Three months ago I wrote a post that laid out some direction for continuing to “experiment” with our current working thesis of ministry and attempting to remain faithful to God’s call. To recap quickly, the thesis is:
“The aims of the missional church conversation can be reached more rapidly and models become more effective by unhitching ‘missional’ from its inevitable ensnarement to a church culture on life support and allow ‘church’ to happen as a by-product of Christians growing in love of God and other.”
In the post I described the basic ecclesial structure we’re after. Since then I made up an obligatory cheesy name! (3D Ecclesiology)
To clarify, the Church-Families described in the graphic are four (and possibly about to be five) actual, small faith communities here in Jupiter. Each community has between 20-50 people and was started independently by a church-planter. They are all different in make-up, emphasis, leadership, and all come from slightly different rivulets within the larger charismatic-evangelical stream. The commonality is that each provides pastoral care, discipleship, and spiritual family to a manageable number of people. The Net is a monthly public worship gathering for the four communities which has been going on for the past six months. Worship is planned collaboratively and kept very simple to ensure the focus stays on Jesus, Kingdom, and encouraging the saints. The third dimension, Everyday Mission, is still in its infancy, but the primary vehicle for the “unhitching” in my thesis to occur. There are three core elements: developing servant leaders, creating a learning community, and birthing micro-missions. It is intentionally at the bottom of the graphic because it only exists to serve in those ways.
What is unique about this ecclesiology is that the three dimensions are formally independent but interwoven through relationship. Three out of the four Church-Families have an established 501c3 organization. (Our community, The Well, is the lone exception. We have chosen to remain “unorganized” in the tradition of AA – see tradition nine.) The Net is hosted at the Jupiter Worship Center, a DBA of Living Waters. Everyday Mission will be a 501c3 org started by Amber and me. Whatever happens collectively is a function of the strength of our relationship as leaders and because we are only collaborating in areas that are mutually beneficial.
Here’s an example. Some of the people in our community want to go on a short-term mission trip this summer. Not a missional vacation – a real trip where we get to do the stuff. I had a few ideas for locations but nothing stood out and I don’t have time to sort through all the options. One of the other leaders does a lot of work with a seminary in Zambia, so we are considering piggy-backing on a trip he had planned for this year.
Another example. A friend of ours from one of the other communities went to an Everyday Mission informational meeting we hosted. She now has a vision for a micro-mission to deliver bag lunches and pray for addicts who are waiting outside a local government-sponsored treatment center. At the last Net, she sounded the call for others from the four communities to join her. It is not a “ministry of the church”, but just someone following Christ’s call to love others in a simple way who happens to have the resources of four ministries behind her.
And I believe this is only the beginning. By allowing missional activity to happen outside the realm of sanctioned church ministries, it frees up resources and creates new possibilities for collaboration. This does not mean people go out working as lone rangers – quite the opposite in fact. Instead of mission happening within the confines of what the pastor approves, or what a budget committee decides to fund, or what program can attract the most volunteers – mission happens as God calls. The tables have turned. Now leadership or the budget committee or the volunteers must decide, “Am I going to stick with the status quo…or get on board with what God is doing?”
That is the essence of 3D Ecclesiology. Creating environments where activity naturally flows towards finding out where God is moving and joining him there.