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A PECULIAR PEOPLE: FAITHFULNESS IN COVENANT PRACTICES AMONG GROUPS THAT FORM MISSIONAL ORDERS
LEONARD E. HJALMARSON
A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF ACTS SEMINARIES IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE DOCTOR OF MINISTRY
LANGLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA APRIL, 2009
ABSTRACT Culture is a cultivating force. The agrarian metaphor reminds us that we are like plants and the soil we root in shapes us. Our imaginations in the west are more formed by our market culture than by biblical values, and thus we tend to think and act as autonomous individuals. We become consumers of religious goods and services. In view of the shaping power of culture, how will the Christian movement survive as an alternative society? It is the view of this writer that the church is meant to be an alternative and kingdom culture, with its own forming and sustaining practices. The renewal movements that spring up on the margins of the church show us the way forward. This project mines the new monastic movement and missional orders for data to support the hypothesis that alternative practices root an alternative culture, sustaining a vital and missional spirituality.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A dissertation might be a “dissert” at the end of a long and nourishing meal. It was this and more. Thanks to a fairly rigorous process at the front end it never quite grew out of control, although the rabbit trails along the way were enticing. Thanks to the staff and faculty of ACTS Seminaries in Langley, BC for their encouragement and care. Thanks to many conversation partners, local and abroad. In particular, thanks to Roland Kuhl, my advisor, Roger Helland, friend and co-conspirator, David Fitch, professor, blogger and pastor. Many other friends and mentors could be listed here, but in particular I want to note Paul Fromont of Prodigal Kiwis, a partner in reflection and pilgrimage, Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament scholar and prophet, Jean Vanier, fellow Canadian and founder of the L’Arche communities, and Alan Roxburgh, a determined missional thinker whose work on leadership and transition have helped me understand my own vocation more accurately. Other local friends, particularly those from the Manteo table or the Kelowna theology café, have been good conversation partners and have often sharpened my thinking. Paul Martinson, Mike McLoughlin, Stanley Biggs, Nick Fenn, Matt Duffy, Lorne Friesen, Chris McGrath, Laurence East. Trans-local conversation partners include those on the RESONATE mailing list: Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Scott Cripps, Norm Voth, George Werner, Frank Emanuel, Jordon Cooper, Leighton Tebay. I am inclined to list a few dead mentors as well, but perhaps a nod to Lesslie Newbigin is singularly important. Finally, John LaGrou and the Millennia foundation made my ongoing studies possible. Thanks John for your friendship through this journey! My family have had to endure my nose pressed to more books than usual. Thanks to my gracious wife, Betty, and my daughters Elise and Lauren. You often show me the face of Jesus.
ABSTRACT.……………………………………………………….……………………… ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS………………………………………….……………………..iii PREFACE…………………………………………………………………………………. vi Chapter 1: A PECULIAR PEOPLE: Practices that Support Covenant Faithfulness ………………………………………...……..1 The Problem Context of the Study Hypothesis and Research Questions Participants of the Study Design of the Study Instrumentation Delimitations and Generalizability Biblical and Theological Foundations Definition of Terms The Procedure 2: MODERNITY TO POSTMODERNITY: Review of Literature and Theoretical Foundations ………………………………….……..15 Our Location in Culture Modernity to Postmodernity and the Collapse of Christendom Post-Modernity The End of Christendom The Gospel of the Kingdom Emergent, Missional and New Monastic Movements Conclusion 3: RECOVERING A WHOLE LIFE SPIRITUALITY UNDER GOD’S REIGN: Biblical and Theological Moorings …………………………………………….…………..56 Covenant The Reign and Mission of God
Trinity, Kingdom, Mission Covenant Practices Practices, Community and Mission 4: MISSIONAL ORDERS AND ALTERNATIVE PRACTICES: Procedures and Research Design ……………………………………….…………………..81 Survey Design and Reliability Independent Variables Dependent Variables Delimitations Group Follow-up Survey Data Compilation 5: MISSIONAL ORDERS AND ALTERNATIVE PRACTICES: Results of Findings …………………………………………………………..…….………. 86 Results of Findings Known Limitations Rating Scale Questions Summary of Findings 6: IMPLICATIONS, APPLICATION AND CONCLUSION ……..………………….……98 Implications and Application Conclusion Appendices …………………………………………………………………………………104 BIBLIOGRAPHY.………………………………………………………………………….113 CURRICULUM VITAE……………………………………………………………………121
“The renewal of the church will come not through a recovery of personal experience or straight doctrine, nor through innovative projects of evangelism or social action, nor in creative techniques or liturgical worship, nor in the gift of tongues, nor in new budgets, new buildings, and new members. The renewal of the church will come about through the work of the Spirit in restoring and reconstituting the church as a local community whose common life bears the marks of radical obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ. “Practically, this means a clear recognition that the demands of obedient discipleship will bring us into conflict with the ordinary social values and normal patterns of the world systems which continually seek to fashion us into their image and conform us to their molds.”1
“Consumer culture is one of the most powerful systems of formation in the contemporary world… Such a powerful system is not morally neutral; it trains us to see the world in certain ways.”2
“We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.”3
Jim Wallis, Agenda for Biblical People (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1976) 100-101 William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008) 3 Alisdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame press, 1981) 263.
