I spent most of this afternoon in the basement of Gateway International Church where Cam Roxbrugh and a group of about forty of us sat and discussed a vision for the future development of a Missional Network Training center for the Calgary region. I say center meaning that of what its function and vision would be and not at all in the sense of a building or location. Actually, in truth, the location gathering point brings up an interesting memory as Gateway was not really wheelchair accessible so I ended up being carried down the stairs for the meeting. On one hand, I missed the prayer time before the meeting. However on the other hand, I spend a good portion of the time being carried down and up the stairs in deep internal prayer ("Lord, don't let them drop me!"). All kidding a side, I am glad and feel very blessed that I still have friends who are willing to rip the roofs off of houses in order to get me in!
Cam's vision for the next six months was quit exciting as he drew a diagram on the white board which was similar to Alan Hirsch's five point radial illustration around the value of "Jesus is Lord" (Click Here). As we discussed each briefly we realized that we would need a great deal of more time to reflect on each position. That was the point! Once a month for six months we would gather to explore each value in an in depth and practical way. As per usual, I am jumping the gun and starting to hash through them already! Here are some first initial thoughts that have come to mind in my review:
To large extent this was pictured as a center hub which was detailed as any and all conversational dialogue relating to its definition. Definement which itself, I think, is still being pieced together as we put it into practical action. What does it really mean to be missional?
I suppose in my own sense of the word it means to practically and contextually engage within the community you find yourself in with the intent of embodying the mind set, spiritual focus, and physical actions of Jesus. Whew! That seemed like a mouth full and in truth I sometimes find it difficult to put into practice. Let's face it, when I am cut off on Deerfoot Trail by a lunatic who is trying to kill me my mind set usually goes out the window!
Missionality however seems to envision a reality founded in our journeying together towards a common reality. "The Kingdom of God is near." We are close but, we are not there yet. I suppose you could say communally we are on a Mission. The mission of realizing the Kingdom presence which we have in each one of us and the realities it brings to the art of potentiality!
I suppose though the greatest question we need to look at is in asking, "What does it really mean to be a church within our specifically called communities?" "What does a functioning Missional community really look like?"
We pose the question within the context of our individual communities, "Do they experience the living presence of Jesus?" "Does the character and persona of Jesus exude from us as individuals? As groups? As communities?" These can be tough questions! Maybe not in our ability to answer then but, in the answers we have. I am sure in many cases we find connecting points where we can say "Yes, I think they do." but, we might also find huge gaps where individuals or even groups just don't seem capable of meshing together as one body in Christ.
Denominationalism is probably one of my favorite "Holy Discontents". If we are so enamored with the unity Jesus embodied and the love which he shared in the acceptance of all, why do we struggle so hard in unifying as one community, one body? It seems to me that every time I tell some one that I am a follower of Jesus (a Christian) or I go to a large forum gathering of Christians the first question which is always asked of me is "What denomination are you?" Forgive me but, every time I hear that my first immediate response internally is "What does it matter?" Why are we always trying to box each other into neat little categories to which we can whip our hands clean of having any kind of personal and relational connection with each other?
Perhaps the question of "What is Spirituality?" is far more important to a person's faith then "What church do you go too?"
in•car•na•tion \ˌin-(ˌ)kär-ˈnā-shən\ noun
1 a (1): the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form
(2) capitalized: the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ
b: a concrete or actual form of a quality or concept; especially: a person showing a trait or typical character to a marked degree 〈she is the incarnation of goodness〉
2: the act of incarnating: the state of being incarnate
3: a particular physical form or state: version 〈in another incarnation he might be a first vice-president —Walter Teller〉 〈TV and movie incarnations of the story〉
Merriam-Webster, Inc: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A. : Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993
I don't know about you but I have always felt like this was self explanatory! However, in my maturity I have come to see the value of incarnational living becoming less and less appreciated. More and more I see people limiting their beliefs and responsibilities to a "manageable" level. Manageable in that they have little to no communal responsibilities and faith has become more about themselves then about how they care and build relationships with one another. I won't say much more then that right now but I will leave it with a favorite quote of mine from Kathleen Noris:
"One so often hears people say, 'I just can't handle it,' when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross. I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect: if we seek a God we can 'handle', that will be exactly what we get. A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we've cut down to size."
I suppose I find it difficult to know what it is that Cam meant by 'Intentional Community'. What do you think it means to be an Intentional Community? On the one hand, I can see a need or a calling for the community to move outwards by intentionally building relationships with those who might be considered outside of it. Building into these relationships with the intention of witnessing the kingdom of God coming from within them and being made visible through the rebirth of communal practices.
On the other hand, intentional community can seem to point towards the strength we can find through communal social action. We intentionally act as a community towards bringing the Kingdom of God near through non-violent practices. I remember a comment made last weekend at the Global Citizenship Conference where it was said, "There are two remaining super powers in the world. The United States and the General Public." Maybe it is true and maybe it's not however, we can recognize a great power to which we have in acting as one community, one body!
Discipleship it seems as a traditional point was practiced with the intent on "winning them to our side". The transformation was more about whether they were going to heaven then are they living a Christ centered life today. This kind of discipleship seems out of balance. Yes, the churches are filling up Sunday morning but a good number of the people there do not recognize how their attendance relates to what they do throughout the rest of the week.
Even more so, discipleship seems to be projected more as a question of "How much of the Bible do you know?" rather then "When was the last time you went and fed the power?", "How is it that you show your neighbor that you love them?", or "Where is it that you seek justice?" Perhaps, that is where we can find the discipleship of the future!
Global Warming. Environmental Catastrophe. Extinction. Social Insecurities. Poverty. These are some of the words which I think of when I consider the lack of stewardship we still demonstrate towards God's creative genius. Let's face it, the world is full of beautiful things and yet we seem intent on destroying it all in the name of "My Rights!" My right to prosper over that of others. My right to self preservation over the life of others. My right to build into my own ego at the exclusion of everyone else. Does this seem "right"?
I think God calls us into a radical relationship which embodies social equities, environmental responsibilities, and holistic realities. I am sure it can be said that you can add to my list. What do you see in a "Radical Stewardship"?