Our 3-fold missional posture

As we’ve started communitasPHX here in downtown PHX, we’re spent some time thinking through the posture we take the world around us.  The way we’re understood and positioned to those who God’s given us proximity with is important to the movement we’re trying to cultivate and I’d thought I’d take a moment and document it here, both to invite feedback and to publish it somewhere to keep us focused on it.

We’re exploring a 3-dimensional missional posture.

First, we have an individual mission.  We understand this individual mission as the responsibility each of our team members have to be a blessing to those we rub share life with (ie. our neighbors, owners of local businesses, those at our workplaces).  This is the most important dimension of mission we are involved in as a missional community, as we each have unique relationships in our lives.  We each see ourselves having primary responsibility to care for and be a blessing to those who God has placed in our individual lives.

Second, those involved with communitaPHX have a collective mission we share in.  Our collective mission is understood as those relationships and activities that we share in together.  For example, we each have relationships that we’re building in our “individual mission” which we introduce to other communitasPHX community members and/or as we host parties, dinners, & events as a larger community, relationships are spread from one member of our community to the others. At this point, we see a collective responsibility to care for a to be a blessing to these people. Also in this concept of collective mission is our larger communal posture toward the redemption of creation whch includes community-building, ecological, justice, and creative elements (this speaks of our larger understanding of our mission as joining the mission dei). This forms the central basis of our collective life as we understood ourselves to be ambassadors of the kingdom – exposing the beauty and availability of God’s Kingdom to those around us.

Last, we are involved in a public mission. While the majority of those who participate in our communal life and/or initiatives will enter through a relationship with a participant of the community, we invite anyone to join in our efforts and life together simply through the resonation of our ideals.  In other words, someone in downtown PHX hears about a group of people who are focused on spirituality (holistic & jesus-centric), community, justice, & creativity and becomes interested (altough they don’t know any of us personally). This actually is beginning to happen with some regularity as we have launched a postcard campaign to get our ideals out in the community. So we understand a part of our calling to be a public one, championing kingdom ideals and inviting people into them (whether they understand the spiritual connection) or not. We also are discovering some success with this public sense of mission through the use of social media such as twitter, facebook, and our blog.

Interestingly, this approach blow past the “missional vs. attractional” debate that seems to be taking up a lot of time, space, and energy in church circles these days.  We understand our identity as followers of Jesus as invited participants into the Mission Dei (the mission of God to redeem creation) which demands that we be people of mission on a DNA level.  Functionally, as a movement (communitasPHX) we see our role as one of inviting people into a common life with us in pursuit of Jesus, community, justice, and creativity (which could be defined as attractional). I will write more on the missional/attractional debate on my next post.

This approach is sure to evolve an adapt as we do as a community and movement.  This 3-fold posture is an attempt to put balance to the many and complex dimensions of multiple individual lives lived in common ways.

Celebrating a new Addition

We discovered last week that a good friend of ours, Dave Hanson will be moving Downtown to be a prt of the communitasPHX team.  This is great news, both because we welcome the help AND because Dave is an amazing guy, with a huge heart, some deep interest in sharing life with those who are disenfranchised and voiceless here in PHX. As Dave’s been hanging around our house and events, it’s been great to share it life and mission with him.  We’ll still working out the details of his transition into the neighborhood and what role he’ll play with the communitasPHX movement, but however it plays out we’re thrilled to invite Dave into our lives, mission, family, and neighborhood.

The Challenge of Inaction

My friend Dave and I recently were chatting about some of the challenges of getting others involved in the various communitasphx initiatives. It has seemed that while most people we meet are respectful and genuinely inerested in the ideals we’re exploring (jesus, community, justice, creativity), it’s been hard to get them to actually dive into action on these issues. In other words, while we often hear things like, “That’s something I would be a part of.” or “I’d love to help!”, very few of these people have been able to participate in one of our initiatives.  As my friend and I talked through this, I was excited about some of the understandings we gleamed from the dialogue.  Here’s the best of ‘em:

Issues keeping people from doing something significant in their lives:

  1. Lack of Conviction
  2. Lack of Commitment
  3. Lack of Discipline (habits)

Interestingly, these 3 “Lack’s” form a pathway – conviction leads to commitment, which in turn leads to the creation of discipline. Trying to dive deper into this, we translated what this practically means for a person stuck in each of these realities.

What we mean by these terms:

  1. Conviction – a truth that we’re convinced of that shapes who we are.
  2. Commitment – a decision to “do something”. Based on a conviction we hold.
  3. Discipline – an intentional set of rhythms that help us “act out” our conviction and commitments

Taking this yet another step further in our conversation, Dave and I attempted to explore the “why’s” of these realities.