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION A Church Shaped by Culture Culture is a cultivating force. The agrarian metaphor reminds us that we are like plants and the soil we root in shapes us. Our imaginations in the west are more formed by our market culture than by biblical values, and thus we tend to think and act as autonomous individuals. We become consumers of religious goods and services. Moreover, the Enlightenment heritage of dualism informs us, thus we tend to separate our world into sacred and secular, public and private spheres.1 All these forces impact our way of being God’s people in the world. We support mission programs but may not know our own neighbors.2 We may hold a belief that we are sent as Jesus is sent, but our practices3 do not reflect that understanding. We receive Jesus as Savior but rarely follow Him as Lord, nor do we commonly acknowledge the political implications of the Easter victory of Christ over the fallen powers. Consequently, we live with “the economics of affluence and the
Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003) 19. 2 The Incarnation is the ultimate indicator of the importance of place. Eugene Peterson translates John 1:14, “the Word became flesh and entered the neighborhood.” (The Message) 3 Practices shape vision, and vision shapes practices in a dialogical manner. A practice is “any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity...through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized.” Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd edition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 187.
politics of oppression.”4 Even Christian leaders adopt secular measures of success, the ABCs – attendance, buildings and cash.5 We take our cues largely from Modernity. 6 Dualism likewise informs our leadership paradigms in the division of clergy and laity. While we give lip service to the priesthood of believers, typical practices assume that only a few trained professionals are qualified as servants of God. The dominant models for leadership and governance are borrowed from the business world, forged in the industrial revolution and handed down to us. The shaping power of culture has rarely been understood or embraced, and our training models have majored on information and right-thinking.7
The Problem Developed Attempts to form new communities of believers in our market culture meet with limited success.8 Gathering people is easy; forming disciples is not. Western Christians tend to live hectic, fragmented, insulated, self-focused and often addictive lives. And while our churches are very active and run many programs, they often lack a relational dimension where people connect around shared practices in a stable manner. Fragmentation is fed by pluralism, mobility, and education.9 Immersed in rationalism and Cartesian individualism, 10 we
Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2001) 31. At Out of Ur, the Leadership Magazine blog, Skye Jethani penned “Great is Thy Effectiveness.” He described the pressure for success that urban pastors experience, success measured by numbers and dollars. Online http://blog.christianitytoday.com Accessed Aug. 12, 2008. 6 David Fitch comments that, “Our focus on numbers, bigness and efficiency is rooted in two of America’s sacred cows: the autonomy of the individual and the necessity or organize for efficiency.” The Great Giveaway (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005) 33. 7 Frost & Hirsch, Op Cit. 121 and their discussion of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. 8 I am waiting for stats on church planting among MBs in BC but the grapevine affirms most attempts fail. 9 Jonathan R. Wilson, Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World: Lessons for the Church from MacIntyre’s After Virtue (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1998) 26-27. Wilson argues that pluralism is “a world of competing outlooks, traditions, or claims to truth . . . a culture made up of coherent, integral communities, traditions, or positions that can be clearly differentiated from one another.” In contrast, a fragmented culture is “incoherent; our lives are lived piecemeal, not whole.” Under these conditions we cannot resolve our differences because we cannot locate them within some coherent position or community.” William
experience loneliness and a sense of isolation.11 While spiritual hunger is rising, the ability to choose freely from a smorgasbord of spiritual practices12 has not led to deepening spirituality, but rather to anxiety and analysis paralysis: the inability to choose. Movements which respond to this need with a spirituality of connection, roots, and rhythms are likely to fare quite well in the coming decades. These movements and groups include urban monasticism and covenant based communities which are formed around missional orders and a rule of life. There is a need to recover biblical practice in vital faith communities, where believers dwell in the biblical story.13 These practices should form a rhythm of inward and outward movement, embracing community and mission, integrating life into a seamless fabric. As Robert Bellah wrote, We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions, but through them. We never get to the bottom of ourselves on our own. We discover who we are face to face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning. All of our activity goes on in relationships, groups, associations, and communities ordered by institutional structures and interpreted by cultural patterns of meaning. 14 God’s purpose in Christ is to create a people for Himself, a people who live within a new kingdom that is even now breaking into the world. The goal of formation is a new humanity: communities of Jesus apprentices that perform and proclaim the Gospel.
Context of the Study
Cavanaugh argues that fragmentation is at the very heart of the fall, and thus of God’s concern in redemption. “The Church as God’s Body Language.” Zadok Perspectives (Spring 2006): 150. 10 We will examine this term and its historical relevance in detail later. 11 Robert Bellah et al, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985) Joseph Myers, The Search to Belong (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005). 12 William Cavanaugh points out that for Augustine the root of sin is dissipation. We do not naturally choose what is good for us because desire is socially constructed by a market culture. Op Cit. 9 13 This expression comes out of a particular expression of spirituality called Lectio Divina, but it also recognizes that we are formed by the stories we inhabit, and story itself is kind of location. 14 Bellah, Op Cit. 30-31.
