Archive for communitas
In this, the fourth video interview installment, Frost contends that both community and worship happen through people being on mission. Pursuing something greater than the individual helps catalyze a coming together of people. In the same vein, being about the mission of God “stimulates a desire either to want to praise God or throw yourselves on the mercy of God.”
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From different backgrounds, a group of men came together as a band of brothers. One would be lost in the journey, but those that remained were tight. They had walked through so much together. The group had feasted together and been hungry together. Rejoiced and despaired together. Laughed together and fought with one another. There was a bond of communitas that drew the students close to each other. These 11 men had seen their Teacher respond to others in ways they had never even dreamed possible. Lives were transformed, families were saved, each man had changed so much because he had walked and lived with, as well as watched and loved Jesus–because the Teacher had first loved each of them.
It could not have been better. The disciples had seen their Master be violently crucified. At the time each had lost his faith and run in fear. But Jesus came back; He rose from the dead. And then He came to them and showed His love for them and challenged them to do as He had modeled over the past three years. As they lived their lives, they were to make disciples that would experience life and transformation. The model was Christ. Pointing others to their Lord was the call and blessing of the disciples–now the disciple-makers. This was great. Improvement simply would not be possible.
Since then, some have undertaken the task of improving the discipleship process. It was you and me, your church and mine. How? Where? Why? When? With whom? All points were open for discussion. Through innovation and change we have effectively been able to make this a good thing that has some effect. Though this good of ours was not His great, it was at least good.
Maybe good is enough. Maybe that’s all we really want. Maybe this is close enough to obedience in the area of making disciples.
(Over the next several weeks I will be posting a number of excerpts from my non-book. We will be examining some specific ways that we have and still abandon great to pursue good in the area of discipleship.)
Last night I took my lovely wife to the Rob Thomas concert. We have always been intrigued by the significant amounts of truth in his lyrics. As we were called to a “celebration of music and life” by each of the three acts, there were times where the logic just did not follow. For example, early on, Carolina Liar’s singer, Chad Wolf, spoke of this celebration that we had gathered for and then dedicated the song to all the people that hated their jobs and could barely stand to get out of bed. For some reason, I questioned whether or not I was ready to celebrate this particular angst. But all in all, it was an enjoyable night and a very good show.
Each of the three acts had songs that spoke of the search for something that was real and true and worthwhile. Also, themes of love, redemption, and forgiveness were addressed. A few songs that may be worth checking out include Carolina Liar’s Beautiful World and Show Me What I’m Looking For as well as One Republic’s Someone to Save You and Come Home.
My favorite song of the night was Thomas’ opening number–Fire on the Mountain. This is a song written in a post-Christian, immoral world where justice is crying out to be heard. His lyrics can speak, I believe, to the church. What it says to the church will depend on the church itself. For some it may be a call to action. For others it will be a call to change the music ASAP. The lyrics are here for consideration, but I encourage you to give it a listen to get the intensity of the problem and the emotion that the “eyes wide open” church might encounter (Frost, Seeing God in the Ordinary).
Fire on the Mountain by Rob Thomas
Fire on the mountain
Through the fields
There’s evil in the garden
But you don’t see it
I can tell
How do you sleep while the city’s burning
Where do you go when you can’t go home
How do you drink when there’s blood in the water
Where do you turn when the world moves on
When the world moves on
Fire on the mountain
You can feel it
Against your skin
You’re standing by the river
Let the river take you in
I see smoke out on the horizon
Mama get your baby
Take her down to the water
I feel the wind like a promise broken
I see the future but it’s getting farther
If you take the time to give it a listen, consider talking with other believers you walk life with and envision a video that depicts the world about which Thomas sings. Then have a re-listen and redo your story boards with the visual being the church on mission that is living like Christ.
Happening again and again, the outcome is almost unavoidable. Individuals going on short-term international mission trips experience a significant level of disorientation due to the unfamiliarity of the location, language, food, culture, etc. Additional factors that often disorient include differences in worldview of the nationals; strategies of engagement and evangelism of on-the-field missionaries or ministers; previously unseen or unconsidered ecclessiology; as well as unbridled immorality and/or abject poverty, etc. Whether in a pre-Christian or post-Christian culture, the experience does not fall into line neatly with pre-meditated expectations or life in the place one calls “home.”
