Missional Inspirations II – ‘The Joondalup Thing’

I haven’t been inundated with stuff, so this thing may not fly after all… But I did hear from Scott! So here goes…

The Joondalup Thing, Perth, Western Australia

1. Who is the community you are interacting with? ie what is your context and where have you seen a need? (The more specific the better here. divx nympha )

Our context is similar to Hamo’s in Brighton, predominantly white middle class Aussie suburbanites.

OUr group are people mostly all living within a 5 minute drive of one another in the city of Joondalup, WA.

Who we are serving? Well we serve people we interact with essentially. Mainly our own neighborhood.

The need… well, that’s just it. It is the suburban perception of a lack of need that is the very need that exists. Meaning – consumerism has so dulled the senses of most middle class Aussies that they feel they have no needs other than their next purchase.

2. What is the heart of the project? What are you doing and how are you doing it?

Some of these questions make me uneasy, not because they are bad questions, but they force me to think about things that make me a little uncomfortable!

The heart of the project… I would say it began with a group of believers disillusioned with large traditional, structured church and all that went with it. We began meeting as an alternative to this. We wanted to reframe and rethink issues of – Leadership, Giving, Teaching, Structure, Mission, Lifestyle and more.

We meet mostly weekly, sometimes more. We meet every Wed night for a meal, conversation and most often optional group discussion and/or bible study and prayer in the lounge. Aside from that we meet on some Sundays for a more interactive/alt-worship style experience that includes the kids.

As well as these formal meetings we have a fairly high weekly/daily interactivity with many in the group. So to us ‘church’ consists of Wed nights, some Sundays, some people gathering for prayer/accountability triplets, random meetings and interaction during the week.

One other interesting thing to note, is that although I (Scott Vawser) am often seen as the spokesperson for the group, I have no official role, position or responsibility for the group. We have no ‘leader’ or ‘pastor’. We are trying to manage our way through the maze of consensus and all that means… not an easy path for some! This whole area presents many challenges for me personally, too many to enter into right here.

For me…simply put, I love Neil Cole’s Organic/Simple Church concept, and would love to be part of a team of people passionately embracing the need to reach out to a lost and hurting world introducing these people and their environments to a new way of living and being…a new kingdom! I would like to plant many more small church communities… maybe one day!

3. How is the gospel expressed in what you are doing?

We have many discussions on environmental issues (a gospel issue to us!), some actively seek to live in more sustainable ways, we have studies on social justice issues and encourage individuals to act in ways according to their own conscience and conviction with regards to this, and the same goes for sharing the Jesus story – people engage in proclamation to the degree they are comfortable with this.

Some are reframing their theologies and would like less “mission” talk and action, some would like much more! As a group we feel passionate about equipping each other to engage in mission, however that looks for each person, rather than making ‘group projects’ and ‘activities’ that all are expected to attend.

4. How is it going and what have you been learning?

It depends on who you speak to! I think there is a new freedom for many people to express themselves in new ways. Some have found that worship can look different every week… every day! Others have discovered that being told what to do, how to behave, what to believe and when to stand up, sit down, clap etc is far easier that ‘making it all up as you go’, they are frequently found sitting in a traditional worship services at a local church building.

Leadership is needed to actually move anywhere. Just what form that leadership takes is a whole other discussion, but I have discovered “a whole bunch of people eating together” is not a mission statement that gets you much more than… a whole bunch of people eating together! Albeit a great bunch of people, and a great time had together in so many ways.

In the words of Neil Cole, our DNA (Dynamic Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission) is not divided neatly into thirds. I think we have it like this right now; Divine Truth (15%) Nurturing Relationships (80%) and Apostolic Mission (5%). (Cole – Organic Church)

Al Hirsch put it well when he said of our group recently, “Oh you have an emerging church, not an emerging missional church!”

Obviously these percentages are just my interpretation of the group as a whole, a kind of average. Individual percentages/opinions may look vastly different.

There are some lessons, very valuable lessons I have been learning about the way we think of church and the way we ‘do’ church. I have not one regret for having launched into this experiment and affirmed recently to my Mum 🙂 that I was not returning to “church as we knew it Jim”! (yes, God, still open if u so desire!!) What we have may morph and not stay as it is, but the adventure of it all is captivating and challenging!

5. What would you do differently if you could?

I think all the ‘mistakes’ (if you want to call them this) we have made have been part of the learning for us. Maybe the biggest one I would like to go back and change is that the first year or so, there was a lot of hurt and detoxing from past experiences of pain from traditional church.

This tended to result in some cynical, gossipy conversations at times (all from me of course, no one else is a sinner like me!!! ha). We are pretty much over that now and have moved on, but it did not help the way some others viewed us and it did not set a great tone to start out on this adventure of rediscovering CHURCH 🙂

Thanks Scotty! If anyone else wants to offer their reflections then we’d love to hear it 🙂

9 thoughts on “Missional Inspirations II – ‘The Joondalup Thing’

  1. as a co-partner with Scotty and the rest of our gathering, i always find it interesting to hear how others in our meetings perceive the comings and goings of our group.

    i have concluded that, just like any other other group of people, church or not, everyone sees things a liitle differenty to the next person, and most often, those differences often find their roots in language and its many definitions.

    one question i would have for Al Hirsch is, “do you define an emerging missional church as different than an emerging church based on the number of organised group activites, and/or existence of a group mission/vision?”

    I would find it interesting if it was being suggested that the sum total of each person’s missional activity, ie, daily lives spent recognising and responding to the Spirit of God in and around us, is somehow less “missional” than an activity organised by the group as a whole.

    To me, this seems to lend itself to a dualism that truly missional living wouldn’t easily be able to recognise.

