24 February 2015

The Renewal House: Locally Rooted Care

When I first co-planted our church, we struggled to find jobs with livable wages. Years ago we were strangers trying to cultivate roots in a new place but along the meandering journey we meet other strangers; strangers with greater challenges than our own. 

We encountered Refugees attempting to resettle in this city from Burma, from the Congo, from Somalia, from Sudan and from Cuba. Our city welcomes almost 1000 refugees each year and 12% of the children in our city schools are refugees. 30% of the population in our city live below the poverty line.  Onondaga Citizens League

We listened to their stories and our hearts were broken open to their struggles. 

Many refugees struggle to find ways to survive as basic as finding a minimum wage job, learning how to drive, acclimating their children to our school system and most importantly finding faithful friends that will walk the journey with them. 

Over the years we've become bonded friends with those struggling to make a new life here; walking the path with them in anyway that we could. In our work we've discerned the need for a designated local space for pressing into this issue. This space will exist to empower our refugees neighbors to move beyond surviving into thriving.

This is a project our faith community is undertaking. If you feel compelled, please help us develop the Renewal House. 

Click here to help us meet our goal> [Our Project Support Site]

Please consider how you can support our cause?

14 January 2015

Ecology of a Worship Gathering

The design of a space is never neutral; it always communicates some specific value. For example, what does it say about someone’s values if they set their living room T.V. off in a corner, while all the furniture is turned towards a window looking out into the back yard? The way a room is set up communicates certain values. Physical spaces have a way of shaping our feelings and even behavior. The church worship gathering is no different. How we design the physical space of our worship gatherings matter. How does our gathering space shape us for mission? How does it shape us for community? We already ask interrogating questions in relation to preaching since we are so intensely an information-transaction-culture. Yet we often forget to inspect the mediums we are using to communicate those messages. What if the medium we use has a message of its own? 

The very spatial mediums we use to communicate those messages shape and architect us in powerful ways. In fact, as a medium, the literal physical spaces we use may actually subvert the very messages we are preaching. What if the arrangement of spaces are actually speaking louder than what we are saying in our sermons?

Trained by the Climate
This exploration into how physical spaces shape us is called an Ecology of Gathering. Ecology is the branch of biology that looks at how organisms relate to one another, and to their physical surroundings. If we apply this field of study to our worship gatherings, then the non-living components (abiotic) of a worship gathering would be: the stage, the positioning of the chairs, the instruments, the volume of the instruments, the symbols, the place where the communicator stands, the video screens, the lighting, the communion elements etc. The living components (biotic) would be the people who are present at the gathering, including the collective vibe created by group dynamics. The premise of an Ecology of Gathering is that the non-living components dynamically interact and stimulate the living components (biotic), creating a living spiritual climate. This climate communicates a message, and over time, this climate controlled message trains us into a certain way of thinking and behaving.

The Early Jesus Movement
The 1st Century Church  had an Ecology of Gathering. Over and against the Jewish Temple-centered practices and the Greek Mystery Cults of the first century, there was an Ecology of Gathering unique to the early Jesus-followers. The early Church went through a new but vital transition that did not allow them to rely on public temples as the primary space for gathering. Meanwhile, the Mystery cults were primarily clustered together by shared social interests and were characterized by a volume of impressive rituals. The early Jesus movement was not bonded together by mere social or political rituals. In 1 Peter 2:5 we can see the transition from the Old Testament model where only a certain group of people (Levites) could dictate the gathering, to a more participatory model where every person is considered a priest, opening worship up to the priesthood of all believers. The clearest picture we have of an Ecology of Gathering is found in I Corinthians 10-14. Paul guides the Corinthians into a rhythm that centers The Lord’s Table, the expression of spiritual gifts, and the essential-ness of community. Paul was not only concerned about what they did, he was also concerned about how they did it. As an architect, Paul was paying attention to an Ecology of Gathering.

