July 29, 2008
How can people engage the culture we presently live in without seeing themselves as an ongoing learner? The world is changing, the church (people of God) must change to be faithful to the message of Jesus. The default mode of “doing church” that we have been handed is clearly in need of rethinking, re-envisioning and every other “re” word that’s out there. How do we get an imagination for continuing to look at what it means first to “be” the church, discovering the essence and nature of the church to then organizing how we “do” church in our specific communities? We live in a time of seismic change and every devoted follower of Christ needs to be asking the question, “what does it mean to be faithful to the Message in our time?”
I am constantly amazed when I hear people talk about the current conversation regarding the tectonic changes that are occurring in theology, church, and what it means to be a follower of Christ today in our changing world and think that they get it “let’s move on”. All through the Scripture we see the motif of God’s faithfulness, rescuing humanity, Israel from exile, unfaithfulness in one form or another. Why, because we forget our story. We don’t remember the real story. We think we know it but we get to places where we are handed a story that we think is the biblical story but it is just one piece of it, or because of context and history it got off course and we don’t even know it.
There are a plethora of prophetic voices today calling the Church in North America back from mission drift, calling for a course correction, to remember our Story. The missiologists, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, George Hunsberger, are brilliantly helping us recover our roots, our story and a way forward.
I am 51 years old and in the last four years have probably learned more about God, church, culture than I have in my entire life and I have realized that I have so much more to learn in this journey of faith. It will be a life long process and that notion is exciting to me. Rich and I were talking last night about different ways to create learning opportunities for people to continue to learn while the reality is that most people we know have very full lives. One opportunity that we didn’t create but are very excited about is Missio Dei Learning Community. The emphasis for Missio Dei LC will be on Kingdom, Spirit and Mission.
This learning opportunity if for anyone wanting to engage and learn in an online community around recovering our Story, learning to be authentic real Christ followers, the implications and adventure of the journey and what it means to “be’ the Church.
From the website:
The church exists because there is a mission. The Triune God is the center of the mission, the church is the agent. In an ever changing culture, God is going before us and preparing our way for his mission. Missio Dei Learning Community is focused on helping its students comprehend the Missio Dei within the Grand Narrative of Scripture so they can more effectively work as the agents of God for the recreation of his creation.
This Learning Community is sponsored by the Vineyard Northwest Region and will be led by Winn Griffin, author of God’s Epic Adventure. Winn holds several degrees including a D.Min in Biblical Studies and most recently a D.Min in Leadership in the Emerging Culture from George Fox University.
The first two courses will be centered around the books, Missional Church and The Shaping of Things to Come. I hope you will check out the website and consider enrolling. It is a wonderful opportunity to continue growing and learning in what it means to follow Jesus in today’s world.
July 25, 2008
It has been four years since we leased the facility in Shoreline. Today, as I write this post here is what’s happening at the facility:
8:30-3:30 – one of the local social service agencies we often partner with needed space to run their summer kids’ camp. They use the main room and another large room four days per week.
3:30-5:30 – the same social service agency has a program to serve young adults – 18-25 that have served time or are recovering from substance abuse, the group meets in our “living room” three times per week. It’s a highly directive (tough love kind of) support group helping these young adults get back into a functional life, resolving family, relational issues and job training. Once a month on a weekend this same group uses the facility for “Family Night” there can be up to 80 folks (family and counselors) that are an integral part of the recovery process.
Every Tuesday an AA group from the community uses the facility for a Tuesday lunch meeting. They are there from about 11:30-1:30. We first met the leader of this group while we were doing the renovation. He asked if when we were finished if they could use a room for their weekly lunch meeting. They have been meeting in the facility for four years (they are one of the longest running AA groups in the Seattle area) and have more than tripled in size.
These are just examples of many who use the facility for free or a very minimum fee. Everything from funerals for folks who do not have a faith community, to non-profit organizations in our city that need a space for meeting, training etc. to the local community college small dramas, to the yearly city celebration, our facility will be one of several hosting a jazz band, food, wine and beer for the annual jazz walk that will have about 1000 folks in attendance.
We partner with the City, the School district and Social service agencies from all over our city.
We didn’t get to this place without a lot of wrestling both philosophically and practically and that will be my next post.
July 19, 2008
There is a lot of discussion in the “Missional Church” conversation around the issue of having a building for gathering and functions. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, as I think this issue must be considered within the context, mission and vision of the faith community the building will serve.
