The Edge

Future Steps Towards The Edge - Pt. #5 - Conclusion - Pilgrims and Fellow Sojourners in the Missio Dei

Standing-on-the-edge Michael Horton wrote once that,

“There is a significant origin and end point to history, within which we ourselves are cast members. It is a courtroom drama in which we are either false or true witnesses, “in Adam” or “in Christ,” justified or condemned, alive or dead.

Neither masters nor tourists, we become pilgrims.

Unlike masters, pilgrims have not arrived and they do not presume to inaugurate their own kingdoms of glory. They don’t have all the answers and they are not exactly sure what their destination city will be like; they are driven by a promise and by God’s fulfillment of his promise along the way. Yet unlike tourists, they are on their way to a settled place and every point along the way is a landmark toward that destination.”

Sojourning with the tribes of The Edge has without a doubt brought great joy in my life and as Horton points out, shown me “landmarks toward that destination” we endeavor to journey towards together. Bevans and Schroeder say that, "Christians are incorporated into the divine life and experience a foretaste of the world's destiny of full communion with God, with one another and with all of creation."[1] It is my hope we too will also experience this uniting communion together, so as to become all that which God wishes us to become.

My hope is in sharing this that we will see these challenges not as critiques or divisions, but as opportunities to greater engage in the mission of God as he has called upon us as one unified movement. I know that together I dream of the day that we are all Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others to The Edge and beyond this world!!

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #299.

Further Steps Towards The Edge - Pt. #4 - Creating an External Vision for Dreaming Dreams and Seeing Visions

Out There“I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day this [movement] will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:”[1] to be Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others! Ok, so I took some creative freedoms in sharing Martin Luther King’s famous words. There is such an inspiring force to them though as we contemplate the significance of dreams and visions in the mission of God. The apostle Peter knew that too, as he quoted the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”[2] God’s mission is bigger then just any one movement. The old saying is true that, “It is not so much that God’s Church has a mission as much as it is that God’s mission has a church.” We cannot limit the vision of The Edge or the dreams we might have of its future solely to the internal voice of self-reason. Lesslie Newbigin writes that, “the Spirit who thus bears witness in the life of the Church to the purpose of the Father is not confined within the limits of the Church. It is the clear teaching of the Acts of the Apostles, as it is the experience of missionaries, that the Spirit goes, so to speak, ahead of the church.”[3]

The challenge brought to The Edge is a willingness for all of our leadership to seek inspiration not solely from its internal practices of The Edge and our Cultural Discipling Rhythms, but from those outside of its identity who might be of like-mindedness. While maintaining the cultural discipling rhythms of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring, we can find inspiration and wisdom from other missionally focused movements that might strengthen, build, and equip our own covenantal practices and understandings of them. Holding our own beliefs and practices in open form to the greater community of missional groups, not only creates a communicative dialogue between movements that would shape our own, but also open doors of collaboration and the ability for us to shape other movements around us. This is not dismissing the solidarity of our own cultural rhythms in discipleship but rather transcending them to the greater movement of the mission of God as a whole.

In the practicalities of this we need to explore the questions of what are the other missional movements around us that resonate with our own? How might we begin a dialogue with them towards mutual collaboration? Are we willing to let them speak into our cultural rhythms in the pursuit of “dreaming dreams and seeing visions”? What practices of accountability would we expect upon our leadership in participation?

[1] Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge. 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002) Pg. #145.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 2:17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #297.

Further Steps Towards The Edge - Pt. #3 - Creating a Central Unity for a Culture of Rhythms in Discipling

Heart RhythmsOver the last several months Desmond Tutu’s words from his book ‘No Future Without Forgiveness’ has been resonating in my thoughts. He said, “‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ It is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.’”[1] It is a natural rhythm of breathing in and out the life presence of Jesus as we find a sort of organic communal covenant relationship with him that begins our discipling practices and says we belong both to him and to each other. So what are the rhythms that we practice to which announce our belonging to The Edge Movement? There seems to be three spheres of discipleship that naturally form in our culture. While each may find different expressions between the tribes, The Edge focuses around the converging practices of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring the lives of its members. It is difficult to state a defining place of beginning in such a process as each sphere coexists with the other and yet each element of the three begins a radical transformation of the disciple and the community to become more entwined in the reflective life of Jesus.