This project seeks to recover a vital spirituality in the context of western culture, a spirituality which is communal, holistic and missional. My interest is primarily in the western Canadian context, though the larger population is any North American community which forms around a missional order or a rule of life. Such orders occur as an expression of life within the emergent and missional movements, and particularly within “new monasticism.” New monasticism or “urban” monasticism displays the following characteristics, generally organized around a rhythm of inward and outward movement (community and mission):15 • Disciplines of prayer and contemplation • Disciplines of celebration and recreation • Disciplines of learning and study • Practice of hospitality and sharing resources • Practice of mission, usually engaging the poor • Pursuit of justice and peace, earthkeeping And all these organized around a rule of life. Prominent examples of new monastic communities include the Northumbria Community, Rutba House, Reba Place, Church of the Savior, Missio Dei, Moot, The Order of the Mustard Seed, The Order of Mission and Urban Neighbors of Hope (Melbourne). Missional orders are being explored by Life on the Vine in Chicago and ALLELON, based in Eagle, Idaho. Authors writing from these communities and networks include Shane Claiborne,16 Tom Sine, Roy Searle, Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove, Jon Stock, Pete Greig, Joan Chittister, Esther De Waal, and Jerry Doherty. At the heart of the new monasticism is an “order” or “rule of life.” Orders (like that of Northumbria, the Ignations, or Jesuits) are a form of community that is not geographical, but
This taxonomy is based on my own investigation and does not appear in the literature in this form. There are many cues, however, and some of these will be examined in chapters 2 and 3. The idea of a rhythm of inward and outward movement appears in Celtic spirituality as well as within covenantal groups like the Church of the Savior. See in particular Elizabeth O’Connor, Journey Inward, Journey Outward (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1968). 16 See in particular Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006).
rather defined by shared purpose and shared practice. Does a “rule” imply legalism? A rule is not an end, but a means.17 Henri Nouwen writes that, “A Rule offers ‘creative boundaries within which God’s loving presence can be recognized and celebrated.’ It does not prescribe but invite, it does not force but guide, it does not threaten but warn, it does not instill fear but points to love. In this it is a call to freedom, freedom to love.”18 These orders share the characteristics of both centered sets and bounded sets,19 and are a form of social network.
Hypothesis and Research Question I believe that faithful apprentices of Jesus embody the transforming reality of the Gospel in an alternative culture, formed by alternative practices, in a rhythm of inward and outward life (community and mission). Alternative practices are alternative to the practices of the host culture. 20 My research question is this: of the practices common to missional orders, what and to what degree do participants identify as the practices that sustain missional faithfulness? This project identifies alternative practices through the literature of these movements, and then examines them in the lives of selected participants.
Somewhere St. Gregory writes that we always live with the danger of transforming supplies for the journey into hindrances to our arrival. A rule is a good thing if it deepens our walk and lightens our path. 18 Found at the Northumbria Community website. Online http://www.northumbriacommunity.org . Accessed September, 2008. Similarly, Newbigin writes, “true freedom is found not by seeking to develop the powers of the self .. but [in] true relatedness in love and obedience.” Foolishness to the Greeks (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986) 119. 19 These concepts come from the work of Paul Hiebert and appear in various sources, such as Guder et al, Missional Church (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1998). 20 Inagrace Dietterich writes, “The concept of practices has a specific meaning: socially established cooperative human activities carried in traditions that form people in a way of life. The cultivation of a people who follow the way of Jesus Christ is a lifelong participation in “a community that embodies the language, rituals, and moral practices from which this particular form of life grows… [because] the Christian gospel is at once a belief that involves behavior and behavior that involves belief.” “Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit.” In Missional Church (Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans, 1998) 153. Leadership in such communities is aimed at guarding the ethos and discerning the narratives that sustain the community as it engages in its work.
Participants of the Study The sample of the study is the ALLELON missional order, members of Imago Dei and Life on the Vine in Chicago. The population is North American. Participants will be scattered through western Canada and the USA. A variety of age groups and both genders will be included.
Design of the Study I will gather data by researching relevant literature and by surveying members of missional orders in Calgary, Portland, Chicago, and Boise. The goal will be to discover what practices are identified as sustaining missional faithfulness: movement beyond individualistic measures of spirituality,21 embodiment of alternative values, and missional engagement in respective towns and neighborhoods.
Instrumentation This descriptive project will look for quantitative measures around alternative practices, including both personal and corporate practices. A survey questionnaire was developed for use in the interviews (Appendix C).
Delimitations and Generalizability It is not in the scope of this study to handle all the issues surrounding covenant and commitment, contextualization and mission, spirituality and pluralism, postmodernity and culture, leadership and community, or the role of the church in society. We will not attempt
Moving from “the community for me,” to “me for the community”
a complete survey of missional orders, their history, or their rules. The practical direction of this study precludes the exhaustive research required for such an interdisciplinary effort. Rather, within the context of an incarnational spirituality, this project will seek to explore the relationship between spiritual formation and the creation of alternative culture as expressed in covenanted structures – structures which involve shared practices and shared purpose. This study aims to discover the extent to which these factors sustain faithfulness and missional vitality. One of the questions that might arise is this: God has provided churches in virtually every western city, as well as His Word and His Spirit. Why worry about additional and extra-biblical frameworks like a rule of life or shared practices? Another likely question surrounds the implication of legalism associated with a word like “rule.” In order to answer these questions we need to understand our dominant culture as well as aspects of western history. We will need to understand the difference between a social network and a physical community. We will need to address the idea of culture as a cultivating force and critique our western concept of freedom22 as freedom for self. We will need to examine our consumer culture and the impact of this context on spiritual life.23 These forces are fragmenting and profoundly shape our faith communities, contributing to loss of missional vitality and blurring of covenant identity. We will further need to explore the shift from a Christian hegemony to a place of increased marginalization, described by some writers as “the end of Christendom.”24 This
The relationship of freedom and desire is explored through Augustine by William Cavanaugh. He writes that, “Humans need a community of virtue in which to learn to desire rightly.” Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008) 9. 23 There are some wonderful resources for unveiling the agenda of a market culture. Frontline has a documentary titled The Merchants of Cool. Visit Stop Consuming: The Campaign to End Consumer Christianity. Similarly, the PBS documentary, The Persuaders. and “The Story of Stuff.” 24 See especially Douglas John Hall and Stuart Murray.
