Community is at the center of what it means to be church. A missional church that is engaged with its culture is constantly renegotiating exactly how community will be manifested but it will always be central.
In this second volume of the Missional Wisdom Library, Larry Duggins draws on Wesleyan theology to show how both prevenient grace (preparation for salvation) and sanctifying grace (growing in holiness) can be manifested in various types of community. He writes,
“As people of God, we cannot ‘save’ other people . . . But we can work to bring people together in a way that makes it easier for them to encounter the grace of God in an environment that is encouraging, with people who can help interpret their experiences.” (pp. 80-81)
Duggins points out that any community can be a place of grace and gives examples from churches, the workplace, around food (growing, cooking and consuming it), children’s activities and schools, and affinity groups. The Missional Wisdom Foundation with which Duggins works has developed some interesting mixed-use spaces in cooperation with churches where new approaches to community are developed. One is The Mix, a co-working and creative space in the basement of White Rock United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Another is Haw Creek Commons, an adaptive reuse/transformation of Bethesda UMC in Asheville, North Carolina. He provides extensive examples and testimonies from each setting.
Although the work of MWF is strongly tied to the United Methodist Church (see the first book in the series, Missional, Monastic,Mainline: A Guide to Starting MissionalMicro-Communities in Historically Mainline Traditions), Duggins also realizes that not everyone reached through these alternative communities will be comfortable in a traditional church. Other ways of engaging interested individuals in their growth as disciples must be provided.
In fact, the writer provides a strong argument that theological education must change in order to expand this type of outreach:
“Pastoral leaders must be trained in community development and spiritual direction as well as in leading a Sunday service, and a new generation of ordained and lay leaders must emerge who are capable of organizing and leading these new forms of Christian community.” (p. 79)
The book is a study guide, strongly rooted in Wesleyan theology and tradition but one that can be used by any faith community to challenge its laity and clergy to embrace new forms of community and social entrepreneurship to do the work of evangelism and discipleship in the 21st century.