Edge Discipling RhythmsThe challenge brought forth to The Edge is to recognize the interdependence we have on one another in following these rhythms. Each needs to be dynamically broadened in depth and understanding and each must be communicatively interlinked within the entire movement itself and between all the tribes. We must recognize and see them in practice through the entire network and not limited to just a limited few or solely in the leadership. How might we as collaborative leaders develop these rhythms further? How might we develop interlinking ligaments that foster stronger relationships between each tribe and between the tribal leaders?

The importance of tribal harmony is detrimental to the transmission and communicative contextualization of our discipling cultural rhythms. In Bevans and Schroeder’s words, "Like a complex fugue or polyphonic motet, God's unity is constituted by diversity and God's diversity is rooted in unity of will and purpose; the church is the church inasmuch as it has been included in that harmony."[2] As leaders in The Edge, we must make the effort to not only find a listening ear to that which God is doing in our own tribe, but also find interlinking relationships with other leaders in the movement to hear the harmony in which God is creating with the surrounding tribes. If we only are listening to our individual tribal identities and practices at the exclusion of the others, we could very easily lose track of the communal rhythm and become nothing but “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”[3] in the midst of a struggling symphony. As God’s mission began in love for the other (John 3:16), so must ours, as we love those who we are a part of.

[1] Tutu, Desmond. No Future Without Forgiveness. (New York: Doubleday, 1999) Kindle Location 431.

[2] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.

[3] [3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Cor. 13:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Further Steps Towards The Edge - Pt.#2 - A Mission Built on the Foundation of Relationship

imago Dei "We are not so much individuals, as our Western culture in particular would have it, but, as images of God, deeply social and communal in nature. The perfect communication and self-giving that is God's very self is the church's deepest reality, since Christians have undergone theosis and participate in the divine nature."[1] Stephan Bevans and Roger Schroeder articulate the deep need we have to base our existence and mission in the roots of relationship. It’s not just a passion; it’s in our very nature to want discipleship on a personal and intimate level as apposed to simply being a Sunday event. We don’t want to just know about Jesus, we want to know Jesus!

After spending years with his disciples, Jesus turned to them and asked, “Who do the people say that I am?” Speculatively they answer, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus, wanting to know if they really knew him then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, perhaps hesitant at first, states, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[2] It is an epiphany brought only through the relational presence of living life with Jesus and the revelation of God’s Word through the daily work of the Holy Spirit.

This is the nature of The Edge’s mission – Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others. It propels us from the transformational life of simple discipleship to the apostolic life of serving the other for the greater sharing of God’s glory and Kingdom. To be a part of The Edge is to embrace this identity and mission as central to the purpose of all other endeavors.

We cannot take this mission lightly however and we must be intentional about our covenant to its calling. It is not just an individual binding of independent relationship but a communal covenant shared between ourselves and the others in the movement. As Christopher Wright shares the significance to God's act of redemption and it's role in the believer through the model of the exodus story, "The exodus was not a movement from slavery to freedom, but from slavery to covenant. Redemption was for relationship with the redeemer, to serve his interests and his purposes in the world." Our participation in God's mission is not to be out of self-propitiation or communal or personal freedom, but in the giving of ourselves to the work and pursuit of fulfilling the vision communally set before us as a Kingdom citizen.

The Edge’s mission comes with the promise of great reward and benefit through supported discipleship but also with the apostolic commissioning and responsibility to invest, be involved, and inspire our fellow brothers and sisters in the greater movement. This is the challenge left not just to the greater leadership, but all who are in covenant as tribal leaders. To do otherwise is to question whether we are truly part of the movement we call The Edge or just solely part of our own smaller independent endeavors.

Our first steps towards the future of the Edge is to explore an understanding of how we personally and communally are willing to commit and covenant to this vision as a singular movement who is Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others through Investing, Involving, and Inspiring practices. Secondarily we need to explore how this vision is then shared, expressed, and embodied, by the tribes we lead.