The disorientation process is naturally enhanced by experiencing so much that is “new” as a group on mission. Highly committed to the Commission of Christ for this period of time, group members that identify with each other bond and make fast friendships. The ethnocentric team member that is struggling with personal discomfort instead of fixing his eyes on the prize is oftentimes removed from the center of attention by the group. Through the process of identifying with each other and connecting because of the commitment to something so much higher and greater than ourselves, communitas is formed. This is deeper than community by far. The mission unites. Taking the gospel to the lost of the world is what drives the group. In this setting, friendship comes through living out a shared purpose, rather than a group of friends trying to find a purpose that they can share to become passionate about.
After a week or so, a person is preparing to return home or perhaps just returned. So many thoughts and questions may excite or may trouble a participant. Individuals and groups don’t want to let go of the feeling…of the mission. Whether the experience serves as the sole stimulant or a part of many influencing factors, individuals often realize there are questions to address. Well into the current Upstream Collective JetSet vision trip, Ed Stetzer tweeted: “Really need to go to bed since it is 3am, but ideas are racing through my head. I’m feeling prompted to risk something big for God. G’nite.”
How Should We Then Live? To have been on mission in a sea of lostness, how do I return with enthusiasm to an environment where I have few if any relationships with people that do not already claim to follow Christ? If front line work in this cross-cultural environment is fulfilling the Great Commission, is inviting people to church the equivalent in my home setting? Do I do annual mission trips to scratch the itch that living on mission requires and then devote the rest of my time to saving and preparing for an annual week of communitas?
“How Should We Then Live?” is a question not only for the individual, but also for the sending church. How should we then do church? How should we then live as a sending and sent church?
Where there is persecution for following Christ, the church thrives. This is evident from the first diaspora until today in nations that are the remnant of Communist ideology. In an interview Ed Stetzer conducted yesterday on Upstream Collective’s JetSet Vision Trip in Taipei, Pastor Chen states that in 1966 there were 600,000 Christians in mainland China. Mao Tse Tung expected this number to disappear with the Cultural Revolution. Instead, the number of believers on the mainland has and is growing at an astronomical rate–this has been projected at 30,000 per day just a few years ago–and numbers in the millions of believers today (for a better understanding of the movement here, I heartily recommend The Heavenly Man).
Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the church today counts 5% as Christian if the Catholic church is included. Statistics in my last post point to numbers even lower than this. With a much greater openness to all things western and freedom to worship, the church has had only incremental growth. Seeking to reach out to their community, the church in Taipei is seeking to meet needs and engaging their community through creative ways such as a bluegrass concert.
Counterintuitively, persecution causes the church to rise up. Freedom and lack of oppression lead to a lack of explosive, viral growth and moves toward incremental movement up (or down). When lacking in effective external factors (e.g. persecution), then the church would do well to be on a mission greater than itself–consistent with the Commission of Christ. This mission can and does include living with our “eyes wide open” according to McManus. Of course social ministry and cross-cultural missions fit the bill here. One great expression of this zest for life and desire to impact the lives of others can be found in bluegrass music. This has effectively gathered crowds of people in countries from Spain to Russia. It is emblematic, I believe, of how a non-Christian society can be engaged by a people that love life. As followers of Christ, our lives have been changed. The joy that He brings to our life should translate to every aspect of our lives so that we are contagious people.
BTW – I am still planning to move forward with the case study in upcoming posts, just wanted to share these thoughts today.
Whether in the book or the movie, to learn that “Aslan is on the move” is rousing both to the characters and the observer. Something is going to happen. It may not be easy or safe. Things may get messy. There is probably a good amount of pain involved. But it will be exciting…and, ultimately, it will be good.
I have been so encouraged this past couple of weeks to learn of some places in the U.S.–yes in the U.S.–where God is moving. Some of these movements are exciting works in progress. Others are in the incubation stage. Each is very real. Each is concerned with impacting lostness. Each spreads the glory and fame of God, not of man. Some of these may become “movements” that we would want to try to count and dissect. Others may not. However, this connotation of the word movement is less important to me than knowing that the Holy Spirit is stirring the hearts of faithful servants to impact the lives of future disciple-makers.
Participating in the Live Sent Conversation this week was a blessing for me for so many reasons. One key reason is that I was able to meet some serial church planters. Some of these churches have already planted multiple churches. These are some normal guys being used by God to do some great things. Several of these guys readily admitted that they don’t claim to know what they are doing, but they are simply seeking to be faithful. The humility and faithfulness of the Reproducing Churches Network is an encouragement to me.