Clash with Consumerism
The gathered church does not cultivate an Ecology of Gathering in a vacuum; it will always be formed in the midst of the wider culture. Consumerism is the current we swim in, and is potentially the most exalted god in the Western context. We must become aware of how our approach to gathering has been shaped by the dominant cultural forces. The doctrine of Consumerism states that whatever dazzles us with words, with personality, with brilliant production, is worth our time. We measure our experiences by the immediate emotional return these things offer us. Consumerism is not so much an action as it is an underlying belief system, a narrative that tells us that meaning comes from the things we consume; what we take into ourselves. Consumerism sends us hunting for products that impress, productions that inspire and personalities that captivate in an effort to deliver us from our unsatisfying and bored existence.

Churches end up playing into this powerful narrative when they seek to find the relevant hot-spots for what people want, and then use them to design their “services” and “market” it to church “shoppers.” The stage, the sermon series, children's ministry that acts more like a glorified Disney Land-type babysitting service, all become covert tools to keep us coming back for more. This places all the emphasis on the veneer of the gathering not the ethic of the gathering. When we primarily design our gatherings around these marketplace sensibilities, the controlling questions end up being “Will people like what we produce?” “Is it quick and easy to access?” “How do we compete with other “service” providers?” We have to be cautious about how our gatherings can unknowingly malform towards consuming spiritual inspiration. Our worship gatherings must embrace an ecology that introduces frustrations to this stealth, rabid impulse to consume and judge the “presentation” purely based on how the experience makes us feel.

Discerning and Designing
As an architect of community, you have to begin to grapple with an Ecology of Gathering. This means asking questions and making choices based on the end goal of re-shaping people into a new narrative of self-emptying love, others-oriented community and costly mission. (Philippians 2:1-11) We can no longer simply adopt what has “worked” in the past, what works at a popular church, or what works down the street. Just because something appears to be “working” doesn't mean it’s actually working for the good. The medium is the message, which means every aspect of your gathering is either supporting your message, or subverting it.  

How can we design our gatherings in ways that build in a measure of resistance to the cultural forces of consumerism? The following are three overlapping categories for discerning and designing that help in the diagnostics of the Ecology of your Gathering.

·        How is the room arranged?
·        What values does it communicate?
·        What is central in the room? What is peripheral?
·        Is the furniture arranged for consuming or contributing?
·        How is technology used in the room? What does it amplify? What does it reduce?
·        Does the room communicate one groups values over another?

·        What is the purpose of the gathering?
·        Does the order of worship encourage watching or participating?
·        Does the liturgy perpetuate autonomy or community?
·        Does the content reflect being sent people?
·        Does the communication exalt one person or the priesthood of believers?
·        Does the worship communicate God’s transcendence and Immanence?

·        How often do you gather for worship? Every week? Every other Week? Monthly?
·        What does the frequency communicate?
·        How is the frequency of this gathering situated in the life of daily community?
·        Is this our primary expression of being the church?
·        Is this a service to attract the curious? or to gather the People of God?
·        Is the marketing around our gathering sensationalized or over promising? 

It is unhelpful to prescribe exactly how you should construct your worship gathering. The missional church is not a cut and paste model. As architects of community, we have to enter into deeper, ongoing reflection as to how the Form, Function and Frequency of our gatherings are shaping people's imagination about what it means to be the church.

10 December 2014

Top 10 Missionally Helpful Books in 2014

There were a plethora of good books I worked through this year. The stack of books on my desk were a bit larger than normal because I was in the middle of research for my own project Subterranean. Outside of research, I often find myself reading from a missional-pastoral angle. So I picked 10 books this year that helped me coach, counsel or gently cajole others to enter deeply into community, for the mission of God.

1. A Thicker Jesus by Glen H. Stassen
Sadly, Glen Stassen passed away this year but he had a significant influence on me. Both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr., were been able to practice truth against power at great personal cost, while others readily capitulated to injustice. In this magnum opus, Stassen spingboards of their work to argue that such a robust Christianity stems from believing in a "thicker" Jesus, who is Lord over all of life. Belief in this thicker Jesus results in "incarnational discipleship". We must break away from idealism, individualism and cynicism to engage in the flawed messiness of our world.

