Divine truth : Nurturing relationships : Apostolic mission
Neil contrasted the notion of 'Community' with that of 'Communitas' ... what makes us communitas is that we are on mission together, under pressure, an environment in which something get forged, a kind of kinship (not unlike the image of a 'Band of Brothers' in a warfare situation). Without mission there is no communitas (Philipp. 1:27-28)
We all need to maintain a healthy DNA in our lives - personally and as community;
Neil identified different size groupings that were all necessary, that provided different spans of relationships and for which we needed appropriate 'systems';
12-15 Simple Church
70-75 Regional Leadership Equipping
102-150 Network of Churches
The same DNA needs to be present and active at each of these levels
Jesus never tells us in the Scriptures to go and plant churches (though that is often the strategy). Rather he tells us to go and make disciples, that is our starting point. Disciples can become leaders who can facilitate churches and can become movements. To try to start a church often means we are scratching around for leaders, because we are not discipling people.
We need to see every believer empowered and released (image of being knighted in the movie Kingdom of Heaven). Leaders are often the bottlenecks - need to stop enabling this kind of dysfunctional dependency/relationship. Once a particular person is needed at any of the above groupings, then it becomes very difficult to multiply and reproduce. What is ultimately needed is Jesus, expressed through people who trust in him. This is practised by Jesus in the gospels - see Luke 10 and Matthew 10.
For this to become a reality, we need a 'healthy' theology of DEATH;
Die daily : Empower others : Accept risk as normative : Theology in pratice : Hold on to Christ, all else with open hands
rather than a theology that is SAFE;
Self preservation : Avoidance of the world/risk = wisdom : Financial security driven : Education = maturity
So, what do we make of all this?
Firstly, do not get preoccupied with particular form or structure. Neil did talk a little about how they are working this out, to give examples. The more important thing is to grasp the principles being presented and to ask, 'are these important for us?' What is the Lord saying to us and what do we need to take away from this and explore together? Here's what impacted me and stirred my heart;
1) Every believer is called by God to play a part in the "Missio Dei", God's mission in the world. Yet the general trend today in the church is that few truly are. The fruit of this is that in every county in the USA, we are losing ground in terms of the proportion of people being followers of Jesus Christ. So, how can we buck the trend, be obedient to the Lord, and become a worker in God's harvest field?
2) Am I devoting myself to making disciples, by investing in some key relationships and sharing my life in Christ in such a way that they grow in their life of faith and experience a deeper relationship with the Lord? This of course, calls for an authentic relationship with Christ myself. I can only 'multiply' what I already have though by God's grace, my desire is to lead people to a greater dependence upon Christ so that they go beyond my level of maturity.
3) I was especially impacted by the distinction between community and communitas. What truly binds us together and builds something among is, is a commitment to work together in mission, to be prepared to be stretched by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement of fellow believers.