3 Key Characteristics of a Missional Community
*All quotes taken from Fr. Scott Hastings
This week, we went more in-depth on The Big Goal by asking Fr. Scott Hastings to break down the 3 Key Characteristics of a Missional Community. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
What is it? You don’t even need a theological explanation for it. Just a simple historical explanation. If you look in the life of the new Testament, not every name you see in the Acts of the Apostles was a cleric. You know, they are followed by groups of people who are assisting them in the administration of the church. So…I would say that this has been part of the Church from the beginning of the Church, and it’s part of the Church right now. So, you know, a pastor, has a parish council, a finance council, a school board, a PTA, a booster club, you know, an endowment board. There’s a variety of different groups of people who already assist the pastor, and we want those groups to stay. What we’re asking pastors to do is to think, “Who are the people around me who can assist me in carrying out the goal of making my parish missional?” …What we think is that the starting place for most pastors with this will be a leadership team.
Why do we need it? When I got out of the seminary, I had two master’s degrees. I knew a handful of languages. I had a degree in economics and was totally unprepared to run a school with 500 people. The world is increasingly more complex. It’s unfair to say to our pastors, “You who have two master’s degrees, one in theology and one in divinity…you now have all the tools to make this happen.” Well, it’s just unreasonable, and it isn’t true. And so, we don’t want to just say, “Hey! You have to go accomplish this goal.” We say, “Go accomplish this goal, and gather people around you who know what they’re doing, and then, lean on them to assist you in the execution of the administration of your parish.”
Clear Path to Discipleship
What is it? The pastor and these gathered leaders will provide a year round way for any person who’s in the parish regardless of what level they’re at – from birth until death, from opposed to the faith to deeply faithful – that there will be something for each of those people whereby they can continue to receive enrichment in the life of the faith, formation in the life of the faith, preparation in the light of the faith. …Think of it like a kickoff in football. Wherever the ball lands, so long as it’s on the field, we’re ready to receive it, and we’re going to run. …What we’re asking for this clear path of discipleship is that wherever you fall, no matter what, you’re going to have a place to connect.
Why do we need it? In many places, again, because we’re kind of working the church system…we have, unfortunately and not purposefully, reduced parish life in many places to a commodity. And that commodity is mass on Sunday, confessions on Saturday afternoon, mass during the week in the morning, and funerals and weddings and quinceaneras when you want them. But the idea that I would find a home here is foreign. And home is home for me if I’m having a bad day or a good day, if I’m going through a rough patch or going through a great patch. Home is where I go to share my life, and that experience of parishes has been lost. …We need to be prepared to receive anybody no matter where they’re at, but if we don’t give them a path, all we end up giving them is as a task. And the task that we give them is to come to church on Sunday.
Culture of Generosity
What is it? When I know Christ, and I know who I am, and I know my identity in Christ, inevitably, my cup runneth over. It sloshes around, and I want to go and see people and spend time with them and bring the balm of Christ.
Why do we need it? God is not a person outside of me; God is being. And, it’s not like I can choose for God to be important in my life or not. God is important in my life. I cannot be reduced beyond You make me. And that means that everything that I am…everything I have, except the things that I mess up, everything at some level is a gift. …What I’m saying is that if I know myself to be utterly dependent on Christ, if I know that there are things I have in my life that have nothing to do with my own merit, and if I know that there are countless people around me who live in circumstances that are horrible that have nothing to do with their own merit or fault, then it is good for me to give of what I have received.
In Conclusion: We want pastors to gather around them a group of people who can help them execute those two particular categories. I want a way to provide this year-round itinerary, this clear path of discipleship, for people no matter where they’re at on the Christian journey. And, I also want them to be able to provide a way so that those same people, once the match head is on fire, so to speak, so that they’ll have a place to direct that. And we have something positive to propose to them.