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 16:13-20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Further Steps Towards The Edge - Pt.#1 - Theologians of the Imago Dei and a Calling Truth

At the EdgeIn a great text titled ‘Transforming Mission’, David Bosch identifies that, “The best theologian, is not the one who can give a complete logical account of his subject, but the one who ‘assembles more of Truth’s image and shadow’ and thus moves beyond the confines of ‘pure’ rationality. True rationality thus also includes experience.”[1] The Edge has truly embraced this reality as we have moved far beyond the traditional and institutional church while experiencing and taking part in a story far bigger then ourselves. Yet if The Edge is going to maintain its existence and part in the mission of God, it must find understanding in the callings placed upon it as a distinct movement itself. The mission to which The Edge is called is understood only when we first understand the organizational existence and identity we have in reflecting the image of God over the past and present. While exploring that story in the first two series's of posts, we have come to recognize three distinct callings placed upon our movement to further develop our growth and shape in pursuing the mission of God. In this series of posts I hope to pursue these callings further while bringing the challenge forward to radicalize our story even more in becoming God’s instruments for taking steps towards The Edge as a discipling movement.

[1] Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991) Pg. #361.

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #4 - Conclusion – The Inspiration of Common Tribal Themes and the Nature of the Missio Dei in The Edge

ChurchLike the early disciples crowded in the upper room following Jesus’ crucifixion, The Edge began in the living room of a home with the question “What is the church meant to be?” Foundationally, we hoped to explore an expression of the ecclesia that would not necessarily be new, as much as it would be of a deeper more intimate and meaningful encounter of worship, mission, and discipleship for those who journey with us. No longer would the institutional four walls of church structure hold back the gospel from permeating all the corners of our society; rather we would take the gospel and enflesh it through all of our relationships to the very edges of our lives as we live the life of Jesus within the lives of all others. Though perhaps to different degrees between each of us, this journey has us wrestling with common themes and issues of holy discontent that shapes our view and dismissal from the traditional church. In some cases we have even experienced or found forms of oppression and persecution in our shared stories as reactionary responses from the traditional church, much like the early disciples experienced with the rise of Pharisee leadership in the Jewish tradition during the early years of the Christian movement.

Thematically The Edge also experienced the rise and fall of those in the journey with them. With the persecution of the early church, death would become a recognition of martyrdom. We have seen those in our own tribes who have passed away that were heroes to our faith, saints of a sort. Celebrating in the life they led we find inspiration to the mission we are a part of in the story of God today.

Pertinent most of all to recognizing our involvement in the missio Dei is our call in discipleship and desire to be ‘Imitating Jesus’. The great commission from our Lord to, “Go therefore and make disciples”[1] becomes a mantra to which we are a part of as we embrace the hope to be living like Jesus lived. It is to these questions that we now turn. Where is it that God is now calling us? What are the challenges he is placing upon us as his called people? How must we learn to become better disciples in the mission of God as part of The Edge movement? These are the questions we will explore in our next series of Further Steps Towards the Edge.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 28:19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #3 - A Movement Towards the Edge of All Creation!

young child climbing stone steps with a lot of effort “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”[1] Paul’s words to the early church seems to speak to us even today as we step back and look at the journey The Edge has taken since its conception in 2006. As we conversed over the larger picture of our stories, we could see an almost rhythmic flow from great highs of success to the challenges of loss and the lows we experienced. Not only could we see the presence of God sustaining us through those moments, we could witness the promises he has for us in future. Even in the deepest moments of loss, God will bring others into our story as we seek his guidance and wait upon his works.

There is also the recognition of God strengthening us in the courage to move beyond the edges of our own understanding. Two years ago we would have never considered or thought we would be partnering with a house church movement in Cuba. It is a relationship that is not only supporting the incredible ministry they are doing there, but also inspiring us as leaders to take seriously the role we have in discipling and reconciling the neighborhoods around us.

Andrew Holmes said, “It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”[2] The story of The Edge is as we’ve seen from the beginning, transcendent to the nature of our current state and the relationships we have today.

