Well, last Friday night was the end of something and the start of something.
We finished our experimental small group that began at the begining of this year. For all intense and purposes, it failed…in my mind. Oh we had a great time, we made new friends, we did some great things together. But for me what I thought it might achieve it did not. So rather than backing off from this idea of a more intentional community we are going further down the rabbit hole! We are taking the red pill!
Yes we are moving into this intentional community stuff deeper still. Not all the way next year, in fact it could be seen as a kind of stage 2 of 3…or 4 or 5 or 6…hmmm!!
But the night was mixed with eating and drinking and then sharing of what it all might look like. I read out the email I had sent everyone (I think I will post it here) and asked for questions.
Some came with matter of fact precision of premeditated and thought out questions, others just came straight from the heart with much emotion. Some questions related to our relational standing at Whitford Church, other questions related to our relational standing with each other if some choose not to join us (ie – can we still be friends?). There was some tension and emotion in the meeting, which I always struggle with but acknowledge it was good.
Any way, here is my email I sent out to about 30 people who were on our email list for the group for this year. It was the last email I will be sending to that group as a whole. Some have already indicated they are out and some have said they are in, still others are kinda in and kinda out…an issue I am not sure what to do with other than just trust God knows what he is doing…as I am not all sure I am!
The Email –
Hi folks, I sent some of this email out to someone enquiring as to what we are doing next year for group. It was felt that this would be a good anchor point for discussion this Friday night.
I have even included ‘prompt questions’ for you!
Please have a read, print it out, write some of your own questions/thoughts/ideas down and bring it along Friday night.
We moved to Joondalup a year and 1/2 ago to be closer to the school our kids are in. This concept of moving closer to something got me thinking about issues of proximity and community. We began connecting to our neighbours at a good level soon after moving in, but was being challenged by a close friend (Matt) who is on a similar journey with his family, about intentional Christian community (wider than just the nuclear family community). I read some stuff, internet mainly but some books too. To cut a long story short, we started a ‘small group’ through our church but treated it differently, quite like a small community group, some of us existed in relationship outside the ‘meetings’ to a greater extent than I had ever done in a normal small group. This has been a Whitford church small group and we have been challenged a bit about the ‘oddness’ of our group by people.
We are wrapping this group up on the 18th Nov and sharing our vision for next years group on that night.
The suggested plan for the new group is that we will meet not as a Whitford life group but rather an different kind of group, meeting in Joondalup and celebrating the various dates on the traditional church calendar (Advent, Pentecost, Passover, Lent and so on.) On the weekends we meet, we will make that our church, no Whitford attendance. People who will come to this may initially come from all over the place(geographically speaking!)…BUT, the emphasis is that we will be forming an intentional missional community with a heart for mission in Joondalup, with our homes in Joondalup.
This has the tick from leadership at Whitford, all emails to our group are cc’d to our Senior Pastor. The Churches of Christ in WA are also informed of this suggestion.
After a year of this, one idea we have is to move to a far more localised group. We may draw the line and say we have a team of ‘missionaries’ that meet every (whatever day) for prayer, discipleship, communion whatever, we are committed to a mission of transformation (transforming ourselves, eachother, and our community with a Kingdom mindset), we will ask people that if they desire to commit to this mission then they will need to move into what we may call a ‘pedestrian community’, about a 40 minute walk from a given central point.
There are a few families and couples who worship Jesus living close by already who may or may not choose to join us, still others are buying (just this week!) in, and others looking to rent.
We are struggling with lots of issues, we don’t know what we are doing really, but we have talked too much and not acted enough, so we are now moving out of comfort zones and doing something…not too sure what though!
We struggle with being middle class, well maybe we don’t struggle enough with this and that causes good discussion.
We struggle with issues of consumerism, environment, lifestyle sustainability and all that means, we struggle with the sermon on the mount and most of the other teachings of Christ and how that looks in our lives on a day to day basis, we struggle with ‘busy’ and being at home, more present with our own families, our brothers and sisters in Christ in our community and our neighbours.
We (I, Scott) struggle with how this looks to our church and where we stand with them, to this point there has been no response to emails I have sent, yet face to face I have been given the okay to move ahead with this discussion, I have been given Marks word that if he has any problems with this he will speak openly to my face as is his practice, he has not done so, and I believe that he has no major concerns. Christine and I are in great relationship with Graeme and Michelle McLean, Graeme is chairman of elders. We meet weekly for a meal, talk openly about all this, we value these relationships and they will continue regardless of our future direction.
We are challenged by the following;
2 Corinthians 8:24Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you.
Ephesians 1:15[ Thanksgiving and Prayer ] For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,
Colossians 1:4because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—
Philemon 1:5because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.1 Peter 1:22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.
With my primary text being
John 13:34-35 (New International Version)
34″A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
This is not to deny that we should love our unsaved neighbour, our enemy and so on…
Luke 6:32” If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
But it is clear from scripture like the descriptions of the early church in Acts that there was a high visability of love in the lives of those in the family of believers.
Upon meditating on some of these verses these questions came forward for me;
1) What was it about the ‘Love’ that is described in scripture, that made “all men know that you are my disciples”? What was it? Was it their sharing their openness? Their meal times? What made the impact?
2) When and where did they see this? How was it seen? Was it in the church? In their homes? If so, what was the frequency of the unsaved peoples interaction with the believers to have such an impact that they would also want to become disciples? Just what kind of ‘church services’ did they ever run??!!! Obviously I think it was not in a service or even a bible study that the unbelivers witnessed the love between believers, it was in intersecting with the community of believers.
We love the adventure of it all, we are happy living in the tension and struggle and long to see what God has in store for us in the future.
Some Questions I and others have asked along the way, you may wish to add your own for Friday night’s discussion –
Is this a Church?
Is it part of Churches of Christ?
Does it have a name?
Does it have a strategic plan?
Is this what all Christians should do, are you making some kind of statement?
Are you sick and tired of ‘big church’ or even your home church at Whitford?
Is the plan to ‘take over’ Joondalup with houses full of Christian families, every house in every street ‘Christianised’? Is that not a bit seperatist?
Is this a bit ‘cultish’?
Are their other models you are looking at? Who? What? Where?
Will you sing? Pray? Preach?
What about giving?
What about kids and one day – teens?
It seems that a few of whitford ex pastors are involved in this, is this intentional? Should we read anything into this?
Who exactly is the ‘we’ refered to all the time?
Is this like a commune? Are you forming a nudist colony?
Will you get into ‘hippy stuff’ like growing organic veggies and becoming vegetarian?
What is an order? I have heard this term thrown around a bit. Isn’t that a monestary?
Sound like fun?
Can’t wait to see you all Friday night.
Scott and Christine.
[a special note – Mark emailed me just before group Friday night with a great email of blessing for us to ‘go for it’. I spoke with him face to face Saturday morning, and Karen Saturday night. All good in that department – I feel if relationship can remain open and honest then things will be less bumpy!]