About 3 weeks ago I stumbled upon a resource that couldn’t have dropped out of the sky at a better time. In our church plant in Syracuse we have been forging a new model of church in the heart of the city. Our growing launch team has been training under the radar for the last few months, diligently deconstructing and then reassembling a fresh biblical take on the Story of God. I’ve been committed to this tedious, sometimes painful and sometimes awkward process. I’ve felt for a long time the epic truths about why God launched the “human project” on this earth, how we participate in it daily and where everything is going is lost on most people who call themselves Christians. This overarching narrative should dominate our church life and conversations as followers of Jesus. Instead, for most Christians being a Christian is about avoiding sin, doing your quiet time, raising safe Christians kids and serving the programs of the church; which somehow all adds up to glorifying God. At Axiom we challenge that quite a bit.
A piece of reassembling what God is about and has always been about is seeing the thread of community throughout the scriptures. God is communal. He has passionately pursued sharing with His "human project" the implementation of His great hopes for this world. He has consistently elected gatherings of people to partner with Him in the mission or renewal, justice, order and rescue. He called Israel and now the Church to partner with Him to spread His shalom and holy love in His world. Community is at the center of the effectiveness of this mission. Community is a failure if the end result is our personal friendship needs being met. Supernatural Community is about joining God together in being Priest’s in this world.
So the practical question is how do the people of God; work together, play together, eat together, share life together, do justice together, digest His Word together, love their neighbors, welcome the stranger together for the sake of building for the Kingdom of God? I personally do not thank the traditional model of church wrestles with that question well. At Axiom Church we have been ardent about grinding out a model of doing church that creates space for authentic missional community. We are not content in owning the cliche of saying we have community because we have a few small groups and a place to serve n the church.
As we’ve been swimming in this divine experiment of figuring out what church looks like with a communal ethos at the core, its been hard to find tried and tested resources. I’ve read a truck-load of theory books on community over the years but could not find authors who were working communal driven models out in real-time. That was until I bumped into a book from two U.K. guys called "Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide" by Mike Breen and Alex Absalom. This book is straight up, undiluted practice on how to frame church around missionality and community. Over the next few weeks I’m going to blog/review my way through it. So far this book has been packed full of treasures. I’ve already been marking up my copy so much it looks like I’ve lost my mind. Church planters like me who are fending off traditional launch plans packed with dollars, buildings, and numbers crave content like “Launching Missional Communities”. Check back as I tear through this puppy and see what goodies are translatable to 'Cuse.
27 February 2011
17 February 2011
Community is at the center of the God-head.
1) When it comes to creating humanity God does not simply speak a word of command; He engages in conversation amongst the Trinity “let us make mankind in our image” (Genesis 1:26). This is communal not individualistic.
2) God also makes it clear that His own image cannot be portrayed by an individual but by men and women collectively (Genesis 2:18). Our divine personhood should not be alone “it is not good to be alone." Our personhood to God is defined in relational terms. We are not fully human on our own.
3) In the narrative of Scripture we see brightly the plan of partnership (Genesis 1:28, John 17); God’s has a deep passion and pursuit to have meaningful interdependence with His human project and accomplish something with them.
God himself is social rather than a solitary being.
16 February 2011
07 February 2011
Our Axiom launch team has been studying and conversing about our core value of Love. This is a snippet of what we are learning. Sorry it's a bit long.
The religious experts of Jesus day were knowledgeable interpreters of the Torah, the Jewish law and they took it upon themselves to discern how best to live out the laws of God without breaking them. One sure and safe religious method when it comes to laws is to make more laws in order to clarify big-idea laws. This is actually quite a typical response in religious culture to oppose pagan or secular culture. For the religious experts, their intent started out good – to make “the law” doable and clearer. By the time Jesus came to earth it was common knowledge that the Torah contained 613 separate commands and prohibitions. These were designed to help ordinary people “please God.” Or at least that was the intention.
The pressure to “please God” can be a tricky and sometimes a manipulative force. The evangelical church has placed a lot of discipleship emphasis on the rigorousness of how to please God. I do think the intent is good but I believe the outcome has been disastrous. When Jesus speaks He believes it is has disastrous effects as well; guilt, pride, self-righteousness, neglect of the poor, spiritual narcissism, pettiness, cold-heartedness, selfishness, hatred, envy and an overall misunderstanding of who God is. These are often the byproduct of a rule-based, moral-code based or pressure-to-please based, pursuit of holiness.
When speaking about the nature of the Kingdom, Jesus makes a strong and overt case for the redefinition of what pleases God. At a pivotal moment some religious expert came to Jesus with a question because they wanted to trap Him. In Mark 12:28 the experts ask Jesus “Of all the commandments which one is the most important?” So the real underlying question could be phrased like this “How do we be truly holy and please God?” In His answer Jesus flips the apple cart upside down on the formula for pleasing God and we’ve been struggling to embrace it ever since. Jesus obliterated the 613 laws and reduced them down to 2.
We often think of holiness in terms of purity or a moral barometer. The church has traditionally interpreted Be Holy for I am Holy (1 Peter) or Be Perfect as the Father is Perfect (Matt 5) as “Hate impurity because God hates impurity or avoid sin because God doesn’t tolerate sin in His presence.” I’m all over the seriousness of maintaining moral purity but that really isn’t how Jesus defines holiness and remember, Jesus is God. Jesus’ response is what I like to call “the new holiness”. Jesus responds by blowing up what holiness is. Jesus’ response to the teachers is extremely unnerving to their understanding of God and I think to our current church understanding as well. It is also a blazing spotlight on the new way of the Kingdom of God. There is a new accountability marker (pleasing God) that Jesus lays out in Mark 12:29-31. Love is the new holiness.
Maybe your unsure about forcing everything you are, and do, and say through the truth “Holiness is Love” because you’re afraid it will make you weak, wimpy and not stand for anything. I love this quote “When God flexes his muscle, it doesn't look like Rambo or the Terminator — it looks like Calvary!“ You may think it’s weak and the culture may think it’s weak, but that is the upside down way of the cross. Colossians 2:15 declares “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, Jesus made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” How is it that Jesus made a public spectacle of them when he was the one left exposed naked, lied about, abused, beaten up by a mob, laughed at, had his authority mocked, and ended up having his followers embarrassed to know him? Because Holy Love always triumphs in God’s economy. In God’s earthly Kingdom the powers and sin that seem to be winning – LOSE. The people who appear to be losing – WIN. This new Law of Love requires constant community discernment when it comes to applying it to our everyday circumstances. When the lights go on that the real manifesto of a kingdom community is love, we invite the struggle of how this piercing and cutting truth should inspect all our motives, actions, choices, idols and social relationships (Galatians 5). Love is our opportunity to expand Jesus down payment here on earth. Love should be our trajectory for growing God's church, being salt in our culture, and governing our personal and communal lives. We have a choice to live out this Law of Love.
inspired by Jesus Creed by Scot Mcknight
inspired by Why It's Hard to Love Jesus by Joseph M. Stowell
03 February 2011
This is a book I devoured and highly recommend - ONE.LIFE by Scot McKnight. It reframes "following Jesus" around the movement of the Kingdom of God here on earth. This is a very different angle for some but I believe it is more faithful to the words of Jesus. Years ago I discovered this central truth in the Gospel's and it has changed my understanding of the Christian life dramatically.