Throughout our existence God has been preparing others outside of our scope, which he has intended to bring into our narrative. In essence, as Abraham was blessed with a child to be a blessing to the nations, Israel became a blessing to the gentiles, and The Edge too has been blessed through the witness of embracing tribes such as those in Vancouver, Vernon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Cuba with the promise of being sent to those who we also unconditionally embrace at the margins of our communities. Francis Bacon gives us the encouragement that, “It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”[3]

The future is filled with the questions of whom and where are we sent to go, and yet we can hold to the promise that God is with us and through the foundation of the relationships he builds around us, we will grow as His church for the purpose of glorifying his mission and calling. To ask who we are as a church, don’t look inside to the existing body of today, look towards the edges of tomorrow!!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 4:8–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Cole, Neil. Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2009) Pg. #184.

[3] Cole, Neil. Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2009) Pg. #113.

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #2 - In the Beginning: The Birth of a Movement

House ChurchThe Edge family of Home Churches and intentional communities didn’t start with the concept of Home Church at all. It began with a desire for more. More of what Jesus taught. More of what the disciples seen and heard and couldn’t stop talking about. More relationship and less corporation. More exploration and less risk management. More experience and less talk. More power and less excuses. In short, I guess we just wanted more of what Jesus promised and modeled for us. We began as “East Edge”, one of the regional ministries of Centre Street Church. We would have started on our own, but the Lord opened the door to work together with an established church, and we interpreted it as the Lords will, and his provision for a strong start. We dreamed and discerned and prayed for a number of months, and officially began in September of 2006.

This was a time of great excitement, as four small tribes of about 15 people each began gathering in homes in the communities of Rundle, Marlborough Park, Taradale, and Harvest Hills around the city of Calgary. Living rooms came alive, and tables were often brimming with fantastic potlucks and conversations. Joy and a strong sense of family were experienced in these gatherings as people congregated, lifting their voices in worship over the music of many instruments, and deeply felt led by the Spirit in the movement they were beginning. During the journey, the Lord used authors such as Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, and Hugh Halter to guide and inspire us.

In the years that followed, East Edge would experience several challenges with the experience of loss due to those moving away, death, and various emotional challenges. However, the movement was also growing, and spreading. The “East” in the name had to be dropped because “The Edge” was moving out. New Home Churches were started, but existing Home Churches and communities were also embraced and adopted, such as Expressions in the SE of Calgary in 2012. In 2013, the first Home Church outside of Calgary was started in Medicine Hat by original “East Edgers”, Dave and Angie Noelle, and a major thrust was initiated into the South Asian community led by David Benjamin. In the last couple of years, The Edge has found partnership with House Churches in Vancouver, Vernon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and a movement of HC’s in Cuba.

Throughout the movement we felt a sense of spiritual growth and expression. There has always been a feeling of continuity as we gathered in our leadership retreats, which is where a lot of the inspiration and vision has been developed. The Edge has really begun to embrace a culture of discipleship and investing in people. With our own publishing of ‘Imitating Jesus’, we are beginning to embrace the rhythms of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring those we are connected with. The Edge has always desired to be a community built on the foundation of loving God, loving people, and making disciples – by simply living Jesus’ life within the lives of others. This has been our dream and vision from the beginning.

Reflections on the Early Church and The Edge Home Churches Today – Pt. #6 - Conclusions for Thought

Edge Logo on WhiteWritten with the understanding of mission in word and life, Bevans and Schroeder state, “If to be church is to be in mission, to be in mission is to be responsive to the demands of the gospel in particular contexts, to be continually ‘reinventing’ itself as it struggles with and approaches new situations, new peoples, new cultures and new questions. The existence of Christianity seems always to be linked to its expansion beyond itself, across generational and cultural boundaries.”[1]

The house church movement is not anything new in the landscape of church models. I remember sitting with a good friend as he told me of his time in missional house tribes during the 1970’s and ‘80’s. Yet, the expression of these small intimate tribes must still find renewal as time passes and the context in which the gospel lives transforms with the present culture.

As Paul shares, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) What the early church movement teaches the followers of Jesus today is that Christ-like discipleship is not about finding unity in what doctrine you clench, or in what denomination you find membership, or what church you belong. Christ-like discipleship is about letting go of any preconceived identity you might have of yourself, dying that he might live in you, being reborn into the complete wonder of an adventure that will unit you to the mission of reconciling all things (2 Cor. 5:16-21) to the reign of almighty God and his Kingdom. Using Bevans and Schroeder’s words, “In this way Christianity offers the world nothing less than a new conception of humanity.”[2] A humanity we can call, the Church.