study will examine how practices shape us as a people, and invite us into a larger story. In our individualistic and consumer oriented culture, we are formed by the culture as much as by any attention to God and His kingdom. Inagrace Dietterich writes in Missional Church, The fullness of Christian life in the Spirit does not spring forth without intentional cultivation. Through social interaction within the community of God’s sent people (the sharing of stories, friendships, projects), we learn what it is to lead a life worthy of our calling... The modern emphasis on the autonomous self too often ignores, or even denies, the formative power of the various communities in which we participate. We assume that our “habits of the heart” — the notions opinions, commitments, and desires that motivate, order, and guide our lives — are chosen and formed in isolation from other human beings and social realities- Robert Bellah and associates conclude that this view is “based on inadequate social science, improvised philosophy, and vacuous theology.”25 In a time when the old maps no longer work, when they no longer provide an interpretive lens that helps us understand ourselves or our place in the world, we need to ask new questions that will help us move forward. These in turn will guide us in sustaining our communities as authentic, holistic, missional and spiritual people. In order to preserve covenantal integrity as we engage missionally with our culture, we need to embrace a set of practices that bind us together, root us in a common story, and sustain us as a people. Those practices may determine our future in the west. As Walter Brueggemann put it, For Ezra, as for Moses, new church starts do not aim at strategies for success, but at strategies for survival of an alternative community. What must survive is not simply the physical community; what must survive is an alternative community.26 Biblical and Theological Foundations John 20: 19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them
Inagrace Dietterich, Op Cit 150. Walter Brueggemann, Cadences of Home (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997)
and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” I Peter 2: 9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good: And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, To love loyalty, And to walk humbly with your God. These texts form the biblical backdrop for examining spiritual and covenantal practices within alternative communities. Key theological ideas are covenant, kingdom, incarnation, transformation, difference, hospitality, place, people-hood, and identity. One lens for the study will be the new monastic movement, but I will also consider the emergent and missional conversations. In examining ancient practices, rooted in a time when God’s people were on the margins of society, we may discover disciplines of resistance – practices to sustain missional vitality and covenant faithfulness within the context of a culture that is a solvent to covenant identity.
Definition of Terms: Numerous terms are used in this study which require definition. Christendom and Post-Christendom: the period of time generally identified as beginning with the Constantinian compact about 300 AD. The compact produced a certain
institutional form of the western church in accommodation to culture. The increasing dissolution of that compact places the church into a situation analogous to exile. 27 Contextual Theology: The process of exploring and expressing the content of biblical faith through the events, images, language, and thought forms of a particular culture in a particular time and place – doing theology in context. Dualism: a worldview that separates sacred and secular, valuing the sacred, nonmaterial world over the physical, material world. Emergent: variously identified as a movement and a conversation around the gospel and culture, primarily western, white and middle class, and generally both evangelical and missional in nature. A more nuanced definition is offered in chapter 2.28 Missio Dei: the mission of God. As Robert Webber noted, “We do not define God’s mission; It defines us.”29 There is no aspect of the Christian life that is not connected to the Missio Dei. Missional: the nature and calling of the people of God as sent-ones, formed as a community to make Christ known. A Trinitarian reality: the Father sends Jesus, Jesus sends us, the Spirit goes before us. Missional Order (MO): a group, whether local or dispersed, who orient their lives around a shared rule and common purpose.
See in particular Stuart Murray, Church After Christendom (Bletchley: Paternoster Press, 2004) and Walter Brueggemann, Cadences of Home, Op Cit. 28 Gibbs and Bolger defined emerging churches like this: “Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures…[thus] Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.” Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2005) 44-45. See also Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2002). 29 Robert Webber, The Younger Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002) 241.
