what we’re learning…

Written by on September 8th, 2008 // Filed under mission

I am writing this on a flight from Phoenix to New York City where over the next few days I’ll be with the other leaders of the various Communitas communities around the US (San Diego, New York City, & New Orleans). Our time together is scheduled to be a time to connect as leaders of a common movement, a time to explore and imagine the future of the Communitas movement, and a time of shared learning. Communitas is an experimental movement hoping to discover new and fresh approaches to engaging the world outside of the church with the gospel. For most of us in the Western world, we have difficult accepting what is becoming increasingly clear – that the world around us is moving further from the church. The postures we’ve adopted in recent years, while still experiencing levels of success, are becoming less effective at reaching those outside the church. It is becoming clear that we need to re-imagine our efforts at reaching those outside the church by developing postures that see mission not as something as necessary only “over there”, but also “right here”. Communitas is CRM’s most recent effort at accomplishing this in the US. We are proud to be a part of this movement and a voice in this vital conversation.

As our local expression of Communitas develops in Phoenix, our primary hope is that those we’re in relationship with would meet and follow Jesus. But as we pursue this end with much exploration, experimentation, and imagination, we realize that we have both an opportunity and responsibility to pass on our learnings to help others to better engage those outside the church as well. With that in mind and with 6 months of experience under our belt, I thought it important to begin extracting the learnings thus far. While it is clear that these “learnings” are evident from our experiences and conversations with those outside the reach of the church, it is also clear that these are “early observations” and most likely will need to be tried and tested again and again to determine if indeed they provide helpful insight to those truly interested in engaging in a deeper sense of mission in their context.

about those who are outside the reach of the church:

  • most are open to Jesus, but not to the church
  • they see the church as distant from the ideals and ethos of Jesus
  • they view the church as judgmental, hypocritical, and “out-of-touch”
  • interestingly, they are responsive to Christians who seem to really live out the ideals of Jesus – mainly inclusivity, humility, authentic concern for others, & hopeful.
  • some great conversation about faith and theology can be had as long as the posture is right
  • many people have such deep hurt and baggage from past church experiences that the church has lost all credibility in their eyes.
  • our greatest challenge and role is to redeem the idea of “following Jesus” with them

about how to be blessing to the poor, homeless, and disenfranchised:

  • providing relationship as well as benevolence is really important to meeting the spiritual needs along with the physical needs of people
  • we can learn a lot about how to better care for the needs of people in relationship with them
  • most people are skeptical that someone would care for them without agenda or expectation
  • the biggest challenges to caring for the needs of others are skepticism, cynicism, and pride
  • most assume that we must be a religious organization AND expect something religiously from them to receive our care
  • skeptics and cynics of Christianity can’t argue with acts of compassion done “because of Jesus” (as opposed to “for Jesus”
  • it’s easy to provide things and services, it’s much harder to provide ourselves (relationship and presence

about developing young leaders:

  • we need to empower and inspire leaders in dream and imagine new ways to be involved in mission and to create fresh expressions of Christian community (church)
  • most young leaders have little sense of calling (they don’t understand how they fit in the Missio Dei – mission of God)
  • a key to cultivating a missional movement in Phoenix will be to help leaders wrestle through the discovery of their place in what God’s doing (calling) and to help them exercise their imaginations of what could be.
  • young leaders are frustrated and discouraged leading them to leave traditional leadership roles in the church
  • most will leave leadership roles in the church for the marketplace never to retur

There is much more that we’re learning and we’ll try to share the learnings here as we go. As time goes on, we’ll no doubt stumble across solutions to these issues which can help others.

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