    For me, one of the most rewarding parts of our journey has been the deliberate decision we have made to protect the modus operandi of a participatory democracy type of “consensus”. Not only does everyone have the opportunity to participate freely, but everyone has the opportunity to not participate freely.

    This has been a challenge, especially coming from a system of church heiracrchy that traditionally elevates one leader over another, and passed information and decisions down the line through a series of waterfall diagrams where it finally ends when it hits those at the bottom – those in the congregation.

    However, for all the pains, struggles, joys and celebrations – i am thankful for the 20 years i had in that other “way” of exploring this new pasture, although I’m not sure where this group is going, I’m pretty confident that I won’t ever be going back to the way things used to be.

    But then again ……. 😉

  2. last paragraph should read…

    “However, for all the pains, struggles, joys and celebrations – i am thankful for the 20 years i had in that other “way”, BUT AFTER 3 YEARS OF of exploring this new pasture, although I’m not sure where this group is going, I’m pretty confident that I won’t ever be going back to the way things used to be

  3. Hi mate

    If I can speak for my uglier friend… :), I think Hirschy would say that an emerging missional church sees its primary focus as serving and living out God’s mission in the world.

    Many ’emerging churches’ have simply recast the church die, but in a different form eg house church and haven’t really engaged the mission of the church as a primary question.

    I think its always much more complex, messy and muddy than those 2 statements make it sound, so please don’t take that as a judgement on your group as I know little of the goings on!

  4. no judgement taken – from my point of view, my primary focus is precisely…

    “serving and living out God’s mission in the world.”

    the big question is… “what is God’s mission in the world?” and “what is my role in that mission?”.

    If my role is seeking to recognise God at work in the universe around me, and responding to that reognition with a personal submission to join with Him where ever his Spirit leads, then I feel very missional indeed – and I dare say, many others in our gathering would concur.

    “Missional” thinking is often wrapped up traditionally within an evangelical definition. However, some people don’t associate themselves with that particular framework, yet may still see themselves as extremely missional.

    I guess it depends on who’s defining the word “mission”, and consequentially, which discourses dominate the landscape of mission that each one of us is exploring.

  5. (Thanks for clearing up that last line Matty)

    I guess on the missional issues commented about above I would add that I too feel it embraces all that you have spoken of Matt, but with the addition of the evangelical mindset. (Not nec. meaning a Christendom mindset) A mindset that is part of a proclaimed message of hope of salvation to all of creation. I like the phrase, “man is not the circumference of God’s salvific plan, but he is the centre point…or something like that. And it just so happens that the way I read my bible, I also see man as the conduit by which that plan is acted out, beginning with a nation called Israel, then in a man called the Christ, then through a people choosing to following him.

    Hamo, I certainly did not take offense at Al’s comment. I think for me it was just one of those moments in which one small comment summarized some of my feelings or frustrations very well. In fact emerging churches are fine. Many people are doing well in them, some are finding Jesus for the first time through them. But I do think the intentionality of a ‘missional’ church seems different to me.

    Thanks guys for your thoughts.

  6. I attended a workshop yesterday on person-centred planning for people with disabilities. In the last 20 years we have seen a welcome move away from institutionalisation, but that was replaced with another kind of consumer type service provision by service organisations – we will provide this particular range of services, what will your money buy?

    Person-centred planning is a radical shift to a different kind of question for people who are in need of particular kinds of support – the question people are now permitted to ask is what sort of life can I have and how can I get there?

    There is a change of thinking worldwide away from a consumer type thinking to a person-centred approach where people with disabilities who were once seen as being of no use to society, are now seen as real people with real hopes and aspirations and the ability to achieve.

    I am comparing this shift in the world of human services to what is happening in the church where the change seems a little slower. In fact, it would seem that many churches are still in the 80’s thinking of “one size fits all” service provision.

    I am excited that emerging missional churches are providing the opportunity for individuals to meet Jesus who sees them as unique people with great potential, and they are not just consumers of religious service provision.

    Congratulations to all those who are involved in this way.

  7. The fascination for me regarding the organic/simple/emerging/emerging missional/house church is how quick we seem to be to complicate it! But then that is the human predicament! We escape the programmed, directed, hierarchical traditional church format and feel compelled to fill it with either more theology than we can chew (not more than we can understand, but enough to fill our thinking), descriptions of what we are doing (see descriptions above) or uncertainty at what we are doing, although that is probably with reference to the years of “big” church.

    Of course I run the risk of being tagged naive with these thoughts and I am not unaware of the need for exploring our faith fully. I remember Jesus being the central focus of my initial search for meaning and have no doubt that he continues to be that focus even in our search for ecclesiology that has comparative meaning.

    To date my most amazing time (and yet sometimes uncomfortable) in simple church is when the “father” (“call no one your father”, but you know what I mean) of the group wouldn’t let anything get too far without involving Jesus in a direct way through prayer, whether it was discussing the group dynamics or planning a meal or kids camp.

    I suppose this little entry is quite different from those already posted, but might offer another viewpoint

  8. Hey Rammy,

    i was thinking along these lines a litte today – i think the habit of making things “more complicated” often comes as the result of the need we often have to “know” something with our heads, instead of simply being satisfied with “Knowing” something i our spirit.

    But when saying this – it’s not meant to be a criticism, but rather a recognition of the limitations we have with language and meaning, and our inability to often communicate Truth between one another.

    Hence we are left with more words than we need, and yet still not enough 😉

  9. Hi Matty & Rammy

    It might depend on how we arrive at our conclusions.

    My wife gets stuff intuitvely so for her she has read no books – still doesn’t – but ‘gets’ what we are doing brilliantly.

    I learn cognitively so I need to read, reflect, discuss etc (as well as enjoying it) if I am to make sense of the place I am in.

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