I have been exploring the issue of bounded and open sets, one thing that is often talked about is about being committed at the core and open at the edges, yet I wonder if we are missing an opportunity for growth here. I am part of a network that describes itself as A network of mission practitioners and communities who are restlessly trying to follow Jesus in the midst of a changing contemporary culture. The Ugly Truth full I cannot underestimate the support I have found within group and how important the space to be open and vulnerable with like minded people is. In many ways this group is not fully open (nor should it??) but this is what I am questioning. At one level all open groups are self selecting and will attract people around the ethos of the group etc, but open set groups for people exploring spirituality will mean the members come into contact with those they disagree with, those they think are off the wall etc, all of which if processed worked through, dialogued about, motives, passions and actions searched and questioned help us on the path to enlightenment. You can hear a talk on patience a 100 times but try living with someone you think is a Muppet, what has the greater benefit for the soul?
Charlie a biker who regularly flowed when she rode was quickly developing a reputation as an excellent rider, so in order to make the most of her growing profile decided to set up a shop locally and online brand of clothes and equipment. Her technical skills and growing flow when she rode meant she could design new pedals and peripheral equipment that really enhanced riding and made the whole experience better. She made sure that everyone working for her got a fair wage and only used ethical suppliers. Charlie was quickly raking it in and the money didn’t corrupt her she gave a portion to those who needed it and kept up her ethical stance.
At the same time a man was traveling the around the area, who also had a growing reputation but not as a skater or biker, but as a Sufi – someone who was spiritually enlightened, and at peace with themselves. People who had heard his stories or spent time with him, said he had healed the sick, and helped the poor and although he too was poor was rich in a different way. They said he was in touch with the planet and greater source of power, that he knew God or a higher being, and this was the source of his power. Charlie recognized this as the Flow she experienced when riding, but here was someone who seemed to be with the Flow all the time.
Seeking out the Sufi she went to him, explained how she flowed and how she had lived an ethical life and asked “what must I do to be in Flow like you?”
The Sufi replied “go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor?” Charlie went away disappointed.
Over the weekend I am facilitating a conversation on Church on the Edge with the subtitle Emerging church gets missional. So I will be introducing the concept and process via a handout and as part of the session asking the following questions, and would appreciate any comments.
1. Is the emerging church in missional mode?
2. Are EC’s still a bounded set model but just with better PR?
3. Is community development a core part of your mission approach?
4. How does the church on the edge model/process fit your situation?
5. Where should church on the edge go from here?
Our front garden has been a veg plot for several seasons now. If I spend time there I meet the neighours, and passers by. This is part of a deliberate choice, to provide opportunities to connect with those around me. The garden, our parties, sunday lunches are all have personal implications of being missional or seeking to live a missional life. I use the word missional over mission here in a simular to Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk do in their introduction to The missional leader – equiping your church to reach a changed world.
“God is about a big purpose in and for the whole of creation. The church has been called into life to be both the means of this mission and a foretaste of where God is is inviting all creation to go. Just as its Lord is a mission-shaped God, so the community of God’s people exists, not for themselves but for the sake of the work. Mission is therefore not a program or project some people in the Church do from time to time (as in “mission trip”, “mission budget” and so on); the church’s very nature is to be God’s missionary people. We use the word missional to mark this big difference. Mission is not about a project or a budget or a one-off event somewhere; its not even about a sending missionaries. A missional church is a community of God’s people who live into the imagination that they are, by their very nature, God’s missionary people living as a demonstration of what God plans to do in and for all of creation in Jesus Christ.”
As outer personal impliations these parties, gardens lunches etc are fine, on another level there are other personal implications – for tuffty, clive and smiler my children (12, 10 and 1 yrs old and not their real names) – They don’t get to go to sunday school or learn about about Christ in traditional ways, which at times I think is great and at times causes a mild panic. They get used to various people in the house, going away for random chaotic weekends with random chaotic young people, they put up with us stopping to chat to people in the street, and they get used to living on a lower income than we could have as a family. They find themselves in conversations around the nature of church that may be beyond their understanding. Whilst there are some real benefits – at times they could see it as a pretty raw deal.
When we use the word missional in this way it also has to have organisational implications on how we do church or how we run the organistion and structural implications on what is church. Firstly how do we maintain a missional impetus and dna in our organisational structures? What started me thinking about this was the number of agencies that call themselves mission agencies but don’t employ people who aren’t christians or who when running mssion trips only allow people people of a certain level of faith to go along. How do we as a missional group use the whole of who we are and what we do in a missional way. By using volunteers who have no faith aligence or of other faiths, we create opportunities to connect, to learn, to dialogue. I am not saying we shouldn’t be discerning about who we work alongside, or that we should hide our faith afflilations from those who may be ale help us but don’t share our worldview but that we should value others in a way the doesn’t exclude and ask ourselves serious questions about what it is to be mssional in our organisational structures and the way we do things. This leads in turn to structural issues. Structually how do we position ourselves to be missional? Can we work inside systems and processes and what are the implications of change coming from the edge. How can emerging churches that use the word missional to describe themselves maintain bounded set approaches.
I wonder how many agencies that define themselves as missional or mission centred could meet the definition of being missional when applied to their organisational or structural make up.
short reflection. Being unconvinced of the set time for God approach and an in-disciplined person when it comes to the blog I wondered what I could do through lent, that didn’t mean a daily reflection, but was more in line with connecting with God through the concepts of living your life as a life of worship, and praying constantly. So I hope to post some questions to hold as way to help me focus, and I wonder if anyone out there also wants to offer any questions to hold. No answers just questions!
A question to hold, for me is a pathway of prayer, it connects with images of prayer that are about silent connection rather than rambling words. They are questions that cannot be answered by intellect or study or theology but by the practice of holding and living, and discovery. My favourite question to hold and one that sustained me and help me survive our the years has been “what does it mean to be still and still moving?”
As we move from Ash Wednesday deeper into Lent, I have been exploring Luke and one commentator sees in Luke’s gospel the God who is in the connections we cant make. I love this concept particularly challenging is the idea that God is in the connection or process when we are often conditioned in seeing God in the person (which is also true) So my first question to hold is
Who is the God who makes the connections we cant make?
I was thinking about the close proximity in the bible text between when Jesus says to Peter he will be the rock on which church is built and Jesus’ rebuke of Peter for thinking in the ways of man. Matt 16 13-23
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
How easy it is for our versions or visions of church when we have in mind the things of man or woman rather than the things of God to become a stumbling block to Christ.