2. The New Parish by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight Friesen
I was able to hang with Paul Sparks in my own city this summer and his presence was a deep encouragement. I respect these guys because they are practitioners. This book is about when faith communities begin connecting together, for the neighborhood, they learn to depend on God for strength to love, forgive and show grace like never before. The gospel becomes tangible and compelling when the local church is actually a part of the community, connected to the struggles of the people, and even the land itself.

3. Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations edited by Kay Higuera Smith, 
Jayachitra Lalitha, L. Daniel Hawk.
In 2010, the Postcolonial Roundtable gathered at Gordon College to initiate a new conversation regarding the significance of post-colonial discourse for evangelicalism. Colonialism involves more than just territorial domination. It also silences and disenfranchises those who do not hold power. Post-colonialism seeks to disrupt forms of domination and empower the marginalized to be agents of transformation. This book offered me good challenges as a white pastor in an urban neighborhood.

4. Theology of Mission by John Howard Yoder
Decades later, these lectures read just as fresh and relevant as if they were written today. Yoder effortlessly weaves together biblical, theological, practical and interreligious reflections to think about mission beyond Christendom. Along the way he traces the developments of mission and argues for an understanding of the church that is not merely a corrective but a genuine alternative in society. My favorite chapter might be chpt 17 on the Medium, Message and Presence. He goes on multiple tirades about consumerism, conversion-pressure and the breakdown of community.

5. Sermon on the Mount Commentary by Scot McKnight
I've got a bit of an obsession with the Sermon on the Mount. I read it every year and find it refreshing and unsettling everytime. I'm always looking for commentaries on it. McKnight explains each passage in light of the Bible’s Grand Story. This is good narrative theology. Scot consistently ties the Sermon back to the countercultural life the People of God are to express; as the in-breaking Kingdom. While the writing is not highly technical, it is theologically and philosophically rich. This book is accessible to the layperson and equally challenging to the academic.

6. Living Into Community by Christine Pohl
This is my second time through this book. Many of us are idealistic and passionate about community but when we dive into it we experience deception, grumbling, envy, and exclusion. These experiences make life together painful and can cause us to bail on the project of community. When we are not faithful through the difficulty, it prevents us from developing the skills, virtues, and character we need to nurture sturdy and love-filled communities. Christine Pohl acutely looks at practices that can counteract these destructive forces and help sustain vibrant communities.

7. Facing Levianthan by Mark Sayers
I was able to have breakfast with Mark recently and was captivated by his quirky, unconventional, rapid fire wisdom; this book reflects that personality. On one side, the mechanical leader casts a vision of heroic action aided by pragmatism and technology. On the other side, the organic leader is aided by creativity, defying convention and relishing the margins. This book explores the godlikeness of the mechanical leader and the dark chaos of the organic leader. Sayers weaves the history of leadership through the Enlightenment, Romanticism and the 19th century pointing out the leadership dangers while calling us to a better way. 

8. Incarnate by Michael Frost
For real, this is Mike's best book as he is prophetic in his critique of disembodied ways we attempt to be the church. The story of Christianity is a story of incarnation—God taking on flesh and dwelling among the people he created. Yet Christianity is increasingly understood as something personal, sentimental, interior, private, neighborless. As a result of dualism, technology, and individualism, the vast majority of people are now living relationally disconnected lives. Frost defines the problem but then provides hope for the church to be the incarnational alternative in society today.

9. The Peep Diaries by Hal Niedzviecki
We have entered the age of "peep culture": a tell-all, show-all, know-all digital phenomenon that is dramatically altering notions of privacy, individuality, humanity and community. Peep culture is YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Blogs. In the age of peep, we live vicariously through others, form pseudo relationships with people we'll never observe in real life and erode our senses with constant stimulation. The Peep Diaries reflects the aspirations of the growing number of people willing to trade the details of their lives for catharsis, attention, and notoriety.