Why people live with a lack of conviction, commitment, and/or discipline:

  1. We lack conviction either because: 1.) we lack the ability to think for themselves (which is truly sad if it is the case) or 2.) we don’t have enough information (meaning = if we knew about this, we would care about it).
  2. We lack commitment often because we struggle to make decisions.  This lack of decision making ability could be due to a number of things: fear of failure, procrastination, insecurity, etc.
  3. We lack discipline either because 1.) we don’t know what to do (we can’t imagine a set of appropriate rhythms) or 2.) we are lazy. It will always be easier in the short-term to sit comfortably and do nothing. New rhythms take work and require a change of the way we live.

These are preliminary thoughts, but I was impressed with the number of insights we came out of a simple and informal conversation with.  For sure, these issues are more complex and dimensional than we’ve stated, but for us it’s a starting point at what we nee to challenge in those we share life with in order to see real change in our city.

Have some additional thoughts or a different perspective on any of these points?  Please “chime in” in the comments section below.

“get involved” page is online

Throughout the month of September, we’ve been working on some ideas to invite those from the larger downtown community into the various communities and initiatives we’re creating.  What we decided on was to design and print cards that we’d place in art galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants around downtown in hopes of exposing our efforts to a wider audience.

In keeping with our beliefs that those with and without faith are drawn to the ideals of spirituality, community, justice, and creativity, our card design was meant to provoke curiosity and spark interest leading those in our community to discover our movement in more depth. Se the card here.

To get these cards out in the community, we’ve needed to develop our website a bit more so that as people came to communitasphx.org to find out how to get involved, they would find a listing of the various initiatives we’re launching and could get involved in one that interests them. As of today – the website’s ready so the cards will go out in the community this weekend.  Wish us luck!

A Glimpse of Love in Action

Each month a few of us crash a local laundromat with pockets filled with quarters and a bucket of laundry soap in hopes of being a blessing to the low-income families in downtown Phoenix. It’s a little gesture, but through it, we’re learning to care for those of diverse backgrounds and economic realities. It’s great, we care for them a LITTLE bit and the teach us a LOT. We believe it’s actions like these that will change our city, and it starts by changing us. This Thursday (Sept. 18), we’re headed back to Wash and Dry Laundromat once again to continue the relationships we’ve built and hopefully forge some new ones. Our hope is to have projects like these all over the city.

August’s Laundry Love Project via Flickr

Where we’re headed in Fall ‘08

I am not sure if it’s the end of the summer (a hellish season here in the desert) or if it’s old Youth Ministry habits that we can’t kick, but the fall represents the start of a new season of life and ministry for our family. Fall ‘08 is shaping up to be no different. We’ve got some great new direction that I think line up well with us in this season of communitasphx’s short lifespan.

Here’s the highlights:

  • we’re publicly launching the movement that is communitasphx by inviting those around us into the ideals (Jesus, community, justice, & creativity) that we believe best expose the kingdom of God in our world. We’re convinced that at the heart of each individual, there is an interest (even a longing) for these ideals. We want to invite people to join us in exploring them and orienting our lives around them. See this post to see the postcards we’re getting out into our community.
  • we’re launching some new initiatives to invite those outside the church experience and participate in Kingdom activity
  • we’ll pull together people we’ve met so far to form the beginning of a faith community this Fall. It’ll start with a weekly dinner, conversation/study of Jesus, and prayer together

Here’s a list of the initiatives we have planned and how they fit into our ideals:

spirituality/jesus –

  • faith community gatherings (weekly) – a shared meal and conversation about following jesus
  • a symbolic order (on-going) – a “dispersed order” together vowing to the ways of jesus, community, justice, creativity
  • communitas network (bi-monthly) – a time for missional practitioners in Phoenix to meet, dream, learn, and collaborate

community –

  • neighborhood bike rides (bi-weekly) – inclusive rides to build community, develop presence, and to have fun.
  • First Friday parties (monthly) – “porch parties” which serve as HQ for experiencing the downtown First Friday artwalk
  • Coronado Community Garden (on-going) – collaborative gardening with neighbors

justice –

  • Laundry Love Project (monthly) – opening a local laundromat to provide free laundry to the working poor & homeless
  • A Trashcan Can Make a Difference (on-going) – redistribution of goods to those in need by “intentional generosity”
  • Community Garden Outreach (on-going) – providing food for the working poor & homeless in our community
  • Sun. AM Homeless Breakfast (weekly) – caring for & helping with a meal for those on the streets


  • creative days (weekly) – a space/time for artists and non-artists to create together
  • group photo shoots (monthly) – exploring the aesthetic of our city together through themes
  • art events/parties (quarterly) – themed art events and/or parties merging spirituality, justice, and community with creativity

This is an exciting time for us as we launch a new season of experimenting with new and fresh ways to engage those around us with the beauty and availability of the Kingdom of God. Pray for us, for our initiatives, for those God’s currently preparing to join this movement, and for those God’s moving us toward to help move toward Him.

what we’re learning…

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.

Fall ‘08 Postcards

We’re going public this Fall – inviting anyone and everyone drawn to any (or all) of the ideals communitasphx is built around.  Spirituality (in the ways of Jesus), community, justice, and compassion are revolutionary ideals that can change our world.

If you live in downtown PHX, look for these postcards around town.

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