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #31.

[2] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #98.

Reflections on the Early Church and The Edge Home Churches Today – Pt. #5 - Measures of Success

Empty asphalt road towards cloud and signs symbolizing success a Before turning to what measures of success the early church had I think it wise to also recognize maybe some of its failures as David Bosch articulated; the first of which being that, “Jesus had no intention of founding a new religion.”[1] It wasn’t until several centuries later that Christianity would become an officially recognized institution or religion. Jesus was more interested in creating a movement that transcended all institutions from the sacred to the secular parts of every believer’s life and the community they were a part of.

Although many in our movement still carry the baggage of the institutionalized church, we try to focus ourselves away from these old paradigms, holding our beliefs in openness while reconciling the gospel as we encounter Jesus in the everyday. In this way, we embrace and develop relationships with neighbors and organizations that are not always from a Christian belief and yet are part of our community, neighborhood, and greater parish tribe. This places us in gathering environments such as the Body, Soul, & Spirit Expo, the Calgary Centre for Global Community, and the New Canadian Friendship Centre.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmizYMEIgUM]

A second failure Bosch notes is, “[The Church] ceased to be a movement and turned into an institution.”[2] While recognizing the need for a skeleton in which the body can grow around, the church cannot become bonded to the institutional legalism of its doctrine. A Christian movement is defined when the members of such beliefs can transcend them into the whole of creation and maintain a centered focus to the reign of Christ. The Edge, while fostering its tribal communities, works at recognizing their placements within the neighborhoods they are a part of as the localities and neighborhoods to which they are called to serve. We are blessed to be a blessing to our neighbors and live the life of Jesus amidst the greater community around them!

Bosch’s last failure that he identified with is that, “[The Church] proved unable, in the long run, to make Jews feel at home.”[3] Within The Edge, I see this in two ways; on the one hand, we embrace ethnic and cultural diversity extremely well with First Nation, Indian, Bhutanese, and Chinese tribes within our movement. But, much like the first century church, we struggle to find a constructive relationship with traditional and/or large church models. We need to work at reconciling our understandings of God’s work being in all forms of church, including those in large and traditional settings. The quantification of numbers is not what is important, big or small, and yet the quality and/or weight of voice speaking from such communities must be held in equity between each other. Still, I wonder if success has a quantifying difference between the two?

Diversity in the EdgeSecondly even in the midst of our diversity in contextual, cultural, and affiliational demographics; we must not let these diversities dichotomize or polarize our movement so that each solely views itself at the exclusion of all others and/or is unable to permeate the crossing into and overlapping of each others relational movements. The Edge must work at the unification of each other’s movements as part of the mission of living the life of Jesus in the lives of others.

As we consider the measures in which the early church considered marks of success, Bevans and Schroeder seemed to identify three particular signs. The first is, “There number was increasing daily (Acts 2:47)”. While as a house church movement, The Edge does not consider numbers to be a full measure and expression of success, we recognize a desire to see people coming to know Jesus for the first time while entering a deep and life long relationship with him in discipleship. However, we are more concerned with a more quality-focused commitment then we are with mass quantity of followers committing. This does not dismiss however, the need to grow through investing, involving, and inspiring new disciples who will also be living the life of Jesus within the lives of others.

Secondly they identify that, “they enjoyed an intense and happy community life (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35)”. As I shared earlier in the introduction, many in our tribes consider each other as brothers and sisters while recognizing the church as a family unit. We often meet and talk outside of the planned gatherings. Intimacy and developing a communal culture of joy amidst tribal living is second nature to The Edge movement! We naturally become an organic unit for inclusivity.

Lastly, they observe that, “they enjoyed the esteem of many in Jerusalem (Acts 5:12-16).”[4] It is difficult out of humility to speak of the affirmations to our tribes’ presence but, in many neighborhoods, our friends and neighbors deeply appreciate the ways we have served and connected with them. Often as we enter community spaces we are greeted by name and even embraced with hugs and appreciations for our being there. We take the understanding seriously that if our tribes were to disappear in our respective community’s, our neighbors should miss us.

[1] Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991). Pg. #51.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. Pg. #52.

[4] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004). Pg. #17.