10. Place Attachment edited by Lynne C. Manzo & Patrick Wright
Place attachments are emotional bonds that form between people and their physical surroundings. These connections are a powerful aspect of human life that inform our sense of identity, create meaning in our lives, facilitate community and influence action. Place attachments have bearing on such diverse issues as rootedness, belonging, placemaking, mobility and loneliness. This is a highly academic read, I think its a text book. I found it helpful in understanding the crisis before us; that we're encountering a generation that doesn't know how to stay but is caught in perpetual search for the next opportunity.

What books were helpful for you this year?

01 December 2014

Advent: The Challenge of Waiting

In this Season of Advent we learn about waiting. Waiting is painful; it brings anxiety and in some cases causes us to wonder - “Where is God?”, “Does God sleep?”, “Does he care?” 

Malachi had spoken of the Messiah’s coming in chapter 1 "I have loved you, saith the LORD. Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me saying ‘the Lord, whom ye seek is coming to his temple, for he brings a new covenant, a new day of delight. Will you stand with him when he appeareth? For his message is like a refiner's fire."

Imagine being the Jewish people hearing these words of promise, the coming of a new day, a new hope and then suddenly silence. After these words from Malachi there was cold, tortuous silence for 400 years. Between the Old Testament and the New Testament it seemed as if God disappeared. Nothing was spoken and nothing moved. 

Jesus did not arrive into a quaint storyline. There were thousands of people hanging on the words of Malachi who did not see these words fulfilled. There are no easy answers as to why God would take his time. In our emotional economies this is not O.K. In our demands for immediacy there is no space and no purpose for waiting. What we need, what we long for, must come on our terms and on our timelines. If we have to wait too long we're prone to move on, become cynical and pick another course. 

By the time Emmanuel arrived, those looking for the Messiah had been whittled down to a small remnant and few were looking any longer. Many had filled in the silence with their own agendas and demands. During Advent we are challenged with the complexity of waiting. We are confronted with our own character, our own faithfulness and our own expectations. This is the challenge of waiting. “Why would God makes us wait for what is good?” 

During Advent we ponder the place we are in. We have been offered a new purpose but not one without pain and paradox. We are given vision for a Kingdom-future but then we are weighed down in the obstacles of today. Our lives are still a mix of delight and despair. We are exposed everyday to the merging of brokenness and beauty. As we light the Advent candle’s let’s consider what we are waiting for. Let’s consider the kind of people we desire to be as we wait. To hold onto hope is to embrace that God's Spirit may be working on character deep within us as we wait.

A Community Prayer for Waiting

When we are heavy with sorrow, 
let us cling to a whispering hope.
When we are deep in the night, 
let us not forget the light we’ve once seen.
When we are exhausted from waiting, 
let us find strength in each other.

Like the Remnant of Israel, teach our hearts how to wait.

When we are hardened by conflict, 
let love interrupt our bitterness.
When we are frightened by scenarios, 
let us receive wisdom from each other.
When we are haunted by failures, 
let grace heal our self-inflicted wounds.
When we are dismal and defeated, 
let faith be our nourishment.

Like the Remnant of Israel, teach our hearts how to wait.

When we are weary and complaining, 
let our hearts discover perspective.
When we are apathetic and clumsy, 
let deep apologies flow from our lips.
When we are dashed by disappointments,
let us find footing to press forward.

Like the Remnant of Israel, teach our hearts how to wait.

We are sheep who wander in the waiting, 
but the Shepherd knows our names.
We are strangers without a country, 
but the Kingdom of God is our true home.

In this time of great meaning, 
in the stillness of Advent, 
birth new patience, 
give us grace for the days before us.