New Monasticism: variously identified as growing out of the 24/7 prayer movement birthed in the UK by Peter Greig and Andy Freeman around 2001, and “codified” in 2005 at a gathering in Raleigh-Durham. Out of this conference was published Schools for Conversion: Twelve Marks of the New Monasticism.30Essential characteristics are prayer and care for the poor.31 Post-Modern: in its most basic sense, the epoch following the collapse of modernity and the Enlightenment project. Rule of Life: reaching back to St. Benedict, a rule is a statement of covenant practices. A rule serves as a framework for freedom and sets forth disciplines of spiritual attention. Rule derives from the Latin “regula,” or “rhythm” and is a measure rather than a law. It is an orderly way of existence and a means to an end. As Dallas Willard expressed it, [a discipline is] “any activity within our power that we engage in to enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort.”32 Sacred: the realm of the divine, religious, holy and spiritual, and for some the realm of the Church. Secular: the realm perceived as outside the sacred or outside the Church.33 Social Network: a social structure made of nodes (which are generally individuals or organizations) that are tied by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as values,
Online http://www.newmonasticism.org Tom Sine, The New Conspirators (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2008) 53. See also Punk Monk: New Monasticism and the Ancient Art of Breathing (Ventura: Regal Books, 2007) 32 The Benedictine threefold vow was obedience, conversion, stability. See in particular Jon Stock, Tim Otto and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Inhabiting the Church: Biblical Wisdom for a New Monasticism (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2007). The Northumbria community articulates their rule of life around the twin poles of availability and vulnerability. 33 A much more nuanced discussion occurs in Conrad Ostwalt, Secular Steeples: Popular Culture and the Religious Imagination (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003) 8. Iain Benson, the Alberta journalist, recently wrote in the Calgary Herald that common use of the word “secular” generally means “the public sphere.” (June, 2008. Online http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/
visions, ideas, financial exchange, friendship, kinship, dislike, conflict or trade. The resulting structures are often very complex. Spirituality/spiritual: in general these refer to the interior, metaphysical dimensions of life concerned with “spirit.” Specifically, they refer to “the experiential dimension of religion in contrast to formal beliefs, external practices, and institutions; it deals with the inner depth of the person that is open to the transcendent; in traditions that affirm the divine, it is concerned with the relation of the person to the divine.”34
The Procedure Western Christians tend to live hectic, fragmented, self-focused and addictive lives. 35 We are formed as consumers in a market culture. Moreover, we are profoundly influenced by our Enlightenment heritage of dualism. Fragmentation is fed by pluralism, mobility, and education. Our practices reinforce individualism and loneliness.36 In the wider culture, spiritual hunger is increasing, and movements which respond to the need with a spirituality of roots,37 rhythms and relationships are likely to fare well. These movements and groups include urban monasticism and covenant based communities which are formed around
Ewart Cousins, “Spirituality in Today’s World,” Religion in Today’s World: The Religious Situation of the World from 1945 to the Present Day, ed. Frank Whaling (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1987): 306. Quoted in Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer, A is for Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 267. 35 In an interview with Jeff Bailey, Gordon Cosby comments that, “Most of us are living, to some degree, as addicted persons, striving anxiously after power and money and prestige and relevance, trapped in the turbulence of wanting more.” Cutting Edge Magazine, “The Journey Inward, Outward and Forward.” Fall, 2001. 10. 36 Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective (New York: Image Books, 1986) 18-25. See also Joseph Myers, The Search to Belong (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005). 37 I use “roots” as an alliterative synonym for “place,” though both appear in the literature as important components of spiritual life.
missional orders and a rule of life. Many of these renewal movements look to Anabaptist foundations.38 This project will examine how shared practices root and shape us as a people, and invite us into a larger story. It will do so by examining one missional order and the impact of a rule of life on a dispersed community of people who are engaging with others in mission in a diversity of locations. This project gathered data from the Bible, theology, and representative literature related to Christianity and contemporary culture and theological reflection. The data was used to design a survey instrument which was distributed to members of missional orders in the Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada. The participants completed a brief quantitative and qualitative survey which measured the degree to which they engaged in their common practices. In Chapter 2 I present a survey of the literature and theoretical foundations that support this project. Attention is given to the means of forming culture and I argue that God’s people are a peculiar culture, defined by kingdom practices. Because this project meets at the crossroads of biblical, historical, theological, socio-cultural and religious study, Chapter 2 includes the relevant writers who resource the issue and examines three renewal streams that are embracing missional orders. In Chapter 3 I present the biblical and theological foundations that support this project from the perspective of theology in context. There are central Old Testament and New
Loren Wilkinson in his article “Saving Celtic Spirituality,” notes the parallel ethos in Anabaptism and Celtic spirituality. April, 2000. Vol. 44, No 5. Online http://www.christianitytoday.com . Jonathan WilsonHartgrove notes that Michael Sattler defected from a Benedictine monastery to help launch the Anabaptist movement Sattler was the principal architect of the Schleitheim Confession. New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008) 53.
Testament texts that inform the study, and in particular key theological concepts. These include covenant, kingdom, Trinity, mission, incarnation, community, and identity. In Chapter 4 I set forth the procedures and research design used to carry out the project. This includes an identification of the instrument and its reliability, an identification of dependent and independent variables and their control, and a restatement of the theory and research questions. In Chapter 5 I present the results and findings of the complete research project and identify the factors that sustain spiritual vitality in missional orders. In Chapter 6 I conclude with implications and practical application and suggest areas for further research.