For us a building became important in order to carry on our desire to continue to serve a specific community. In 2004 we took the step to lease a building. Prior to 2004 we were renting space in the basement from a local congregation for Sunday gatherings. When we were given a year’s notice to vacate, we began to ask the hard questions regarding leasing a space. We were at the very beginning of a journey, listening and interacting with the myriad of voices discussing the times we live in. We asked question after question trying to grasp what the tectonic change in world history we (the global community) are living through meant for us to be faithful as a local faith community.
We began a Tuesday evening dinner and book study. For eight months we met at our home for dinner and discussion. We discussed chapter after chapter of “Missional Church”. We were trying to wrap our brains around the concepts in the book and understand what those concepts might mean for us.
We discussed the pros and cons, the why’s and why not’s of taking the step of leasing a space. Our biggest fear was that we would lose sight of the congregation as the church. You see when we rented a basement room for Sunday worship only, everything else we did as a faith community happened in our neighborhoods, the host community and in homes. Moving into a leased space that we would have 24/7 access to could endanger us to put the emphasis on the building as the church rather than the church being the people.
Can you feel our dilemma? We prayed for discernment and direction regarding leasing a building or not. One morning as I was reading through the Gospel of John in Eugene Peterson’s, Message, I came to John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
my heart lept as I read those words. I literally felt like something ignited inside. I knew that it was the Holy Spirit saying, “this is why you can lease a building”. I knew then that we could lease a building and it would be right for us as long as we knew that the building was to be a tool, a gift to serve a specific neighborhood. As a congregation we were to move into a neighborhood and be the presence of Christ to that place.
July 10, 2008
I don’t want to come off as super critical of Todd Bentley and the whole Lakeland thing (I’m not sure it’s a revival), but on the other hand we have to ask questions. God does not ask us to check our brains at the door, he asks us to use discernment. So I have to ask…
Can someone tell me how this is any different than the selling of indulgences?
July 9, 2008
Recently at our Regional Conference, Todd Hunter brought up some very good thoughts. Not all new, but good to think through…
Evangelism is a subset of Mission. We are to announce, embody and demonstrate the Gospel. At one time culture was such that announcing was effective for people to understand the Gospel. When people wanted to hear our role was to talk. In North America, at least where I live in Seattle, people don’t really need a lot of words. Their perception of Christians is skewed (rightly so in many cases, not in others). People are talking and observing their way to faith in Christ so our role is to listen and embody the Gospel. This is why “belonging before believing” is not just a hip cliché. It is a necessary course correction for those of us that want to embody our faith in a way that others can see if it is real. I will repeat that last line because it is so important…people want to see if it’s real. This means that many people will follow Jesus after years of relationship with (and observing the embodiment of) a congregation/community. Here is where it gets tricky…and actually messy….what does it look like in your faith community, your congregation to welcome people into community before they believe or follow Jesus? What if evangelism now means for the majority of people (especially those that have been brought up in no faith tradition) more embodiment and demonstrating and less announcing?
July 6, 2008
Phyllis Tickle adds much to the current conversation here
I have an easier time listening to the voices that are educated, don’t paint with broad strokes, are not speaking out of complete deconstruction and have hope in the midst of liminality.
June 25, 2008
If you read my blog you know that I care about gender equality. I have recently come across a blog by a young female professor that is very interesting to me. Jenell has a perspective that I find myself sometimes cheering (see an insert from her blog below) and other times reflecting (wondering if I would agree)…she has an article up at CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality). What strikes you as you read her article? What makes you say “yes” and what makes you wonder?
Recently I was at our Regional Conference and was facilitating a time for women in leadership to meet one another. I won’t go into all the details but another woman leader said to me (to be fair she probably meant in this setting) “I don’t think we need to activate women for a cause.” I was a bit taken back by this. This came as a response to my question, “do you think many women in this room come from churches that do not recognize women in senior leadership?” Because I was taken back I have been reflecting on why…why did that response hit me wrong?
I guess I am actually feeling the need to activate women for a cause. The cause for biblical equality is not just personal…it feels to me a bit like…well we don’t have slaves on our plantation but let’s not activate the neighbors slaves to think they could be free…
I am thinking about this more and more. Thank God Lucy Burns and Alice Paul felt it was their place to activate men and women for a cause.
Looking back on many of the civil rights or social movements there has always been those (usually Christians) who activate men and women for the cause.
I am not of the persuasion that women in leadership fall into “disputable matters” (adiaphora), rather I see it as a justice issue. So in my own movement, I wonder if at some point I (along with others) will be seen as an agitator, activating men and women for a cause rather than those trying to participate in Kingdom Come?