In addition to what is happening in Florida, I have recently been encouraged to learn that the Spirit is moving in a number of urban centers including Los Angeles, Nashville, Detroit, and Atlanta. Also, there are exciting things happening in Dallas, Houston, and Birmingham. I trust that there will be more posts of this nature in the future, but that is His to do and share. Together, let’s wait and pray expectantly and see what our great God will do.
This week I will be posting a number of times regarding some key points in doing mission. This will correspond with a Jet Set Tour being hosted by The Upstream Collective with Ed Stetzer. It should be an interesting and rewarding conversation. Thank you for participating in this journey. Here are some other bloggers that will be following along on the trip.
Andrew Jones (Tall Skinny Kiwi)
David Putman (DavidPutmanLive)
David Phillips (Integrating Missionally)
Michael Carpenter (Dining with Sinners)
Derek Webster (re:frame)
Grady Bauer (Missional Space)
C. Holland (Missionary Confidential)
Kevin Mullins (Life.Outpoured)
Guy Muse (The M Blog)
Ray Short (Cultural Dichotomy)
Todd Littleton (The Edge of the Inside)
Paul Chambers Cox (OMS International)
Tim Patterson (Travel Light)
Justin Powell (Urban Idealist)
David Jackson (Moving at the Speed of God)
Ernest Goodman (Missions Misunderstood)
While the number of themes was multiple through 12 hours of videos during TheNines event hosted by the Leadership Network and Catalyst, there is one that is, I believe, key for the church to be obedient–the church must be on mission. A number of speakers addressed the issue including Dan Kimball, Reggie McNeal, J.D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, and Rick Warren as well as multiple others. One clarion voice on the issue, Alan Hirsch quickly laid out 6 keys for the church to “advance the cause of Jesus Christ in our day.” The key points for the church are to:
- Recover Jesus - there must be a primary focus on who Jesus is. Failure to do this can have severely negative consequences. In addition to the key themes of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and coming return of Christ, the church should see the incarnational life as a model for disciples to live.
- Make disciples – this is what Jesus calls the church to do. We are to make little living images of Jesus. If we fail to make disciples, we will not be effective at anything that is relevant to the church. It is possible to have people referring to themselves as Christian, but not to look anything like Christ. This possibility and reality according to some modern day claims should make the church have a serious re-evaluation of the discipling process.
- Engage the world as sent people - God sent Jesus. Jesus came as one who was sent. God and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. The sending character of God says something about how we are to engage humanity. How we are to live life.
- An apostolic environment - to have a missional church, you must have a missional ministry that encompasses the five aspects of ministry found in Ephesians 4. Having a ministry view of only the pastor / teacher is not correct. Church leaders that operate with this myopic view need to expand their understanding and ministry expressions.
- Organic systems - the way the church should organize itself. Moving away from a top-down approach, the church needs to move toward development as viral or movement effect.
- Communitas – we must “put adventure back into the venture of the church.” Relating or fellowshipping together because we are together is not sufficient. There must be a greater cause that draws us toward the purpose of Christ and away from being safe in risk-free environments.
Hirsch concluded his talk with a note of encouragement and strong warning. He said that he is very optimistic about the potential future of the U.S. church. On the other hand he shared:
These are significant times. If we fail here in America, I don’t think it is going to matter too much for the church in the West. I think that the church in the 2/3 world and in the South will do very, very well…and in Asia…it is going very well. But the church in the west, I think, is in very bad shape…in big trouble.
Calling for a recalibration of church, Hirsch labors and hopes for the best for church in the west. While hopeful, he is straightforward in his assessment and warning.
Yesterday I had the privilege of being on mission with a wonderful group of people. I was amazed as this church worked to bless their community. While helping to break down the largest of the numerous tents, I asked the pastor what percent of the church participated in the event–knowing that it had to be a high number. He responded that probably about 80% of the church members were involved. One person helping had just joined the church this week.
In this missional endeavor, there was lots of sunshine, heat, blisters, language barriers, a fainting, and so much more. Raised blood pressure levels due to deadlines, roles and responsibilities, and natural mini crises were an inevitable part of the day. With so many focused on the mission, these were just speed bumps to be crossed. The purpose was so much bigger than any one person involved. The goal was for the further magnification of the glory of the Most High. As a result, this church was in partnership together way beyond the normal connotation of “community.” What they experienced through this may be more aptly labeled “communitas.”
Good job CHBC! You are a church on mission! Thanks for letting us be a part for the day!