CHAPTER 2 MODERNITY TO POSTMODERNITY REVIEW OF LITERATURE AND THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS
This chapter surveys the literature and theoretical foundations that support this project, bringing into conversation several disciplines, including history, sociology, and religious studies. What is currently driving the core issue with regard to missional orders and a rule of life? How are such covenantal structures a response to the solvent of modernity, our market culture, and the increasing fragmentation and hyper-individualism of post-modernity? Why are missional orders reappearing now? In this chapter I will explore the shift from modernity to post-modernity and the collapse of the Christendom compact, a compact that compromised the Gospel. Then I will examine the responses to this new location embodied in the missional, emergent, and new-monastic movements. These movements not only embody a response to the collapse of the Enlightenment project and the corresponding collapse of Christendom, but they are attempting to reinvigorate a post-modern ecclesiology: they acknowledge the need to recover the church as a peculiar culture, with its own disciplinary, or forming, practices. Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. At the close of WWI William Butler Yeats penned the famous lines of this poem, titled “The Second Coming.” He perceived that something essential had been lost; more than a loss of innocence, but something in the hope and imagination of humankind, something that upheld meaning and nurtured human community. The world had encountered the demonic in a new way, and the result was a tearing apart and a loss of coherence.
Our Location in Culture How did we get to this place? What forces have occasioned this loss of transcendence and coherence? Why do we live such fragmented, harried lives? How have we come to be dominated by a market culture? Why are so many believers lonely and isolated? How did we lose a sense of gospel telos, and disengage from the life of the Spirit in mission? How did we come to enthrone Queen Reason and lose our ability to embrace mystery? If we recognize culture as a cultivating force, we recognize its potentially subversive nature. In response we are compelled toward the memory of a peculiar people, called to embody a “kingdom” culture with distinctive practices. What is culture? If we seek to critique culture, what is it that we critique? Why attempt a critique anyway? Do we create culture, or does culture create us -- human community and identity? Should the church represent an alternative culture? Lesslie Newbigin offers us a clue in The Household of God: It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind Him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community. He committed the entire work of salvation to that community. It was not that a community gathered round an idea, so that the idea was primary and the
community secondary. It was that a community called together by the deliberate choice of the Lord Himself, and re-created in Him, gradually sought - and is seeking - to make explicit who He is and what He has done. The actual community is primary; the understanding of what it is comes second.1 When Jesus invited us to receive His love, He also called us to follow Him. When God’s kingdom breaks into this world it encounters the false claims of other kingdoms, other lords. But if Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not. The rulers of this world try to squeeze us into their mold.2 The word “cultivate” shares the same root as the word “culture.” It is an agrarian metaphor, from the Latin root cultivare.3 It means working with soil, caring for plants and animals and for the environment. We all exist in a particular soil, and we grow in response to the environment. The application is this: culture is a cultivating process that forms people in a certain way. Culture is such a powerful force, because it involves in an inward gaze which may be transparent to the individual. This transparency is represented by the Spanish philosopher Santayana when he writes, “We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t fish.”4 Culture is present through symbols like language and images, but it is also a lens through which we view the world of objects, things, people and ideas: even culture itself. We create culture, and culture creates us. The complexity of this dialogical movement is well preserved in a statement attributed to Winston Churchill, “First we create our buildings, then our buildings create us.” I opened this study with a quotation from William Cavanaugh. He writes that, “Consumer culture is one of the most powerful systems of formation in the contemporary
Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God (Bletchley: Paternoster Press, 2003) 51. Romans 12:1,2 3 Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000) 4 Attributed to George Santayana
world… Such a powerful system is not morally neutral; it trains us to see the world in certain ways.”5 It does this primarily by offering a particular definition of humankind and our telos: our final destination. It tells us who we are, why we are here, and it defines the good life. Then it seeks to manufacture consent by a host of visible and invisible means, both social pressures and social practices.6 Because many of these shaping, or disciplining, mechanisms are symbolic, they tend to be transparent to us. James K. A. Smith writes, By using representation, images, and other strategies – all of which communicate truth in ways that are not cognitive or propositional – marketing forms us into the kind of persons who want to buy beer to have meaningful relationships, or buy a car to be respected, or buy the latest thing .. simply to satisfy the desire that has been formed in us .. these disciplinary mechanisms transmit values and truth claims .. covertly. They .. form the body, as it were.7 Smith closes this thought with reference to embodiment. This pushes us back to the very basis of life in the world: spirit that is enfleshed. This incarnational reality pushes us back to the importance of context, and the importance of concrete practices. William Cavanaugh writes, Attraction to the Christian life occurs when one can see a concrete community of people living out salvation, living reconciled and hopeful lives in the midst of a violent world. Rarely are people converted by well-argued theories. People are usually converted to a new way of living by getting to know people who live that way and thus being able to see themselves living that way too. This is the way God’s revolution works. The church is meant to be that community of people who make salvation visible for the rest of the world. Salvation is not a property of isolated individuals, but is only made visible in mutual love.8 In every context where the good news of God’s kingdom takes root there are two processes which compete to form us. The good news is about healing, shalom, justice,
William Cavanaugh, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008) 11. 6 Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomski and the Media. Mark Achbar, Ed. (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1994) 7 James K.A. Smith, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006) 105. 8 William Cavanaugh. “The Church as God’s Body Language,” Zadok Perspectives (Spring 2006) 150.
