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 🙂