In the name of the Father, 
the Son and the Holy Spirit, 

20 November 2014

The Fracking of Spiritual Information

Fracking is form of gas extraction. In the old days, a well was drilled straight down and gas was pumped up. Now to get at less accessible gas, wells are drilled thousands of feet down and then thousands more horizontally. Hydraulic fracturing pumps thousands of pounds of water, sand and chemicals down the well to fracture the rock that holds the gas. This extraction process boosts production, migrating natural gas and petroleum to the well. For all that is gained in Fracking there is a growing chorus of people exposing the environmental impact. No one contests how productive Fracking is for extracting gas, it is exceptionally productive. What is being pointed out is that the process leaves behind damage. Whatever your opinions on Fracking are, they are irrelevant for what I’m poking at. The greater question I want to ask is “What does Extracted Learning do?” Often our celebration in extraction revolves around what is gained, pulled to the surface. Extraction always profits us something yet leaves behind something in the aftermath. 

The Damage on Practice

I contend that the church has submitted to information-delivery techniques that extract. How we learn and teach is stuck in a habit that perpetuates separation. In order to get at, isolate, codify and distribute spiritual information we’re damaging something in the process. The very way we execute the majority of our learning within the Church through the vehicles of sermons, Sunday schools, podcasts, 6 week courses and Bible Studies often does bolster extraction. Like Fracking, our mechanisms for delivering Spiritual Information leaves behind damage in the process; the character of Practice. Practice is left lifeless and inept. As with Fracking, we may efficiently lift information to the surface but do environmental harm on our social existence as the church. Our souls are impoverished because we consume calories of information but are isolated from local, faithful, practicing community. Our current unquestioned approaches to transferring spiritual information are brutal on the virtue of Practice

How We Learn

Practice is the inner quality of being formed and informed by the bumps, bruises and baptism of application. Practice is at the soul of being a Jesus-follower but more so it becomes the material for credibility as the People of God.  James 1:22 -- “But be people who live out the truth, not people who merely receive it and fool themselves. When you do this you are like a person who looks in the mirror, walk away, and then forget what they look like.” The future of the Church must re-calibrate how we learn, understanding that we are shaped by the techniques we employ. The methods we implement for maturing as Jesus-followers either lead to increasing integrity in our practice or lead to an increasing in-authenticity in our practice. When it comes to education, theology and personal betterment more and more of our learning processes perpetuate extraction, removal from habitation, in order to acquire the desired information. 

Information and Immersion

Divorcing information from immersion is something I bump into regularly. It is all around us but we’re acculturated to it. A few years back my wife and I went through a 3 month adoption training course to get our adoption qualifications. I was taken aback when I asked our certified instructor his experience about a very specific family challenge that went beyond the written training material. His reply was “I’ve never had a child in my home, not sure I’m cut out for that”. Now I’m cool with his choice about not having children but it was hard for my wife and I not to wince. Why wasn’t this odd to anyone else? How can one be an expert in Family Therapy without ever being tested by the real life challenges? I was sitting under an expert who never touched and grappled with the information in the real world.  It has become normal to separate the spiritual information we store up from actualization locally. This used to be called hypocrisy but now it’s simply the way in which we carry around and sometimes sling around the information we’ve collected in our mental folders. 

Expert Delusion

We can be proclaimed experts without immersion. It seems like never before we are more inflamed or convinced about some theology, new idea or cause that is less sourced from what is happening on the ground in our local places and more from what provocative story we read on-line, what blog we recently devoured, what book we just inhaled or what podcast we just downloaded. We are fascinated with what we can discover that will boost our enlightenment or boil our blood. Only in an information-based society can Christian author's write from a place of ideation rather than a place of practice. At times I’m lured into the lie that I can be an expert on something because I’ve had information-intake on a specific matter. Peter Senge in his book the Fifth Discipline unpacks our fixation on becoming experts -- “Being an expert gives us power and prosperity over our peers.” We secure our strength in our societal cosmos when we have more accumulated intelligence in our head than anyone else. This knowledge offers an expert-delusion that we are not vulnerable to making the unenlightened errors others will. We fear ignorance, ignorance is our enemy. In no previous time has there been such a fire-hose, keg-like binging on information. We are rabid about acquiring information but at what cost? A great divorce has been filed between information and immersion. This separation propels the opinionated milieu we find ourselves in and presumes we are transformed because we’re informed. 

