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Archive for the ‘communitas’ Category

Today I learned a new phrase that really caught my attention.  It comes from Len Hjarmalson’s post, Feeding the Beast.  He says,

Go on a unique, unreproducible journey with a group of people…

The rest of the post is important too but that phrase caught my attention.  You see I’ve been looking for ways to communicate what we do in Thrive, and will eventually do in Tribe.  Thrive has been almost like a lab for learning what it means to follow Jesus in a wholistic way.  Tribe will eventually become a missional network for groups that want to participate together.

But it is this journey together in missional community that has been my playground for the last five years.  And one of the tensions is that no two groups are alike.  Some are slow developing, while others move along very rapidly in their own development.  Some break up before they even started, while others find the courage to break through the chaos and discover the deeper side of community.

Yet each journey is unreproducable.

This phrase has so much permission built into it.  It speaks of the obvious, yet often forgotten fact that each person is unique in the kingdom of God and has permission to discover God in his/her own way.  No two journeys are the same.  The intent and destination are the same: participate in His mission so we can discover His restoration and kingdom.  The process is even similar: three years in a missional community. But no two paths are alike.

And what I realize now is that God has uniquely built into the journey process what is almost like a trail in the sand.  Each footprint from others vaguely remains as an outline, which invites us to follow but to chart our own footsteps that God is calling us to take.  We all practice love and trust…in familiar ways in our own lives but in distinct situations.

Yes the steps are similar, but no two steps are alike.  Each has its own timing and rhythm.  Each has its own uniquely imprinted stamp of God on it as we step forward into the Father’s embrace.  Each time someone learns how much God loves is truly unique to them, even though it has happened a million times before.  Each time someone discovers their own restoration, it has a distinct aroma all its own, even though that aroma has been enjoyed so many times before.

Much of what we do in Thrive is inspiring people to take that unreproducable journey, to discover God’s path for his/her life.  And there is an obvious hesistancy to taking the risk with God in something that has never been done before.  We want what works.  We want to know it’s going to work before we do it.  And much of my journey has been to create a framework for engaging the missional journey.  But the real work is participating, to take that first step that is meant exclusively for me.

Part of the tension for me has been in releasing what we do in Thrive back into the hands of God.  My temptation is to want to be validated by the success of what we do.  And the more I focus on the success of the groups the more it sucks.  The more I release the outcome, the more God’s Spirit shows up.  Isn’t that just like the kingdom of God.

If you are looking to participate in the unreproducable journey, a journey that is uniquely meant for you, feel free to contact me.  At this stage we are primarily loking for leaders who want to take the risk to lead a group of people in that journey.  Feel free to contact me with the email in my about page.

Much love.

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Sometimes we have to leave to know its okay to come back.

Recently I was in conversation with a really great friend struggling to make sense of God, the journey, following Jesus, Scripture, and community. And contrary to public opinion he chose to break from community.  And my first thought was that this was a bad idea.

As people designed in the image of God I believe that we are created for community.  God’s very first distinction of himself, Elohim, is a plural distinction.  It’s God in community.  But anyone who has lived longer than six seconds knows that community is not easy.  In fact, it can often be really hard.  Community has often been a place where we can’t hear our own thoughts because everyone else is thinking for us.

Face it.  Everyone has an opinion.  And people like to share their opinions.  For a thousand different reasons you can all guess.

But as I sat with my friend and wrestled through his decision, something began to reveal itself to me.  To get to true community, a true interdependence, which is a healthy reliance on community, we often FIRST have to break from dependence.  We have to break free from all the chatter, noise, and crippling reliance of those who try to rescue, fix, or control us.  We need to find that space where we can take a stand for our own hearts and place it firmly into the hands of the Father who can restore it.  To find our courage begins with God’s validation, not the world’s.

And as I sat thinking about my friend, I began to think, “What if he needed to leave to find his independence from everything that was crippling him and holding him back…so he can find interdependence in community.  What if breaking free from community was actually a good thing?”

It seems counterintuitive doesn’t it.  But healthy community doesn’t come from control.  It doesn’t happen when we show up and someone gives us permission to do certain things, believe a certain way, or even tells us how to think.  It happens when those around us encourage us on to discover what God originally intended.  It happens when there is love and each party is given the opportunity to think, to feel and to be who God created him/her to be.

So here’s to all those who are willing to leave so that they can discover true interdependence.

Listening: Facedown by Mat Redman

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This guy is asking all the right questions.  I love it.

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Erin started it…but not really. She just said what millions of people where already feeling.

Gary, Barb, Jim, Alan, Jeff added their two cents. Then Glenn told a few people and when all was said and done the idea spread like wildfire. The cat was out of the bag.

Where can we find truly authentic community? Is there a place for those who feel disconnected from traditional church but long to discover an emerging expression of being the church?

I know this feeling first hand as well. Six years ago a group of twelve of us decided to take a journey together. We sat around the room asking what would it mean to really follow Jesus. To be honest we were scared. But what took us past our fear was our sincere desire to find something real. We were sick of the Bible studies. We were tired of the wrote answers we had all been given…that didn’t seem to produce life. We were dumb enough to actually believe that God would show up in our midst, if we trusted.

