Posts, and Resources on Missional Communities
  • The Saturate Podcast talks through a variety of Missional Community realities
  • Saturate Coaching communities for leaders who are leading churches Missional Communities
  • Saturate Transition Coaching for churches desiring to transition to Missional Communities
  • Saturate Consulting on various questions related to faithful discipleship and mission
  • Saturate Everyday Events that train on the theology and practice of Missional Communities

What is the best way to see how a church of missional communities functions?

Over the past 10+ years, 1,400 leaders have traveled to immerse themselves in Soma Churches in an equipping experience we call Soma School. Soma School is a robust, Gospel-centered, missional ecclesiology immersion that exists to see pastors, planters, and leaders thoroughly gripped by the Gospel. We aim to see participants leave more in love with Jesus, more convinced of the power of the Gospel, and better equipped to lead Missional Communities in making disciples in everyday.

The Soma School experience is about total immersion in the Gospel, including classroom training, life-on-life discipleship, missional service, and Sunday gathering. This training is experienced in the context of living with Soma families, partnering with existing Missional Communities, and practicing leadership while serving the city with a missional heart.

Some of what you will learn and experience while you are with us:

  • The Story of God:  You will begin to see the Bible and the redemptive, restorative work of God in a whole new way as you discover the Gospel at work throughout the whole biblical narrative.  You will also learn how to communicate and teach in new, dialogical methods.
  • Identity & Rhythms:  What is the Church? How should we live? Soma Communities is formed around the Gospel, our new identity in Jesus, and the rhythms in which he and his followers lived. We will dig deep into these realities.
  • Building a Missional Community:  We will discuss how Soma has begun to live in communities of people who are united around a common, local mission and how these communities are local expressions of Jesus and his church in the world who live out the Gospel in all ways.
  • Gatherings:  You will gather with the Soma family in smaller Missional Communities, larger gatherings, and spend time just being with us in community.

Many churches throughout N. America and the World are now deeply influence by what they witnessed and experienced at Soma School. We hope that means this has resulted in leaders who have seen the Gospel applied to their own hearts, gained a more robust understanding of the nature and function of the church and are now a bit more reflective about what it takes to create an environment where disciples are routinely making disciples.

Are there contexts where you have seen missional communities not work? 

We have seen Missional Communities struggle and thrive in every context. wealthy urban, poor urban, suburban, rural, North America, Australia, Eastern Europe, Chile, and India. God’s people coming around the Gospel, community, and mission is God’s idea. It is possible to live as the church in every time, place, and situation. Most who have come to the conclusion that “Missional Communities don’t work here” have either: 1) Started with an idyllic understanding of Missional Communities, usually borrowed from another context or 2) failed to execute on the basic functions of being the church in a particular place. The primary variable in whether Missional Communities thrive is leadership. We see imperfect communities of disciples living as the church on mission in the everyday when people are equipped, have sober expectations, and remain faithful.

In many post-Christian contexts (Europe, Australia, etc.) and third-world contexts (which lack resources), our ministry partners have reiterated time and again that something like Missional Communities are the primary means for advancing the Gospel, either because people will no longer go to church (i.e. come to us on our turf and our terms) or the church is so small and under-resourced that it must mobilize the entire Body to live on mission in order to see any meaningful gospel advance.

Where do you see missional communities in the Scriptures? 

The everyday emphasis of the entire church living as a family on mission together is clearly displayed throughout the New Testament. In the book of Acts, the church is characterized by daily engagement in worship/discipleship, close connections, affection, and material solidarity (Acts 2:44-47 and 4:32-35). The church was in direct proximity not-yet-believers such that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” This demonstrates that the church was living together daily, and living as a witness among unbelievers daily. This was the default mode of the church for the first few centuries prompting some to describe this mode as a forgotten way rather than an innovation in the church.

Are there others who articulate something like missional communities from other denominations and organizations? 

Yes. Steve Timmis, CEO of Acts 29, and his co-author Tim Chester have written two books that articulate a similar vision for holistic discipleship (Total Church and Everyday Church). Tim Keller in his seminal ecclesiology, Center Church: Section #6, which is entitled “Movement,” describes many of the priorities of a church mobilizing people for mission in something like Missional Communities. See also the Austin Stone, Verge Network, 3DM, and The Underground (Tampa, FL).