From Jenell’s blog on this topic:
“I believe that the young Reformed movement legitimates and reinscribes the repression of women for a new generation, carrying an ages-old injustice into the future of the church. They may do it via what Mary Stuart Van Leeuwen dubbed ‘soft patriarchy’, a gentle, well-intentioned protection of and headship over women, sometimes even allowing all manner of social equality short of access to the pulpit, or they may do it through more blatant discrimination or even misogyny. Soft or hard matters sometimes, but not in this case — it is what it is. If your movement excludes women from full equality with men, then just call it a men’s movement and don’t try to make me pay attention to it.”
May 7, 2008
In light of this discussion I wanted to shout out to Scot McKnight. He is most generous about including women over at Jesus Creed, how? With his writing, his honest respect for women in leadership, the interaction in the comments, and he, more than any man I read, often invites women to guest post. I don’t know his stats, but I can guess he is one of the widest read blogs in the Evangelical tradition. Check out his current series Pastor’s Wisdom over the next two weeks while he is away in South Africa. Today my colleague and friend, Cindy is the guest blogger. I wrote a post for the series as well. Scot is a man that understands what is needed to change the structure. I appreciate Scot and Kris!
May 3, 2008
A change of pace for a moment:
I am in the midst of writing an eighty page paper documenting the process we have gone through to birth two mission groups. Hopefully we will have our website updated with more of our history in the next few months.
A mission group is a group of people that join around a passion to serve others, usually driven by one or more entrepreneurial leaders gathering a team. These leaders are joining their passion with some area of God’s redemptive purposes in this world. The group develops its own leadership, mission, purpose, values, and organizational structure. The group functions under the VCC board of directors until it reaches viability. Once the group and the Board agree it is time, the group spins off with its own 501c3 status and becomes an entity unto itself.
Our dream is that we would help birth multiple mission groups over time. We know of folks who instead of planting a conventional church are actually planting a mission group with the dream of a church being birthed in the midst of the mission. There has been great conversation about sustainable models of church in the past week or so. It is a much needed conversation. One way I believe we have to think about the future, no matter what size congregation we are is how to garner resources beyond our size. Church of the Savior has pioneered a way to bring the healing ministry of Jesus right into the neighborhood with their mission group model.
While not adhering exactly to the COS model, they gave us an imagination to what we perceive is God’s path for us. You see we began a journey about five years ago to discover why our church had a reason to exist. When we began to ask that question partnered with inquiring prayer, our vision of what it meant to “be” the church was forever changed.
We are only five years into our journey toward what we now name as our grand experiment. I wrote a piece for Scot McNight’s Jesus Creed blog that will be posted sometime in the next few weeks while he and Kris are in South Africa. It is a short piece on how and what we focus on as a congregation so I won’t go into that here. I will link to it when it is up at Jesus Creed.
Bullet points for my paper:
We decided to grow a church big rather than grow a big church
Mission group development, includes those dreadful words from the 90’s; mission, vision, values. Somehow in the mission group context they are life giving if you want to be faithful to the mission.
Leadership – what kind of leadership within the church is required to let go of control enough to let others run with their passion and vision. This seems to scare pastors. We are often asked (sincere) questions that reflect this fear: how do you make sure leaders of mission groups stay on track with your vision? What about resources, do they take away from people giving to the church or serving in the church? Our vision is to “incubate” kingdom activity through those that are responding to God for the sake of the world. The mission group model has shown us that there are resources of not only money, but time and talent beyond what our local church could ever provide. The amount of resources that are available when you invite people to partner for a grass roots cause continues to amaze me.
There is a need for structure to organize around the mission. We are a mysterious blend of organic community and organizational structure for the work of the kingdom.
All kinds of people get to play. Those that follow Christ and those that wonder about following Christ but in the meantime want to make the world a better place work together for kingdom purposes.
We partner and collaborate with the City, the School District, Social Service Agencies, the local Food Bank, the County Housing Authority and many other sectors of our city. We are at the table where the needs and resources of our community are discussed and then addressed as best they can in collaboration to make the “community livable again”.
More later including:
Some specifics in mission group creation, including financial sustainability.
How a congregation moves through the kind of change necessary to cultivate incubating passion for God’s healing in our world…incubating, or the term “birthing” is interesting. My friend is a doula, she has a lot of stories for walking alongside a woman giving birth. I, myself have given birth tree times and my husband’s first wife, Wendy was a mid-wife. He witnessed the pregnancy process and birth of hundreds of babies. The birthing metaphor is fitting for where our journey has taken us these past few years and very metaphoric for where we are heading.
May 2, 2008
Jenell Paris in talking about the Emergent Movement. I would add great thoughts here for us to consider as the Vineyard finds a way forward.