What needs to change in our churches and spiritual living to close the gap between information and immersion?

17 November 2014

Community Patterns for the Church (7 C's)

When my wife and I got married 16 years ago we'd already been dating for 5 years prior. We had a winding dating relationship that was stretched by time zones, career u-turns and simple immaturity (mostly mine) but we continued to hold onto each other despite these challenges. Naively I thought our sheer romantic-will-power would be enough to cultivate a vibrant marriage. I was an idealist that needed to experience the school of hard knocks. The first year was filled with beautiful memories but the assaulting arrows of: demanding jobs, fluctuating finances, existential crisis (mostly mine), complicated outside friendships, the intensity of school, and learning to grow up, was an onslaught to our bondedness. Our emotional love for each other was still strong but a significant shift needed to take place if we were going to build an abundant life for the future. We needed new patterns. 


All of life is built upon patterns. In the natural world bees form their honeycombs methodically, robins put together their nests piece by piece and planets loop around the sun in a strict cycle. All of these are wild expressions in nature, yet none of them is spontaneous and random. They are exuberant but they are organized around a pattern. These prescribed patterns form the platform for robust displays of brilliant beauty. Patterns on the surface can seem constricting, stiffly organic expression. Funny thing, organic farming is hip but organic farming is anything but haphazard. Ask any organic farmer how intentional, premeditated and rhythmic their toiling is in order to produce a bountiful, colorful, natural crop. 

Shaping Together

Patterning is part of the biblical narrative. The Genesis one account reflects creation patterns, instructions given to Moses for building a tabernacle reflects patterning – “See that you make this according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain” (Exodus 25) and the Apostle Paul urged people to model their lives on the pattern of other Jesus-followers – “Take note of others and live according to the pattern we gave you.” (Phil 3). My own marriage lacked healthy patterns that would produce fruitful character in our oneness. We lived by anti-patterns. I love mystery but we both learned our relationship needed to move out of the abstract and into some particular patterns we could commit to and apply together. We fashioned daily, weekly, monthly and yearly patterns. The goal was not to reach some level of self-congratulation but rather partnership towards growing something beautiful in our midst. Some of those early practices were as simple as a daily cup of coffee to download the happenings of the day, or going over finances weekly so no one bore the stress alone, or having a full date day monthly to indulge in each other. Some of our patterns have changed over the years but we've committed to them, rallied around them and trusted they would shape our life together in the typhoon nature of the world.


This post is not about my marriage but it is about patterns and the church. I share my waking-up to patterns because what I felt in my early years of marriage, I feel deeply about the church now. The church needs to re-evaluate its patterns of togetherness in the places they dwell. Lesslie Newbigin has said "We are shaped by what we attend to". We must refresh what will conform us into a love-filled, grounded people, for the good of the world and the glory of God. I’m a minimalist, believing that the power is in the essentials not the luxuries. From that perspective I ask "what are those essential patterns we must cultivate that foster a vibrant life together in the world?". I find the question "how can we be a relevant church" distracting from what will nourish ecclesia for the future. What is really relevant is when the church is the church, not when it’s an impressive production. We need a full recovery of simplified, sacred, shared-patterns that mold a new but old way of being Kingdom-Come in the neighborhoods we inhabit. We are human so our joy, energy and emotional maturity towards living as the church ebbs and flows, which makes it paramount to covenant to foundational patterns. I use 7 C's to explain the patterns I attempt to live into with others. 