wholeness, community and love. The other gospel forms a different soil: a culture of violence, consumption, competition and fragmentation. This other gospel says that western culture (or its ends: money, power, or pleasure) will bring happiness, peace and prosperity. The rulers of this world want to form us into good citizens who don’t question the status quo, don’t care for the poor, and who literally “buy in” to the program. They want us to think and act as individuals, with only our self-interest at heart.9 One writer calls this the economics of affluence and the politics of oppression.10 The only way we can preserve our consumptive lifestyles, in a world where 20% of the population consume 80% of the available resources, is by maintaining huge armed forces and continuing to rape the world, transferring wealth from the developing world to the West.11 If culture forms both true desires and false desires, how do we tell the difference between them? In Being Consumed William Cavanaugh works out of Augustine to discuss both telos and the freedom of the will. He argues that freedom depends not on the autonomy of the will, but the direction in which the will is moved. He references Augustine’s antiPelagian treatise, The Letter and the Spirit, where he asks, “How, if they are slaves of sin, can they boast freedom of choice?” Freedom is something received as a gift of grace and in Augustine’s view, others are crucial to one’s freedom. Cavanaugh writes that, “Others from
Ever since the fall, self-interest and self-protection characterize our relationships. William Cavanaugh argues that fragmentation is a primary result of the fall, and new creation restores community. Ibid., 150. 10 Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2001) 28ff. 11 Vinoth Ramachandra writes, ““Despite all the rhetoric about market efficiency and foreign aid, the net financial flows in the world economy are not from the rich to the poor but from the poor to the rich. Debt repayments, tariffs on exports and falling prices of agricultural goods caused by rich nations’ farm subsidies mean that the low-income nations transfer to the rich nations around $30-50 billion a year more than what they receive in so-called aid. We need to add to this figure the cost to the poor of the export to rich nations of engineers, scientists, doctors and accountants [who] have been trained in state institutions at local taxpayers’ expense. But to obtain a more accurate figure, one should also include the profits of multinational corporations which are sent back to their parent base in the North. Did you know that the lifestyles of the rich are being subsidized by the world’s poor?” In “Christian Witness in an Age of Globalization.” Leonard Buck Memorial Lecture, BCV, Melbourne, 10 May 2006
outside the self – the ultimate Other being God – are necessary to break through the bonds that enclose the self in itself. Humans need a community of virtue in which to learn to desire rightly.”12 This community of virtue, with its own specific practices or disciplines, has existed since God formed a nation called Israel and set them apart for His own purposes. Those purposes revolved around two vocations: to know Him, and to make Him known. Just as true desire can be distinguished from false desire by its end, so good disciplinary practices are distinguished from bad by their goal, or end. James K.A. Smith, discussing the relationship of power and knowledge in the work of Michel Foucault, affirms that there are good disciplinary mechanisms. “Discipline and formation are good insofar as they are directed toward the end, or telos, that is proper to human beings: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”13 Smith affirms that we must enact counter-disciplines to form us into the (renewed) image bearers of Christ. “Conceiving of the church as a disciplinary society aimed at forming human beings to reflect the image of Christ, we will offer an alternative society to the hollow formations of late-modern culture.”14 Rodney Clapp is deeply aware of the compromise of the Church with modernity. He writes, Reclaiming Christianity as culture enables us to move from decontextualized propositions to traditioned, storied, inhabitable truths; from absolute certainty to humble confidence; from austere mathematical purity to the rich if less predictable world of relational trust; from control of the data to respect of the other in all its created variety; from individualist knowing to communal knowing and being known; and from once-for-all rational justification to the ongoing pilgrimage of testimony.15
Cavanaugh, Being Consumed, 9. Smith, 102 14 Ibid., 107 15 Rodney Clapp, A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1996) 186.
Early in the 20th century Simone Weil wrote, “culture is that which forms attention.” To what should followers of Jesus be attentive, but to the voice of their Master? In Micah 6:8 we read, He has shown you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God? Second, we must be attentive to the culture in which we are rooted, because it is in our own location and context that we must witness to the truth of a different kingdom and a different Lord. We need this double attention so that we can engage our culture with the Person of Jesus and the good news of redemption in a way that those around us can both see and hear the good news. But how do we shape this kind of attention? We shape it by forming an alternative culture. If culture is both the symbols and practices of daily living, then we must ask what counter-disciplinary symbols and practices form this alternative, kingdom culture, where Jesus is Lord?16
Modernity, Post-Modernity and the Collapse of Christendom In order to understand what is required of us as an alternative culture, we must locate ourselves in both the sweep of history and in this particular place. Post-Modernity is where we in the West are located. We need to consider the broader movement of cultures, both Modern and Post-Modern, to get a dynamic snapshot of our current location. The Church in the West has been profoundly shaped by the whirl of cultural forces that made up Modernity. Much of the confusion, anxiety, and conflict that we currently see and
We will talk more specifically about kingdom theology and the implications of this confession later in this chapter.