Within months, we knew that we had been led to something special. I say led because only the combination of people could have put all the pieces together required for the journey. It required a joint effort that could only have been assembled by the work of the Spirit. One guy brought a protocol for operating. One guy brought teachings. One guy brought the focus of trust and love. One guy brought the intensity. It was the perfect storm and we were riding its waves. We had discovered communitas.

About three years ago, God allowed me to focus on developing this full time. And to be totally honest, it took me about two years to get out of the way of what God was trying to do through me. The more I surrendered to what He was doing, the more success we encountered, the more love seemed to show up.

And then I began to hear stories like Erin’s, and Gary’s, and Barb’s, and 12 million others. Authors wrote books about this growing trend. Organizations were started to address it. People criticized it. But we couldn’t push away the growing realization that our hearts seemed to resonate with it.

And I realized that God is doing something in our midst. The question is then do we want to participate? Do we want to take the risk to restore our own hearts, to release the baggage that cripples the best of us? Do we want to discover what God has known all a long, that we really are worth it in His eyes?

About six months ago God took us in a different direction. He revealed that what we were doing was not meant just for us, but for His followers. And so Tribe was born. Tribe doesn’t begin with church. It begins with participating in His mission, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus within a tribe. Tribe is about participating in love and trust? It’s about participating in restoration, redemption, reconciliation and repentance. It’s about finding a wholistic understanding of the journey.

Over the last couple of months a group of six of us have been working on what that looks like and how it will work. Our desire is to create an organization that is bent towards supporting those who are looking for an emerging expression of being the church. I say this as encouragement. Out there…there is someone working to create the mechanisms and platforms for you to discover His mission and restoration, to discover your tribe.

Know that He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. But ask if you really want to take the risk to discover that?

More to come…

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Note: This is one of the more personal entries I have ever written but something inside of me said share it.

Yesterday was a profound day for me. I faced what was one of my deepest fears and finally said, “No more.” I said goodbye to a long time friend that I had assumed protected me, when in fact had caused some of my deepest regrets in relationship. His name was Rejected. I know that I couldn’t have done so without my brothers, friends who are part of my missional discipleship group.

We were each doing work around the question of where God is calling us to trust. I was leading a good friend of mine who said it was time to let go of rejection. Something inside of me resonated with this statement but I was more focused on leading and so I let it pass me by. When everyone had engaged the work, I recognized it was time to end the night and move to blessing round. But my brothers quickly stepped in and said, “You aren’t getting out of this one.” I wasn’t purposely dodging anything but I didn’t realize that I was blind to this moment when God was speaking to my heart.

I stepped to the line, where we practice stepping into the Kingdom of God through love and trust. And instantly it hit me that it was time to let go of rejection, like my friend. The pain revolved around an incident with two friends from Junior High. This was my moment and I said goodbye. I knew that there was still work to do in this area and I committed to do it at a later time. Little did I realize that it would be the next morning.

This morning I was running and really began to dream about that day at the park in Junior High. I was playing with my “best friends” Tony and Shannon. It’s a memory that has stuck with me forever and was very easy to imagine. We were playing Frisbee together. I threw to Tony, who threw to Shannon, who threw to me and so on. And then I threw to Tony, who threw it to Shannon…who threw it to Tony…who threw it to Shannon. And Shannon turned to me and said, “We don’t want to be your friend anymore.” It was honestly one of the most devastating days in my life. The pain of that moment has stuck with me forever.

I can easily remember the faces and smells and sounds. The color green of the grass and the location where we were playing at that moment. And for the first time I began to look for the enemy there. He was not longer a part of me, having said goodbye last night, but he was still there. For the first time I felt a deep sense of freedom from him as I danced around the park. I kept grabbing the Frisbee and throwing it in the air in joy, completely free from the pain. There was no anger, no sorrow or pain. He was no longer my friend who protected me from the injustices of what they had done. In the past, with rejection as my alli, I could look at Tony and Shannon and hate them. Now the hate was gone.

And what happened next comes straight out of the movie Troy, with Brad Pitt. There’s a scene in the beginning of the movie where Achilles faces a giant in battle one on one, and in one move thrust his sword downward into his shoulder and through his body. The giant simply crumbles and dies. Well I did the same thing. I was dancing around the park throwing the Frisbee in the air, very aware of the joy that came from releasing my rejection. And then I saw him. He was a black mass standing in between me and my friends. And so I jumped up and thrust my sword into his shoulder and he dissolved into dust. Rejection was gone.

But then something really interesting happened that I have never seen before. I looked around and could see everyone in the playground had an enemy that was tormenting them. It was almost surreal. I could even see Tony’s and Shannon’s. And I can’t tell you how much sorrow I felt for them. At that moment I realized they were just as lost as I was back then.

