Missional Community: Life Together

While it’s the title of the popular book on Chirst-centered community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who tangled with Hitler and his Nazis and was subsequently executed, Life Together captures an important notion of living…

LIFE TOGETHER

Too often it seems, our churches draw distinct lines between different aspects of life, instead of holistically incorporating and therefore celebrating all of God’s gifts to us, i.e. all of life. Worship happens once a week. Fellowship, as well. Learning about the bible and God’s word, where the individual is a participant and not just a recipient, once a week too. Service and/or mission perhaps once a month or once a year. Discipleship is a periodic rotating class among many topics, instead of the core of our spirituality.

I have growing fondness for “smells and bells” as the incense tickles the nose and the chimes cling to the ears. I used to think these were so foreign and far away that it didn’t connect with me. Growing up they didn’t help me worship God in community. I have realized though, that I don’t want something other-wordly or up-in-the-sky heavenly in my worship service or gathering. I want the breeze that flutters the leaves of the trees. I want the playful laugh of friends and loved ones. I want recognizable sounds and tunes that resonate within me. I want to hear others’ stories and understand their relation to Jesus’ story. I want my life to be opened up once again to God’s here-and-now grace and truth, that is just waiting to be revealed.

The remedy then, at least for me is to model Jesus’s life and worship God in all and through all aspects of everyday life. I know, however, I am predisposed to worship in certain ways while others might be different. I need to know my neighbor and care about the things that concerns them. For me, I can do this better through living life together within a place-based community, in a particular neighborhood and area. Where conversation can flow freely and unexpectedly because we have ample time and space. I need a meal, not just for physical and emotional sustenance, but for building and bridging community. I need something more than a mysterious token at Communion, and I’ve had some deeply impactful moments with Jesus here, whether a wafer or one square inch of a loaf dipped in grape juice. I want to cook together, and break bread across the table from you. I need to be able to see you and even work with you throughout the week, not just at specific times and in religiously set apart places. Your home, or the office, or a local establishment, or the park would do wonderfully.

There’s certainly a whole lot more that can be said about Life Together. We’re talking about the means for following the way of Jesus and living the good life as it is in heaven, after all. Can our churches and communities form themselves to accomplish this life, to embody the incoming and already present Kingdom of God? I believe we can, with God’s help of course. Perhaps the first thing to do is talk with one another, and we’ll see what can come together.

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So… What’s This Churchy Thing You’re Doing?

The Word House

Over the course of this year I’ll write a few articles for The WordHouse’s main partner congregation, Faith Church. In Faith’s newsletter I’ll generally discuss my thoughts on missional community. Why, How, What, etc, etc. Here’s the first one:

The main goal of The WordHouse is to form Jesus‐inspired community. We provide place and space for people to share their hearts. We are part worship service, part fellowship hour and small group, and part outreach/service activities and events. Our Community builds relationships with people to know Christ’s love, experience forgiveness and reconciliation, and participate more fully in God’s kingdom here on earth (and so we might learn and grow from them, too). We host worship gatherings in the familiarity of a living room. We sponsor a Theology Pub, a diverse religious conversation over a drink, once a month at a pub or coffeehouse. We serve the poor and oppressed in our own communities. We are forming new communities within The WordHouse so people can be in intimate, neighborhood groups for worship, discipleship and fellowship, and share in the gifts God has given us. We encourage one another to be honest to God and others, allow questions and doubt, and offer respect as well as accountability. We break bread, meet Jesus in Scripture, share our joys and concerns, pray, play and worship together.

Although many churches are closing, declining in membership and participation, and connecting less and less with younger adults, the mission of Christ’s church does not need to change. A recent Pew Research poll found that an increasing number of young adults (currently 1/3 of adults under 30) are “religiously unaffiliated today”. Only a few short years ago, 4 out of 5 worshipers in PC(USA) churches were over 45 years old, and the number of children has steadily decreased. But how we do Christ’s mission does need change, at least for some of us. The WordHouse church/ministry is a response to Christ’s call on our lives to be a ministry of community and a means to address some of the reasons many people might not have a church community.