Sunday, November 22, 2009

OPEN HAND Innovation & Mission as an Emerging Faith Community

Over the past twelve years our OPEN HAND International Christian Community has been part of a sometimes deliberate and sometimes random recalibration of what it means to be the church today. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch in their book The Shaping of Things to Come - Innovation and Mission For the 21st Century Church insightfully express many of our surprising communal experiences with God, including ongoing redemption, transformation and atonement. It is always encouraging to see folks like them highlighting what is happening worldwide and to recognize that we are right in the center of it all. We didn't plan it this way, but graciously give thanks to God for leading our OPEN HAND community onto the roundabout of the global emerging church. I have highlighted some of their book and hope your are as encouraged and challenged as we are by their wisdom and insights! Amen.

Postmodern expressions of what people are looking for in the church today:

1. Belonging - sense of welcome, acceptance and place where they are known
2. Adventure - challenge of being stretched, deep longing to live into full potential
3. Empowerment - expressive opportunities to co-create life, individually and communally
4. Sensuality - experiential community, tasting, touching, sharing, expressing life
5. Celebration - joy of salvation, embracing life in its fullest, meeting deepest desires
6. Liminality - transcending self, in touch with mystery of life, profound spirituality

Christendom - the standardized historical model (stuck in the past and almost irrelevant in popular culture today) is an expression of faith stemming from the post-Constantine period with a heavy Greek influence. It is an out of touch mode of engagement that is primarily attractional (come to us) rather than missional/sending (going out among). It has a strong focus on dedicated and sacred buildings / places of worship and an institutionally recognized, professional clergy class functioning primarily as a hierarchy of pastor/priest. Also there is an institutionalization of grace in the form of sacraments administered by licensed priesthood within the confines of the attractional church format.

Missional church:

a. On the other hand is incarnational rather than attractional in its ecclesiology - not creating isolated and sanctified spaces into which unbelievers must come to encounter the gospel, rather the missional church is mobile and able to disassemble itself, seeping into society in order to be Christ to those who don't yet know him.

b. The Missional church is also messianic rather than dualistic and adopts the world-view of Christ rather than that of the Greco-Roman empire which sees the world as divided between the sacred (religious) and the profane (nonreligious). Rather it sees the world as Christ sees the world and God's place in it is holistic and integrated.

c. It adopts an apostolic rather than hierarchical mode of leadership, recognizing the fivefold model of leadership detailed by Paul - apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching

Values of the missional church include: a desire to be adventurous, playful, surprising, chaordic, relevant, improvisational, with sensual-experiential-participatory worship, deeply concerned for matters of justice-seeking, mercy-bringing, unity in diversity, placing a high premium on community, flexible, less structure, broadly biblical, Christ centric...

Shared traits of missional communities include: 1. proximity spaces - places where Christians and not-yet Christians can interact meaningfully with each other 2. shared projects - valuing the development of joint endeavors between the Christian community and its host community...intrinsically valuable activities for the entire society 3. sustainable commercial enterprises that bring more intrinsic value to the broader community and those less fortunate that it serves 4. indigenous faith communities - emerge within the local culture (anti-clone of the existing traditional model of church) infiltrating and transformational....

Incarnational mode - creates a faith community that is a dynamic set of relationships, friendships, and acquaintances...enhancing and flavoring the host community's living social fabric rather than disaffirming it....thus creating a medium of vital connections through which the gospel can naturally travel.

Centered set (not bounded set) - the membership is not defined by some artificial (and often socially prescribed) set of criteria, but by proximity to Jesus...think of a watering well in the center of the land where everyone comes for refreshment, rather than a land fenced in to keep folks in and out....a lifestyle of love, generosity, healing, hospitality, forgiveness, mercy, peace, joy, and belonging.

Missional-incarnational community - lives, eats and works closely with its surrounding society, developing strong links between Christians and not-yet Christians. Recall the movie Chocolat - celebrating life, good food, laughter, romance, storytelling, fantasy and imagination.. offering non-judgmental and compassionate relationships, offering practical help as well as a context for honesty and truth telling....entirely open to innovation, experimentation and creativity.

Gathering spaces - modeled on household space, neighborhood pub, lounge rooms, place of friendship, hospitality, safety, feasting celebrations...for the entire community.

Missional objectives - real connection for the not-yet Christian to participate in the host community.... presence, partnership, inquiry, demonstration, access, encounter.

Critical Contextualization - missional community takes the Bible seriously, recognizes the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers, sees the church as a hermeneutical community, within a global network, thus ensuring a broader international perspective...