And I began to wonder how many of my friends who had hurt me or rejected me were simply hurting from their own rejection? How many were broken and looking for love just like I was, yet constantly responding to the whispers to destroy relationship? And at that moment I realized my Father was inviting me to humanize Tony and Shannon. He was inviting me to restore their dignity and have compassion for them, to see them as my Father saw them. With rejection at my side, whispering in my ear, “You can’t let them do that to you,” it became so easy to simply hate them. But with rejection gone, I could now forgive them and have compassion for them.

And as I stood there in that park, freedom was now my friend.

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Jason Clark has graciously allowed me to post on his site.  The title is called, A Space Where Love Resides.  It’s about how we can easily hide in church.  Here’s an excerpt.

For several weeks I would enter the parking lot, walk from my car to the sanctuary, sit at my seat, stay for the message and then leave. The only times I was engaged during those weeks were when I was handed a bulletin and when the church invited us to say hello to those around me. In both cases I didn’t say anything more than, “hello”. And I realized over time that I could hide if I wanted to.

And as I think about this little experiment, I realized that church can often be a place to hide if we want to. The structure of church allows us to show up and punch our tickets, yet never really engage any real relationship. And to be fair, my experiment was essentially before the church began to embrace the “small group”. Most of Ralph Neighbour’s work had yet to be embraced on a larger basis. Most of the structures the church supported all happened at the church building. I’m not knocking this, just stating what was at the time.

Read more here.

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I’ve been dreaming of church lately. I’ve been asking what a holistic missional community bent towards discipleship looks like. This dream is not yet a reality but it is definitely in the works.

One of the tensions I’ve always run into is the idea that people don’t want to participate in God’s mission of restoration. The idea is that we need a Sunday service to ease people in to participation. We need Alpha to answer their fundamental questions about the Gospel and Jesus. We need to create a space where they can feel comfortable and welcome. We need to engage them in service so that the organization can function effectively. I get all that.

But does it all assume that people aren’t willing to participate? Doesn’t it assume that people aren’t willing to follow Jesus into a holistic mission of redemption. We’re willing to say a sinners prayer and serve as an usher but not much else. And by creating a structure that in effect serves our own interests, aren’t we doing a disservice to those who are walking in the door?

The reason I ask all of this is because Jesus was pretty clear in his approach to spiritual formation. He looked for those who would follow. He looks for those who were willing to participate. He assumed they would and when He asked, they did. And by creating this structure, they skipped past all of the introductions and getting to know you’s. He took them right out into the playing field and asked them to love. He asked them to participate with him in his mission.

And it is fair to say that those who followed were born into a culture of following teachers and rabbis. The Hebrew culture cultivated this ethic. And to follow a rabbi was an honor. But when Jesus called the average Joe to follow he was essentially breaking down barriers to what it meant to follow. He was telling people, “Yes, you can follow me.” So isn’t it reasonable to assume that part of the culture we need to create is one of participation?

And so much of my dream for what that church looks like is based on the assumption that there is a group of people who do want to follow Jesus, who do want to actively participate in His mission of restoration and reconciliation. They do want to practice love in a profound way. And by focusing on this group of people we begin to create a new ethic of participation, of followership and trust. We begin to expose the value of skipping past all of the Sunday stuff that leads to complacency.

Sunday service becomes secondary to discipleship and community simply because “church” really takes place in the small community. Mission takes place when we practice being love to each other and those around us. And as we engage that love we discover how feeble we really are at practicing love. And we recognize the need for the Father’s Spirit, the need for His love. And as God begins to reveal himself through us we begin to see the power of love to transform. We begin to see that God is real and deeply interested in our restoration. We begin to see His reflection in those we are in community with.

One of the consistent messages we are receiving in Thrive groups is that, “this is my church.” And, “Why didn’t someone show me this before.” And these comments beg the question, are we doing a disservice to those who are looking for a holistic approach to faith by creating structures that take the slow path to participation? Are we stunting people by not assuming they would engage discipleship? It’s kind of like handing out Vanilla ice cream at a social and then saving the Rocky Road until the last minute. Wait a minute! Let’s skip to the good stuff. And by skipping over the introductions and the get to know you’s and moving right into communitas and discipleship, we can hopefully create a community that is bringing restoration to the world around us.

And I don’t want to kill the Sunday service. I want to transform it. I imagine it as a place where tribes can gather to tell stories of transformation and how they are seeing God show up. It’s not a single person talking at a large audience but an interactive community sharing their experiences. I imagine it as a place where we gather to feast together. When was the last time we feasted together. It’s almost a hidden treasure waiting to be rediscovered. These larger gatherings serve the tribes, but they are secondary because the assumption is that real participation happens in the tribe. It assumes that we’re here to follow Jesus.

And hopefully those on the outside looking in will begin to see communitas. They will see a real community bent towards practicing love and living in His kingdom. They’ll see restoration taking place in people who are beginning to connect to their Heavenly Father in a more holistic way. They’ll begin to hear the stories of transformation that are taking place when we participate. And they’ll see a reason to skip over the intro stuff.

That’s the community I am dreaming of.

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