Sunday, June 27, 2010

On the relationship between discipleship and community

We can talk all we want about missional churches, but they are not missional at all if they are not full of missional people. Missional churches help folks be/become missional people.

That's why I like Dave Harder's blog title, Living Missional, and his subtitle, "engaging in a journey to love God and others." Here's a snip from his post entitled Love and Loss:
I have to say I absolutely love the way God calls us to live. He invites us to take His presence, His Kingdom wherever we go and when we are awakened to that reality things happen... God things happen. I don't know where you are at in your views of church and this Jesus life but God calls us into this way of living that is way more exciting than sitting in a church service listening to some dude talk... the church is real, active, alive, risky, present in every area of life.
The "living" is the life of discipleship. Here's what Eugene Peterson says about that in Practice Resurrection:
Jesus used the birth metaphor for another kind of birth: becoming alive to God. Alive to God-alive. Life vast, complex, damaged, demanding . . . and beautiful. Alive to God's holiness, God's will, God's kingdom, power, and glory. There is more to life after birth than mother's milk, sleeping and waking, walking and talking. There is God.
When I decided to "turn down" the Sunday morning church thing for a while, I knew that I would have to be more intentional than ever about discipleship. I would have to pursue it in new ways. I haven't exactly worked that out yet, but folks like Harder and Peterson are helping me get the focus right.

Bottom line, I'm not totally delighted about being church-less, but neither am I rushing out to find a congregation. Yes, the author of Hebrews did advise "not neglecting to meet together," and the ESV Study Bible footnote for that passage says, "Christian perseverance is a community endeavor." I like that. But I'm not convinced that the "community" has to be in the form of hundreds of folks from far and wide getting together once a week to sit in neat rows in a big auditorium and listen to an expert speak. If you want to do that, fine. Maybe the dude is a great and helpful speaker.

Yes, the talking dudes are okay and can be very helpful. They're on the radio, televison, Internet. They're talking all over the place. I'm thinking they might show up somewhere on my list of "good stuff" associated with Christian discipleship, maybe #27 or #28, I dunno. But more important than all that is "meeting together." And I don't take that to mean "listening together" to the expert Bible guy, not primarily anyway.

Here's anothert quote from Dave Harder (this time from a post called Churchless Christianity:
Instead of being the church, we have fallen into merely doing church, and far too often our doing is disconnected from being.
I stopped into a Panera last week, early morning, and there were some guys in there meeting and talking with their Bible's open (well, actually, one of them had an ipad, but the rest were using the old "turn the page" technology). Anyway, this is Maine, and you don't see that kind of thing too often up here (not guys with Bibles at coffee shops, I mean). In fact, this was the first time I've seen it (other than those times when I myself have been a part of the group). It did my heart good, it did. Discipleship was going on.

Discipleship. Eee gad, but that's a scary word. Eugene Peterson is good at de-mystifying this sort of thing. Here's another example of how he talks about it in his book Practice Resurrection.
The most signifcant growing up that anybody does is to grow as a Christian. All other growing up is preparation for or ancillary to this growing up. Biological and social, mental and emotional growing is all ultimately absorbed into growing up in Christ. Or not. The human task is to become mature, not only in our bodies and emotions and minds within ourselves, but also in our relationship with God and other persons.
Growth. Growth in relationship with God and others. This kind of thing cannot be primarily church-based. It has to be day to day, or it's mere playacting. That's why all the church-talk about "community" is trivialized when it only manifests itself as a Sunday gathering (no matter how effervescent that gathering may be).

Discipleship happens in community, but community has to be more, much more, than Sunday morning. Try this metaphor: Sunday morning is the flower of community, but the roots are in deeply real and authentic personal relationships among believers.

Here's my deal. I'm going to pursue the latter (the roots) and hope for the former (the flower) and not the other way around. After all, it was Paul who said, "if the root is holy, so are the branches" (Rom 11:16). And maybe the flower too.


Dave Harder said...

I love your Journey and the direction God has you going. You are desiring Godly things and in the pursuit of Him and his commission to go and make disciples you are discovering how things can be different. Keep on pursuing HIM!

Anonymous said...

if i plant seeds then some roots and flowers will come.