Recently I have been considering again what it means to be a ‘missionary community’, and I have been pondering what ‘values’ we would hold dear, and to be honest I get very weary of those ‘discovering our values’ exercises because inevitably we discover that we value the Bible, prayer, relationships etc. Its all no brainer type of stuff and we didn’t need to spend a day (or a year) pondering it.
Because of this I have come to appreciate the concept of distinctives quite a bit more. I think we can all agree that we value the Bible & prayer & loving one another and evangelism and blah blah blah… (if we don’t then we’re in the wrong game) but perhaps we need to ponder what is it that is actually unique about the community that God has called us to be?
As I ponder this I like to frame it in non-biblical words and from the perspective of a member of our local community looking on who isn’t a Christian but who gets what we are about. I thought I’d take a post to reflect on some of the distinctives that I would want to characterise any community of people that I am involved with. So have a read and see what you resonate with and what jars with you.
These are in no particular order…
– generosity – I’d love for the people in our neighbourhood to be aware that this is a community who splash their money and time and relationships around with great liberality. In such a self focused society I believe that personal and corporate generosity can function as a prophetic statement about what the kingdom of God is like. And who would ever knock a church for being obscenely generous?!
– earthiness – It’d be great if those who come near feel a sense of these being ordinary people who sometimes get life right and sometimes stuff it up, but who do it with Jesus in the midst. When church people start to give off airs of superiority most Aussies will simply walk away. Again I’d ask, who would ever knock a church for being a ‘society of sinners’ where other likeminded strugglers are more than welcome. Everyone knows we aren’t as squeaky clean as sometimes gets made out so let’s be honest with that and maybe we might drop the hypocrite flag a bit lower.
– fun – seriously! I realise this may depend on your defintion of ‘fun’, but surely a community where people laugh a lot and enjoy being together has to be one that others would want to be part of? The dour and drab countenance that seems to characterise some church gatherings on a Sunday morning must surely communicate something of the God we worship… I want to be with people who know how to enjoy themselves and can party well (and I say that an introverted non-party animal!)
intelligent – ok by this I am meaning a community where there is the ability to reflect deeply on the issues that face us as missionaries in the west and not simply fall in line with the next fad, nor adhere to a mindless fundamentalism because this is all we have known. Inevitably this means being a curious and questioning community, safe in our relationship with Christ, confident enough to admit that we don’t know it all but courageous enough to consider other viewpoints.
adventurous – people who get the whiff a challenge and rise to it rather than people who simply see the ‘danger’ and wish to play it safe. Having been both in communities that have played it safe and communities that have ‘given it a go’ I never want to go back to the dullness and predictability of that kind of environment.
willing to get involved – its easy to do ministry from a distance, but to be willing to get involved in people’s lives and to have them in your home, to put yourself out and not farm someone out to a designated ‘committee’ is a big committment. But surely if anyone is going to sense real genuine love from us then it will be largely because we didn’t stand at a distance and yell instructions, but because we got down and dirty and involved in the good the bad and the ugly of life and walked the path come what may.
Of course I realise these probably typify my own preferences and are something of a reflection of my own personality, but then that’s how it is with leadership isn’t it? Who you are always comes thru. I don’t think there is any avoiding that, but being in a team does help avoid a church simply becoming an unhealthy extension of one person’s personality.
So if you imagine a community that you would dearly love to be part of, which of the above words resonate with you, which would you delete and which of your own would you add?
I’d love to hear!