“If we develop a church bent on serving the saved, then the already blessed people will come wanting more blessings… only Christians want forty Christian programs to choose from.”
One of the things that I love about new technology is the ability to snap a good quality photo with my phone at any time and share it instantly via text, instagram, Facebook, etc. Sometimes, you just want to share what you are seeing, and even though you can’t capture it fully in an image, it somehow becomes more rich when others can enjoy a piece of it too. I took the above picture during a walk and prayer time. My intention was to be alone, but as I walked upon this scene on a still day with the birds singing I desperately wanted others to experience it too!
I had a similar experience that I wished I could share with everyone last Sunday night. It was our missional community meeting. We packed into our little home to have dinner together, connect, share stories, and then share the “Story of God.” We had a lot of kids there, and at moments it was pure chaos! Oh, but what a beautiful chaos it was! Even though we are only in our second week in the “Story of God,” we can tell that this has the potential to shape us as a community in new ways that line up with God’s mission. How absolutely wonderful to have young children helping their adult parents retell the story and remind us of what we forgot! I can’t wait to see where this all goes and I do hope that more of you reading this will have the opportunity to join us someday and experience it for yourself!
Many people have been wondering what the next steps are for Tidelands now that I am ordained and will be moving into the “organizing pastor” role full time. Right away I will begin setting up a temporary office at our Camano Island home since many of the early steps in the church planting process will involve administrative work (setting up financial accounts, contact information, advertising, meeting times, website, etc). I realize this isn’t the glamorous stuff of church planting, but it will need to be done! I will also be trying to set up meetings with the many leads that I have with people in the Stanwood/Camano Island community. I’m very excited to be able to spend my days entirely in the community and to get to know people better! This is the exciting part of church planting! We delayed the “informational meeting” in the community until my job transitioned, so I will also be helping to set a date and location for that meeting.
Our discernment team has begun the transition into a missional community and we will also be setting up our “core leadership team.” Our primary focus will be on getting one missional community up and running. Already we are meeting people from the community that are interested in being a part of this group, but it will need to remain small to start. I will be working on learning more about what it means to lead a missional community and trying to set the foundation with this first group so that we can multiply quickly and train new leaders. Because we have sensed God leading us in the direction of missional communities the process may appear slow from the perspective of traditional new church development. We will only be having worship gatherings once a month at the beginning so that we can put most of our effort into building the missional communities. This will take time; there is no way to shortcut the process of building relationships and reaching out to those that do not yet know Jesus.
For those of you that are just dying to locate our new church community in a place, you will be thrilled to know that in the coming weeks we will also be looking for a building to lease for our worship gatherings. It may be a school, a storefront, or other suitable semi-large space. As funding from grant and other funding begins to come in we will also start looking for a suitable office space to lease.
Of course, now that I have written all of this, I expect that the Holy Spirit will shake things up a bit. For me, there is no greater joy than anticipating the next wave of the Spirit and feeling the push and pull in new directions. Please continue to pray for us as we get started.
“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!
In this video Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski explain the differences between a Missional Community and other groups like Bible Studies, Small Groups, Support Groups, or Social Activist Groups. It is pretty long, but if you are interested in knowing more about what a “missional community” looks like, there is some great instruction here:
Apparently the desire to begin new “missional communities” within the PC(USA) is not limited to the local or even Presbytery level. Now, at the national level God has seen fit to put people in place who are also sensing this call. If you ask me, when something like this grabs hold of so many different people within the church at the same time it is a clear indication that the Spirit is moving!
There is an interesting article pointing to this move at the National level in the most recent issue of The Presbyterian Outlook. The article, written by Erin Dunigan, is called “Rekindling the Spirit Needed for Mission to Flourish.” I would provide a link, but I cannot find it on their website yet. Here are some excerpts.
“The PC(USA) is ____________ .” What would you use to fill in the blank? The hope of Roger Dermody, deputy executive director for the General Assembly Mission Council, is that the answer would be “people who are changing lives.” Dermody’s vision, fleshed out as 1001 new missional communities in 10 years, is an ambitious challenge for a denomination that has faced struggles of political and theological controversy as its membership declines. Dermody came to the GAMC after nearly two decades of ministry at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. “By God’s grace I was part of some ministries that, even though circumstances looked bleak, they turned around,” he said. His current call, he said, is to be a catalyst for new life. “We in the Presbyterian Church used to have this incredible entrepreneurial spirit that created hospitals (and) amazing schools, as well as churches. So what I began to wonder was: How can we help inspire people to get back to that?” It was from that wondering that “1001 in 10” was born…
…Dermody said “1001 in 10” is also not meant to discount the mission and ministry of existing congregations, but rather to engage those communities in thinking of new experiments. The term missional communities rather than churches or congregations is intentional. “The minute you call something a ‘church’ we have so many rules that it almost chokes something out before it even starts,”…
Although I would agree that changing the language may create some freedom from regulation, a more positive reason for using the term “missional community” is to reinforce that idea the a gathering of believers is supposed to be identified by their common mission in Christ rather than a shared denominational membership, church building, etc. However, I recognize that the language is very important when you are talking about finding a place for something new within an existing denominational structure and polity. The article goes on to explain that there is a desire to support the grassroots movements (like the one we are beginning, I hope) rather than legislate it top-down.
[Dermody’s] hope, … is to create a movement where the church rediscovers its role in giving birth to new worshipping communities. Dermody said the initiative is not an attempt to bypass the role of middle governing bodies in new church development. “It doesn’t have to come through us,” he said. “Our role is connecting and inspiring the church and using our balcony view to see what is going on and connect that.” Dermody said he would “love this to be something that we all take on together.” He already has commitments from organizations within the PC(USA) for close to half the target number of new missional communities.
Sometimes, timing is everything. Often people want to look at attempts at New Church Development in the past and figure out how to make it work “this time around.” But if this is truly Spirit-initiated then we won’t have to “try,” we just have to respond faithfully.
This is the beginning of something brand new! Hopefully not just a new blog, but the beginning of a new missional community. This blog will be a tool for communicating with all of you that are interested in the process. As you read, I hope that you will pray. As you pray, I hope that you will be encouraged to move to further the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Updates to follow.