Whispered - many people are whispered into the Kingdom slowly and graciously over time... and the communal church fulfills the yearnings for corporate faith and worship that is experiential, participatory, image-driven and communal with an infectious lifestyle, provoking a sense of wonder and awe, showing extraordinary love, exploring how God is touching our lives and focusing on Jesus.

Hebraic Spirit vs Hellenistic consciousness - Hellenistic thinking is speculative in nature, whereas the Hebraic spirit is much more concrete.... Christendom (historical perspective up to modern church) have been overly influenced by Greek notions... and fascinated with abstract and speculative ideas about God and faith - even the creeds (Apostle's Creed included) are primarily focused on the doctrines of God and Christ, saying little more about anything else, avoiding talking about right living, while stressing right thinking.

Orthodoxy - assumes that if we change a person's thinking, we will change the way they live, but there is lots of evidence to the contrary.

Orthopraxy - is a system that believes right living provides the context for us to embrace right thinking... as Pauline Epistles constant references to righteous Christian living as the framework for Christian theologizing.

Fully Biblical - missional community can embrace both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, with God-in-the-mess perspective found in the incarnation... Hebrew mind incorporated "religious" existence into all of life. As such there is no distinction whatsoever between the secular and sacred in the Hebrew world-view.....

Leadership styles: 1. the entrepreneur (apostle) - ground breakers and strategist who initiates an organization 2. the communicator / recruiter (evangelist) - takes the organization's message to those outside and articulates it to them 3. the questioner (prophet) - disturbs the status quo and challenges an organization to move in new directions 4. the humanizer (pastor) - provides the organizational glue by caring for the individuals inside the community 5. the systematizer (teacher) - organizes the various parts into a working unit and articulates that structure to the other members....

Missional community development - a. is organic with the systems held together by the unique distribution laid out in the community DNA, b. it is reproducible both in the local and regional setting, a ministry matrix that is inherent in the community itself, always able to find and reach people, c. it is self-sustaining and self invigorating / regenerative, and grows itself up, with built-in mechanism for maturity.

Pioneering - Pioneers set out to explore and discover new lands, and once it has been opened up, settlers come along and build and establish themselves... without pioneers there would be no place to settle and without the settlers the pioneers would never see their work bear long lasting fruit.

Creativity - is the entire process by which ideas are generated, developed, and transformed into value, it encompasses what people commonly mean by innovation and entrepreneurship, it is the art of giving birth to new ideas and the discipline of shaping and developing those ideas to the stage of realized value...John kao

Imagination - one of the working definitions of poverty is not just lack of resources, but the lack of a dream, a vision, and a hope, people without a dream.... and it is one of our core tasks to help people and the community dream again.

Structure of meaning - good leadership stirs and awakens and harnesses the dreams and visions of the members of a given community, providing a deeper coherence by means of a unifying grand vision that helps tie together all the multiple dreams of the members.

Courage - imagination takes courage as it involves risks and the supreme gamble in which we stake our lives upon a conviction... it is far closer to raw courage than to mere belief, a missional community is as imaginative as it is bold, and willing to try new things and risk it all if necessary to embrace the Kingdom coming.

Paradigm shift - from pre-Copernican to the Copernican, from the Newtonian to the Einstenian, from relativity to quantum, from Christendom model to missional model, a community always embraces the search for truth and a true paradigmatic shift involves the following: 1. we begin with a well-established paradigm, though dominant, it encourages a sense of expectation and searching, and so the quest for answers goes on... 2. an increasing sense of anomaly develops, an awareness that something is wrong...something awry, 3. a slow growing recognition of problems that need a new solution....the beginning of a new process, 4. a new paradigm (answer) begins to emerge, most often with opposition by those who still hold strongly to the established ways...

Fringes - the renewal of church generally comes from fringes, on the edge, with a radical openness to and engagement with real life...

Emerging missional church - rediscovers itself as a missionary movement, where it organizes itself as a centered set, as it builds organic structures, gears for metabolic growth, and develops a missional leadership training style

A movement - is something new, and it is just too chaotic and uncontrollable for most institutions to handle and revival and renewal includes: a thirst for renewal, a new work of the Holy Spirit, a concern for being globally counter-cultural, nontraditional leadership, ministry to the less fortunate, energy and dynamism, ideology of articulated values and goals, real or perceived opposition, personal commitment

Centered set - like land with a wellspring at its center, missional community has a strong identity, but porous boundaries, allow all to get refreshment as necessary, holistic, action focused, cross-cultural, grassroots, diverse, networked, passionate, creative, strategic, leadership development, service, nurtured identity, fostering cooperation, shaping youth, pioneering movement, helping birth, contributing to development, actively stimulating, coordinating energetic activity.

Call to the wild - the task of missional communities requires us to call one another to do wild things - to remind each other what we are made for. It has seldom been observed that tame geese can become wild again...

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