In the video below, Dallas Willard talked about how the biggest danger to Christianity is the attitude that it is a statement of belief rather than a life of discipleship. I was particularly struck by his comments about pastors being accused of “bait and switch” when they try to do intentional discipleship. I have heard similar comments from those that are farther along in developing missional communities than we are at Tidelands. Longtime “church” people can struggle with the idea that they are being asked to be part of a group that is focused on following Jesus in all aspects of life. Sometimes our focus on church programs and sunday morning performance results in immature Christians that want to be “fed” rather than disciples capable of leading others in being disciples of Jesus.
Perhaps this is why I often get quizzical reactions from other Christians leaders when I talk about our missional communities. I have even fielded questions asking whether we are a “cult” or a “commune.” Why would a description of people living on mission in their neighborhood result in those kinds of labels? One possibility is that I am simply not being very articulate in describing what we are doing (I’m working on this). The other possibility is that a life of following Jesus as a disciple sounds foreign to them. If the latter is true, it begs the question: what kind of “Christian” doesn’t feel comfortable with discipleship? I believe this is the kind of thing that Dallas is addressing in this video. If discipleship sounds like a “switch” then what is being used as the “bait?” Certainly not the gospel of Jesus!
There are some great resources on the GCM website if you have not seen it. If I’m honest, I still tend to expect our MC growth to look like the drawing on the left, even as I experience it as the drawing on the right.
I had this wonderful experience with a kid on my soccer team this week. He said, “Coach, what do you do for a job?” I answered, “I’m a pastor.” He gave me this funny look and said, “What’s that?” Keep in mind that this was in the middle of me trying to explain a drill to nine boys, most of whom were asking me questions at the same moment. I knew I didn’t have a chance to even begin to explain it to him right there, but it just confirmed to me that I was in the right place. It is exactly where I want to be and exactly the kind of conversations that I hope to build on in the future. I would love it if for the rest of his life, regardless of what happens, he thinks of a “pastor” as a person who cared about him on a rainy soccer field. My prayer is that he one day discovers that I was able to care for him because of the grace of Jesus in my life.
Here is an awesome video that connects in with this way of thinking about being “the church” and the role of “pastor.” I wish I could articulate it as well as Jeff does:
“If God were to pour out His Spirit like He did during some of the great historical spiritual movements of the past, we wouldn’t have the right container because we haven’t equipped our people to realize and embrace the idea that they’re on mission.”
This is a quote from an excellent article called “The Church’s Sleeping Giant” that talks about the roughly 60% of people who will not be reached by our traditional church models. It makes an argument for leveraging mega churches and multi-site churches to launch new missional communities. I would argue that mainline denominations could be leveraged in a similar way. Take a look, it is well worth reading.
It has been awhile since I have posted any updates, but that doesn’t mean that our team has not been hard at work. OK… I did take a week to escape the rain and play in the Arizona sun! I wasn’t doing much work that week, but before and after the break our team has been wrestling with the question of “vision.” Who is God calling us to reach? Why do we need to reach them? We feel like we are close to answering these questions, but we still need to do the work of articulating them for everyone else. In the next couple of weeks I should be sharing our “vision statement” on this blog that will do just that.
Vision is a tricky thing. We want to get it right, but we also know that it will develop and change over time as we respond to the Holy Spirit. Just think about how much things have changed in North American church life in the last century! I’ve been reading Reggie McNeal’s latest book, Missional Communities, that addresses how some churches are addressing some of these changes. I recommend it to you if you are looking for creative inspiration for your faith community. It is fun to think about innovative ways we can seek to be the “church” in our world today. The hard part is getting practical and putting the pieces together in a way that will work in a particular context. That is what we are trying to do. It is fun (for me at least), but it is not easy!