Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Missional Community Living...How Desperately I Need It and Find Ways to Avoid It

It is everywhere.  Bloggers and books are constantly telling us that at the root of "being missional" is a very deep understanding of what it means to be community. Most missional models of living in community involve Christians living fully in their place of habitation.  By this I mean, you are part of the community you physically live in.  It could be as big as a town or as small as an apartment building.  People will then choose to associate with their "neighbors" as fully as possible, by sharing meals together, sharing their goods with one another, shopping, dining, recreating, and even governing as much as possible within the boundaries of their defined communities.  Interacting, playing, and sharing meals with those in your physical location is a big part of what it means to live missionally.  When you live this way you share in the good and the bad with others, most importantly others in your local area.  This is done by sharing your best assets with one another.  Gifts, talents, possessions etc.  What cannot be attained within the community is then sought from without but agreed upon by the community.  I have seen this taught from a very biblical standpoint.

First my favorite is Luke 10:1-12 When Jesus sends out the 70.  These Jewish followers of Jesus are to go into Samaria with no extras.  They are to live with the people there and say, "Peace to this house!"  They are stay in these places and eat whatever is put in front of them (and this is emphasized twice v7 & 8).  Probably not things they would normally eat and certainly not things acceptable in the dietary laws.  While there they are to heal the sick, and proclaim the Kingdom of God has come near to these people.  This is very cool.  They are to live among people, eat what they eat, do what they do, and then and only then do they have the right to proclaim the Kingdom of God to them.

Secondly, in Acts there is a neat little formula that goes a little something like this.  The Apostles/Jesus Followers are in the community, the Spirit moves in some way, the people in the community ask what it is going on, the Gospel is the answer.  So in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit arrives, the Apostles preach in foreign languages, the crowds ask what is going on, Peter preaches the Gospel.  In Acts 3 A lame man asks Peter to give him money, instead Peter heals him, the crowds asks how, he shares the Gospel.  In Acts 6, Stephen is doing good works and arrested, the court asks how he did the things he did, he proclaims the Gospel even though it leads to his death.

Living in community, interacting, playing, and joining in the community is what gives one the right to preach the Gospel.  If people are not asking questions to which the Gospel of Christ is the answer then you have not earned the right to proclaim the Kingdom of God has come near.  There is a popular Community Development Credo that was first written by Y.C. James Yen that states:
Go to the People; live among them.Learn from them; plan with them; work with them.Start with what they know; build on what they have.Teach by showing; learn by doing.Not a showcase, but a pattern.Not odds and ends, but a system.Not piecemeal, but an integrated approach.Not to conform, but to transform.Not for relief but release.And when the best leaders, leave The people all say: ‘We did it ourselves.’
The idea for the Christian community is for them to live and be among their community.  Not to live, work, and play in a different environment than they minister with.  And when good things happen it is because the community worked together to accomplish it and they will say, "We did it ourselves."

This is difficult for me. I am a classic suburbanite.  While my career is built around quality relationships, I could shop, eat, and play and only have to superficially interact with people because they are my waitress or check out person.  I could go about my everyday life and never once have to speak to my next door neighbor.  I don't currently participate in anything outside of work and family so there are no social engagements.  And the most horrible thing, I find myself comfortable with it.  Outside of work I could never have a meaningful interaction or relationship with another person, and I am not motivated to move beyond that.

I feel as though this makes me a half hearted follower of Christ.  I believe in this missional movement, I even preach it.  I believe the church is created to be a foretaste of the kingdom. It must be "a place where people can get a taste of the future in the present." The church must demonstrate what life is like when we live under the rule and reign of God. The church becomes a concrete, tangible foretaste of the kingdom, not perfect yet, in transition to being the body of Christ.  I believe that we believers are the church wherever we go, therefore I should be living into my future hope even in the midst of my present realities.  I believe that is best demonstrated through community.  I believe I would be more whole believer if I had other couples, families, or individuals to share my table with.  And I suppose the worshiping community I call my local church plays a role in that, but when people write and speak about the missional church movement they are not usually speaking of the place of worship but the place of living into that worship with others.

So there you have my confession.  I believe that the missional church concept and the whole Gospel of Christ calls me to live into God's future Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven by living among people in community.  But I feel as though I am not doing this very well.  I have lived in my new neighborhood for four months now and only know the people my property touches.  I have never had any of these people inside my house and I have not been in theirs.  We have spoken on driveways and on sidewalks but beyond that we have no real relationship.  I have not even had the people of my worship community in my home, though I have been to two of their homes.

So I throw this out there to say, I believe in community, I need community, but I don't live in community very well.  By God's grace I will improve, but today I am struggling. 


The Table in The Neighborhood  Reclaiming the Mission's blog discusses the importance of gathering around the table.  Sharing meals is a powerful community builder.

Three Ways to Be Missional on Halloween  Probably to late but still some ideas

The Church in 2062...Maybe.  According to Dave Murrow this is what the church will look like in fifty years.

Reformed and Missional?  Here is Tim Kellers perspective on why you can be reformed and missional.



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