1. Commitment (A Pattern of Fidelity) – We need a foundation of mutual commitment to each other. If you're gathering a cluster of people to live as the People of God do not be afraid to ask for a long term commitment to a neighborhood together. We're not in a promise-keeping culture so commitment sounds alien and potentially cultic. Covenanted-community is a core sacrament of the church. This is not an issue of control but of mutual love for one another. Love is not sentimentality it is fidelity. Love is a rugged commitment to be with and for someone. Many live their lives with a strong dose of individualistic-ADHD, transitioning to the next shiny, exciting opportunity that benefits them. We cannot be fueled by inspiration as inspiration comes and goes; we are fueled by covenant-love, patterned after God’s relentless faithfulness to us. Discover rootedness, converse about it, come together, fashion some vows together, don't take them lightly and press into a long faithfulness.

2. Communion (A Pattern of Remembering) – The Lord’s Table (Eucharist) is our banner reminder of who we are to God, who we are to each other and who we are in the world. We rally around this living feast because of how forgetful we are. We need to tell each other with symbol and sacrament that we are loved, we belong to God and we are sent on a cruciform mission. This Table marks us, humbles us and fills our souls back up. This becomes a blazing signpost for our existence as the People of God submitting to the reign of King Jesus.

3. Common-Table (A Pattern of Welcoming) – From the Lord’s Table flows a secondary table into our lives; a common table. This common table is a coming together to feast, to share our food, linger and laugh, share our high’s and low’s and make space for strangers in our life. Kids play among us, tears flow when it's been a hard day and warm hugs are offered liberally. This pattern shapes our social muscles together, one that is generous, hospitable and constant. The schedule of our lives will resist this table-pattern but we must practice a counter-resistance.

4. Confession (A Pattern of Truth-Telling) Galatians 6:4 says "Let everyone examine together the work they've accomplished, for then you can delight in the work of your hands without pride. Do not compare yourselves with each other; rather seek God’s help in making the inner secrets of your hearts plain.” This verse inspired the Jesuit practice of The Examen of Consciousness founded Five-hundred years ago. It was an Examine practiced in community to explore motivations, hopes, failures and sneaky sins. Examine is essential for maturing together. This pattern of examine is our place to confess who we are. We need safe spaces that encourage discourse and disclosure. What does it mean to be confessional about who we are? We must learn to tell the truth. Truth-telling is first about speaking the truth about ourselves before pointing the speck out in someone else’s eye. Yet we must seek understanding when we observe relating that is untruthful, perpetuating the nursing of wounds, angry inner tirades, passive aggressive postures and festering sins. Confessing who we are in safety is a cord that holds us together in a viral culture of dishonest relating

5. Conflict (A Pattern of Dialoguing) – We will offend one another, we will hurt each other because we are human and flawed. What will we do when we intentionally or unintentionally jab each other? Will we bail? Will we revert to gossip, detached attitudes, ruminating in paranoid interpretations, hiding behind words in emails and collecting weapons to unleash on each other? When we sense our rights have been stepped on, or voice has gone unheard, or our input has not been valued: we must vow to new patterns of conflict. We must name these new patterns, hold each other to them and invite each other to refresh our 
application when they are not practiced.

6. Complexity (A Pattern of Diversity) – Community does not obliterate our individuality. We must make space for our uniqueness, our hobbies, our distinct cultures, our political leanings, our varying education levels. We must not force conformity, graciously learning how to make room for each other beyond affinities. This means listening to each others differences, celebrating each 
other’s milestones, partaking in each other’s cultures and genuinely listening and learning from each others opposite experiences.

7. Crisis (A Pattern of Supporting) – Crisis precipitates a change in our lives and we must be there for each other when this occurs. A loss of job, a significant failure, a death, a marital fight, a loss of faith, are all matters for community to press into urgently and appropriately. We must take crisis seriously and feel the full burden to carry our brothers and sisters when it arises. No superhero person can do this, this is covenant-commitment to each other.

These are the patterns that I've been attempting to live into over the years. They have become my foundation for being the church as the expression of the Kingdom of God. All of these Patterns stirred together create a crock-pot for God’s Spirit to brew and create a new Kingdom flavor of body-life. 

What patterns would you add to the list?