A Missional Community Diagnostic

doctor-performing-diagnosisA Missional Community Diagnostic: Some Questions To Ask In Order to Discern Whether We’re On the Right Track

Over several years now I’ve been visiting/coaching and leading the birthing of missional communities. Whether it’s a one time visit, a regular coaching relationship or ten years at our own church just leading alongside other leaders, I’ve gathered a list of questions I think are worth asking and discerning together. Often I have found that some of the topic heading of these questions have been avoided entirely by missional communities. For instance “gathering” can often be an anathema for missional communities. But if done out of a Kingdom posture, it is life giving, very clarifying, more often discipleship, and never turns into salesmanship.  It should not therefore be avoided. (Paul after all did gathering at the synagogues).

These questions are never meant to evaluate whether there are MORE things missional leaders should be doing that they are not already doing. Rather the intent of these questions is to a.) ask whether all of what you’re doing is really germane to the task of cultivating a community in mission (and if not maybe you should cut it), and b.) ask whether you might reorient what you’re already doing in a manner that shapes a people for participating in mission as everyday life (as opposed to being consumers of some good Christianity for an hour or two on Sunday and 2 or 3 hours during the week).

So, here are my questions offered as a sort of diagnostic for cultivators of mission in context. Tell me what you think? what you’d add or subtract?.

1.) Leadership:

  • Do the leaders here know their giftings/spheres of leadership? (Eph 4: 7-16 APEST)
  • Do the leaders here know how to lead in mutual submission one to another as a group?
  • Are the leaders here recognized by the community as the ones given the responsibility to lead in say evangelism? Apostleship? Teaching/organizing? Pastoring/organizing? Prophetic leadership?
  • Are the leaders empowered to lead and to cultivate more leaders on the ground in the neighborhoods.
  • Are the leaders leading? Submission is a posture of leadership not an abnegation of leadership? Does the leadership function within this dynamic?

2.) Gathering:

  • How many people are in the relational web of this community? versus how many people show up for worship gathering? To me the first question is probably more important than the second (although the second is not unimportant).
  • Is there a road map/a way for outsiders to know how to enter and become part of this community, and what makes this community what it is?
  • How many KCC’s  (kingdom cups of coffee) happen on a monthly basis from this community? (KCC = sitting with someone, listening, discerning what God is doing in someone’s life, whether God has brought them here for a reason? to be part of His Kingdom expression here at this community or another?)
  • Is there a public presence for this community? A way people can identify this community of Kingdom activity from outside the community? Website?  Public celebratory gathering? Is it too early for a public presence?

3.) Engaging – Being Present – in Surrounding Community

  • Do you know what it means/does not mean to be present in the places you live, work, play and raise families?
  • What are those places in your community/neighborhood?
  • How do you train/lead community participants in being present in the community?
  • Where are people being present? Homes, neighborhoods, third places, Moms groups, bars, social service agents, homeless/domestic abuse shelters. Local sports programs etc etc.

4.) Rhythms

  • Are you developing a sustainable life giving weekly rhythm of life together? Are you making space for God to work in and among you and in the neighborhood?
  • Tell me about the development of your worship gathering? How does it shape people in life with God and His mission? How is it woven into the lives of the participants and their everyday lives? Does it focus people too much on Sunday? Or does it lead out into everyday life?
  • Prayer. Where is prayer in the life and rhythms of your community?
  • Meals. How do you eat together? Does the Eucharist on Sunday feed a time of presence with one another in the neighborhood?
  • How do home groups function? Triads function? What do you do there? What is practiced there? Are these groups functioning in God’s presence for His work among people and around people and through people? (In, Up and Out)

5.) Practices

  • How are you leading people into the basic practices of being a people of God in His Kingdom for His Mission? Including:
  • Proclamation of the gospel: Is gospel being proclaimed for this context in the gathering? Are the participants learning how to proclaim gospel in their contexts through their lives? Do people know the difference between proclamation, explanation and or providing information?
  • Eucharist: Are the participants in the community being led into the Real Presence of Christ at the Table, to experience the flooding of God’s forgiveness, love, reconciliation and renewal of all things through the Spirit? Are they then learning how to practice this same presence in their meals in the neighborhood?
  • Reconciliation: Are the participants practicing reconciliation in all conflicts? Are they being led in this? And are they learning how to practice this same reconciliation of Christ in the neighborhoods?
  • Practicing Being With the Hurting/Least of These: Most of all, are the participants learning how to be present with the hurting? Not solve problems, but be present/with hurting people both inside the community and in the course of everyday life. Do your people know the difference between Presence in the community and  finding a Project in the community?
  • Most of all, when we gather together to worship, are we being led into the real presence of Jesus as our Lord and Savior for the world? Are we then being sent?


There are probably many more questions that have not made the list? For all you great missional coaches out there? What category would you include? What questions would you ask that I left out?


Posted in Church Planting, Cultivating Mission, Missional, Missional Ecclesiology, Missional Leadership, Post-Attractional
5 comments on “A Missional Community Diagnostic
  1. Luke Dalach says:

    David, this is really helpful. From this list I feel both empowered because of some things (a few) that we are doing well and challenged because we aren’t in many areas (many more). One thing that I’d add under Rhythms…something about families (incl. kids.) How are families (even a couple singles living together) being empowered to disciple, worship and be on mission in their households? Living out the presence of Christ as a whole church community, in smaller/mid-sized gatherings and then also in families in our neighborhoods?

  2. Dwight Stinnett says:

    REally good. THanks!!!!

  3. Jon says:

    This is really great. Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve not experienced a missional community but I am finding myself drawn to the concept as I envision a church plant in the near future. These questions will help me immensely.

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David Fitch
Betty R. Lindner Professor of Theology
Northern Seminary
DMin in Missional Leadership
Prodigal Christianity
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