Ever since we started dreaming in Simsbury about how we were going to become imagine/Northampton, we knew that having some sort of small group culture would be an essential part of our DNA. One of my very first experiences of church was spending seven spiritually formative years in a small house church of Christian artists. I learned the meaning of communitas there, especially regarding companionship in Christ. We had some flaws, but we were genuinely in each others lives.
So as Jim, Tricia, Catherine and I were developing the concept of imagine/Northampton prior to even having a Launch Team, we knew at some point we'd need to provide the spiritual/missional richness of small group church culture. But before I go any further, I should note we are a small group already because we are a small church. And too, in the last three and a half years, we've gathered in all manner of small group configurations such as imagine/WORSHIP, missional outreach projects, workshops, brainstorming sessions, brunches, picnics and parties, creative events, Visionation meetings, 1FlightUP, the Leadership Team, and soon: the Creative Arts Team. None were the species of small group we knew we'd need to put in place.
To that end, last year, the Holy Spirit repeatedly prompted me to conceptualize, put together and offer, with Tricia, the first inward/OUTWARD Spiritual Formation Workshop (subsequently changing the name to the inward/OUTWARD Mission Formation Workshop for its second iteration) designed to link the spiritual disciplines promoting intimacy with Jesus with the outward disciplines of the missional mindset central to closely and persistently following him.
The Holy Spirit also made me aware that from the workshop, we could form an inward/OUTWARD Missional Cohort. I picked the word "cohort" to capture the notion of a group of dedicated companions associated in a common cause that would be difficult to do - communitas. It's an ancient Roman military term that I think accurately reflects the missional life in the midst of very real spiritual warfare, particularly as Christ-followers start to make real inroads into the community and people open to discover and follow Christ. I know Christ or the Church never adopted the term, but I think it fits, especially because it can become a communitas culture. I don't want to overstate the Military or battle side of it, however.