David Muir writes about churches that find mission difficult because is it seen as a (however important) peripheral activity to the main activity of the church. He proposes that the mission of the church should be the central thing around which the church is formed.
Our challenge today is to create churches where the primary reason people join is the particular focus of its mission. Such churches will find worship hard – as hard as the worship-shaped churches find mission. Worship will not be the emotional powerhouse that it is for worship-shaped churches. But it will also not need to be. ‘Gathering for mission’ is what will give a mission-shaped church energy, and will keep it on track as a mission-oriented church.
There are some churches where you can quite clearly see what they are formed around – their values of justice, or enabling people to engage with God, or sometimes a specific community. Many fresh expressions begin with such an aim. Existing churches where the primary activity is perceived to happen on a Sunday often have difficulty in persuading people to get involved in the peripheral activities of the church.
There is a church in Exeter (which I have not yet visited) called Exeter Network Church where the primary activity is the small groups. They are all based around a specific cause or interest such as engaging the community in games of football, encouraging those who work from home, simple things like poker groups open to all, and a group which is committed to living and working in a challenging part of Exeter. On many Sundays they have no main meeting at all, but the church members go out and interact with the community in a variety of ways. The mission is at the centre of what they do as a church so that it flows naturally out of their Christian life.