Today I started drafting a letter to some established churches who I am connected with and who I am going to approach regarding possibly supporting us as missionaries. We have enough support for this financial year, but I am aware that we need to start work now to take care of 2006/7
As well as the letter I will attach a document describing our journey so far and trying to encapsulate our identity as Upstream Communities.
I have copied it in below and I’d be interested in your reflections, especially from those of you who are based in more established beasts. Is it sufficiently understandable for those not in the ’emerging’ scene? Its about 2 pages of A4.
Upstream Communities – The Story So Far”
In the early part of 2002 a group of 5 families based in the hills of Perth and members of Lesmurdie Baptist Church all felt a distinct sense of calling from God to leave where they were and move to the newly developed Brighton estate, to live and serve as a missionary team and to see new church communities birthed and nurtured in the northern coastal region.
The team has been captured by the dream of reaching out to the vast numbers of Aussies who are unlikely to ever attend church on a Sunday. While the established church is a place that some will seek out as a place to connect with God, an ever increasing number of Australians do not factor Sunday church attendance into their spiritual journey.
To connect with these people there is an urgent need to establish new missional communities willing to experiment with different ways of doing mission and being church. We believe this is our calling – to work in partnership with the wider church, and to serve specifically as a missionary team based here in Perth discovering new expressions of mission and church life that are suitable for the post-christian environment that is now urban Australia.
Over the last eighteen months we have been in a process of shaping our identity as a mission team. Some of these characteristics include:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Mission over Meeting
We see our primary focus as being what happens during the week in the community and the workplace and this is where we seek to invest our best energies. As such we place less emphasis on the Sunday meeting which for many has become the centre of church life.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Mission shapes Church
We are seeking to let our understanding of the local Brighton culture determine the shape and rhythms of our church community gatherings rather than coming with a pre-determined model or liturgical preference. We understand this is what classical missionaries do – allowing their ecclesiology to flow out of their missiology. British theologian Martin Robinson has said that most of what passes for church planting in the West is usually ‘Sunday service planting’. We are hopeful that in this process we will develop truly indigenous expressions of Christian community that resonate deeply with the people we live amongst.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Discipleship the Central Task
We see our core task as simply that of ‘making disciples’ and we believe this process begins from the time we meet a person and develop a relationship with them. As such there is less emphasis on the moment of ‘conversion’ (a slippery idea at the best of times) and more on leading people towards a life of Christ-likeness. Ultimately we want to see the people we live amongst captivated by the life of Jesus and drawn into following him with their whole lives.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Community Transformation as the Primary Measure of Success
We are seeking to measure our impact and effectiveness by the degree to which we are involved in community transformation and the extent to which we see evidence of the kingdom of God in our local area. While we would love to have people join us in our mission team and community gatherings we do not see increased attendance at either of these meetings as a primary goal. We would encourage new Christians to join other local churches if they identify better with their expressions of worship. As such we are committed to working in genuine partnership with other local churches to see God’s kingdom in Brighton become a reality.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ A Low Level Missionary Order
On a day to day basis we are seeking to function as a lower level missionary order with core practices, a distinct formation process and a high level accountability to one another. A practical outworking of this is that our fortnightly core team meeting is always a closed gathering for team members only, while our open community gathering (also fortnightly) is a place where all are welcome.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Relationships are Primary
We are intentionally seeking to foster mission primarily through personal relationships and by flowing into the natural rhythms of community life here in Brighton. While we would prefer to become involved with what is already happening in the community if we see a need that we can meet we will happily take initiative and serve the community in any way possible.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Multiplying Communities
Our longer term dream would be to see a great number of new communities springing up and multiplying in the developing northern coastal suburbs where Aussies who would have little interest in church as we know it, may be able to connect in Christian community and grow in discipleship. To that end we are seeking to make our community gatherings simple and easily reproducible.
Work in Progress
While it isn’t difficult to articulate the distinctives of our team and community, the reality is that we are still coming to grips with this different way of living our life and faith. We are consciously walking the mostly untrodden path of being missionaries here in the West and discovering along the way what that means. Some of it is refreshing and exciting, while other parts of it are difficult and disturbing. In many ways we are an experimental group, learning and making mistakes but hopefully also making discoveries and providing hope to those both inside and outside our churches who want to follow Jesus but struggle to connect in the current structures.
While we are committed to the path we are on, we do not advocate it as ‘the way’ for the future. We don’t have a model to work from or a strategy to emulate. That is intentional. We strongly believe there is a need for many fresh expressions of church to emerge in the West if we are to fulfil the missionary task God has given us, but they will need to reflect the context they are birthed within and the people who are their lifeblood.
We thank God for being privileged to share in this wonderful adventure with him!