“Where is your church?” “I’m going to church.” “I just left church.” “Did you go to church today?” “Church is boring.” “What time does church start?” “When does church get over?” “I do church by myself.” “Do you want to get together after church?” “Did you like church today?” “I wish we had a traditional church” “I wish our church was more contemporary.” “What kind of church do you go to?”
We all talk about “church” in this way at some time or another. Intellectually we know that church is more than a building, a time in a week, a worship service, a style of worship, or a liturgy. And yet, our language and our actions often betray us. We put on our “church hat” for a couple of hours on Sunday morning, get our “church” done, and then move on with real life. We sit in service thinking about all of the things we will do when “church” is done. And yet, we know that this is not the way that we want it to be. We long for something more!
The early church was never perfect – as long as sinners have been gathering there have been conflicts (remember Jesus’ disciples arguing about who was the greatest while they were with Jesus?). Nevertheless, as we seek to reflect on what it means to be the church, it is helpful to look at the birth of the church in Acts 2. When we do this, we see a very clear picture: the church is people sharing life together as they follow Jesus (“koinonia” in Greek). The church is not a “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” or “how.” The church is a “who!”
As Mountain View moves through the process of planting a daughter “church” in the Stanwood/Camano Island area we have been trying very hard to take this “who?” question seriously. We recognize that the Church is already alive and well in the community, but that there are many who are not yet a part of it. God is calling us to seek to reach them and to faithfully model what it means to be followers of Jesus. As part of our strategy, we are planning to use the missional community model of organizing a church. In this model there is not as much time and energy spent on programs. Instead, there is an emphasis on multiplication of leaders, service in the neighborhood, and introducing people to the Biblical story at home and in “third places” (public locations where people already gather). There is an emphasis on sharing life together, supporting each other, and accountability for living as “the church” in our work, school, and home. Small “missional communities” will meet weekly to seek how to live life out on mission together and reach their neighborhood.
Of course, our daughter church will still have weekly “gatherings” where all of the missional communities come together to worship, share in the sacraments, and engage the Word of God. And yet, the details of “where?,” “when?,” and “how?” to do this do not seem as pressing when our focus is on the “who?”
Very soon we will have a final version of our mission plan available for you to see. We ask that you continue to lift up our discernment team in prayer as we push toward the end of the process and creating our “missionary plan.” We will be taking a day-long retreat on June 9 to work through a big chunk of this. Also be praying that God will lead the right group of mature Christian leaders to join us as missionaries on our “core team” once we are ready to launch.
As always, the ultimate answer to the “who?” question will always be Jesus Christ! May Mountain View always be a church that centers its life and way of being the church around Jesus and following him into the world!