April 4, 2006

The Missional Church, part 2

The highlight of my evening on Sunday was watching the president of Kingsley College do his impression of a mobster during a dramatic presentation of the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

I love this way of doing church. It’s spontaneous, it’s entertaining, it’s communal, and frankly, it’s just refreshing. When you see a guy like Pete Dobson (the president of the college), who you’d expect to be very reserved and regal (at least, that’s my experience with college presidents); when you see him get up with sunglasses and say “that’s why you don’t mess with the family”, you realize that there’s something incredibly right about what you’re doing. People have already been inspired to live just a little more outside themselves than they used to, and it’s a joy to watch.

To back up a bit, Sunday night (yes, NIGHT, as in, not the morning) was mimos, the gathering of the church at a pub in the suburb of Preston. It was the second gathering that I’ve been to, though they’ve been meeting for about three weeks before Liz and I arrived here in Melbourne. Some of you asked me what it was that we were actually DOING here, as opposed to the theory of missional church (which I presented in my last post). So here we go …

[as I read this, it occurred to me that the thing about missional church which is so hard to write about is this: it’s a mindset totally different from the way that I grew up thinking, and probably different from the way that you all grew up thinking. So take solace in the fact that we’re all new to this and we’ll learn it together. Moving on …]

The first thing to remember is that missional thinking means that we do not expect people to come to us seeking the truth; we go to them. For example: we’re not meeting at a church building, it changes from week to week. For the past two weeks, we’ve been meeting in the Stolberg Beer CafĂ©, the pub in Preston. In this way, we haven’t removed ourselves from the rest of the world; we’re just another part of it, five feet away from other people getting together with friends.

The second thing to remember is that, when we go to them, words are mostly useless. Not that we don’t talk; we do plenty of it, in fact. It’s just that, in essence, everyone speaks a different language. It is only through doing things together that people can build a common line of communication with each other. Since the postmodern generation is very experiential (read the last post), this works well: instead of telling about Jesus, the missional church is foremost focused on imitating Jesus to the world; we show them.

In fact, this is where the church plant that Liz and I are involved with got its name. Ephesians 5:1-2; “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The word “imitate,” in Greek, is “mimos.” We could think of no better name for a church than “Mimos Network,” meaning a group of people that imitates Christ. Sometimes this involves telling people about Jesus, but more often, it involves action.

So that is why I mostly wrote about theory. In practice, it doesn’t look quite as exciting as the sorts of things the rest of mainline churches do; we don’t have a big presentation that we give every week, no huge band (though we may do that once or twice, just because it would be a great way to worship), no sermon, no set schedule. It’s doing life, living in community with others.

Sunday, after our presentations on Acts 1-5 (which the kids were involved in too; families get to work together for some of this stuff, parents learning from children and vice versa; so cool), Liz and I played a few songs during which people were asked to reflect on the words (Conversations, by Sara Groves, and Take Me Higher, by Lincoln Brewster). The kids then went out for a teaching time with and Colin, and the adults stayed to work through this thing we call Missional Church (a teaching time for the adults) with Ruth. And then, the best part: dinner.

Before Liz and I got here, they’d met at Stolberg, in a park, and a few other places. This coming week, the adults are going to a seminar by Neil Cole (an American, apparently), while the kids stay out at a playground with Ruth. We’re talking about working with a school mentoring program, among other ideas.

And that’s missional church, in a nutshell. Keep asking questions, I’ll try to answer the ones I didn’t get to in my next post.

In other news, yesterday’s highlight was not that we signed for our unit and got keys, but rather, happened on the way home. The setting: we’re driving 100kph on a freeway heading towards Blackburn, four kids in the car plus Liz and Ruth and I, poor Mackenzie (Ruth’s youngest) desperately in need of a bathroom, Ruth trying to get to a doctor’s appointment. The problem: the engine of the car suddenly stopped. As we drifted to a stop, I couldn’t help but notice that Ruth didn’t seem terribly surprised. A few moments later, I discovered why: apparently, this has happened a few (4 or 5) times before. I then remembered (with some irony) my comment “Ruth, aren’t you going to get petrol?” from fifteen minutes before.

Anyway, after Ruth phoned her friend Sarah (who was just getting off work and would bring us some petrol – gasoline – as soon as she could), and we settled in to wait for what could be an hour or two. Then we noticed an overpass, and so Ruth asked Liz to watch the kids and the car, and the two of us trudged up and over the railing onto the sidewalk. After walking for fifteen minutes or so, we came to a somewhat busy road which had a friendly looking petrol station, its orange sign beckoning to us. $16AUD later, we trudged back to the car, filled it up (with 5 liters, barely getting the car to start, and even then we had to push it onto ground that was more level before the engine turned over), and drove to the nearest station to fill it up the rest of the way.

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