feel results from the clash of Modernity and Post-Modernity as embodied in the people, structures and methods that have been carried from the world of Modernity into the new location of Post-Modernity. (It is as if Eskimos suddenly find themselves in Florida). If we are located in an average North American city, we witness the death throes of one world and the birth pangs of another in our neighborhoods and churches daily. Another way of stating this is that the gospel in the West was contextualized in an Enlightenment world; the passing away of that world with its ways of knowing and seeing, belonging and believing, means that the Gospel itself appears to be suddenly uprooted and drifting on the tide. This is a profoundly unsettling phenomenon. Thus, we face change, whether we will or no. Humans are both notoriously adaptable and notoriously fragile. At the level of human systems, the problem is compounded. While individuals and small groups tend to be adaptable, institutions tend to manifest inertia. Homeostasis is a term from the world of biology that describes the resistance of systems to change. In the world of therapy and addictions, we describe denial. In the world of social systems, we describe vested-interests. Thomas Homer-Dixon puts his finger on the problem: From the point of view of those with a vested interest in the status quo, efforts to manage our problems can actually be a useful diversion: such efforts provide a focus for research, discussion, and countless meetings for academics, politicians, consultants and NGOs, while in practice nothing really changes. The Kyoto climate-change negotiations kept thousands of scientists and other experts busy for years. (ironically, generating vast amounts of carbon-dioxide as they traveled from meeting to meeting) while providing cover for politicians who wanted to say they were doing something about global warming.17 The great gift of this moment in history is this: as we become disembedded from the systems of thought in which we live and move, the possibility arises of seeing Christ more clearly. With application to Modernity and Post-Modernity, Newbigin states it like this:
Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Up Side of Down (Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2007) 15
As people who are part of modern Western culture, with its confidence in the validity of its scientific methods, how can we move from the place where we explain the gospel in terms of our modern scientific world-view to the place where we explain our modern scientific world-view from the point of view of the gospel?18 Modernity and the Enlightenment represent the quest for a firm and indisputable foundation for knowledge, based on reason. These assumed, as argued by Descartes (and thus the adjective “Cartesian”), that absolute truth is accessible to the autonomous, rational individual. Enlightenment thinkers believed that if a pure rationality could prevail, all people would arrive at the same immutable and foundational truth. Walter Thorson points out that the scientific tradition arose in the Church because it was there that nature was desacralized. Meaning was posited in the eternal realm, and the Creator came to be understood as distinct from the creation, upholding a knowable and orderly Universe. Thorson writes, The doctrine of the transcendence of God and the recognition that He is distinct from his creatures removes any sense of religious awe from the material world, while the identity and role of man as made in God’s image sets him free to explore the limits of his own creativity and agency as having a responsible dominion over the earth.19 Newbigin notes Hannah Arendt’s argument that the most profound cause of this shift was the telescope, which demonstrated that the world was not as it was thought to be, leading to Cartesian doubt and an attempt to “save the appearances.”20 The world seen through a lens was de-godded. Francis Bacon had earlier drawn a parallel between God’s revelation in Scripture and another revelation in nature, noting that we must read from both books.21
Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids: Eedrmans, 1986) 22 19 Walter Thorson, “Reflections on the Practice of an Outworn Creed.” In Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (March 1981) 7. 20 Newbigin, Foolishness, 34 21 Thorson, 7.
But if there are two distinct books, then revelation comes from below as well as above. The separation of spheres of authority moved humankind away from reliance on authority that came from above.22 The investigator now had direct access to the world, apart from God. This duality of sacred and secular was the establishment of the subject/object distinction. Humans investigating their world were increasingly distinct from it. Owen Barfield describes this process as the shift from an “original participation” where a genuine religious element was present in nature. The result was twofold: first, the gods of nature were replaced by idols of the study; second, mankind was alienated from his environment.23 Stan Grenz notes that Francis Bacon, while a Renaissance man (1561-1626), anticipated the Enlightenment.24 Bacon understood truth and utility as two sides of one coin, and he believed that the fledging of science held promise as a means of ruling nature, thus his dictum: “knowledge is power.” Bacon is often referenced as the unwitting father of the modern technological world. This profound shift in philosophy, epistemology and cosmology that was the Enlightenment did not occur in a vacuum. It was the result of a convergence of social, political and intellectual processes. First, a series of military conflicts had devastated Europe (referred to collectively as “The Thirty Years War.”) The roots of the disputes were religious, so increasingly religion was perceived as divisive. The prime intellectual factor, as referenced above, was Descartes quest for certainty. 25 The prime scientific factor was
Stanley J. Grenz, A Primer on Postmodernism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 62 Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1965) 24 Grenz, 58. 25 Interesting, Descartes did not invent cogito ergo sum but borrowed it from Augustine. Descartes contribution was his emphasis on personal experience and personal knowledge.
Newtonian physics and the shift from qualitative measures (based on Aristotle) to quantitative. Newton’s world was a grand, well ordered machine, with predictable operations resting on observable laws. Wolterstorff relates that, “Enlightenment investigators narrowed their focus of interest – and hence began to treat as real – only those aspects of the Universe that are measurable.”26 In a time of great upheaval, when coherence was disappearing and the world was fragmenting into multiple communities of truth, there was cause to hope that human reason would provide a unifying and universal perspective, and that the new science would offer access to knowledge that would end much human misery. Enlightenment forces converged into a new optimism, and a new era of belief in progress.27
Post-Modernity When my family settled on the west coast in 1973 the turbulent sixties had come and gone. It was in the early sixties that Carl Jung observed what he described as the disintegration of the western psyche. In 1962 he gave the West “fifty years before its inner structures collapses.” He felt that we were abandoning the images and beliefs that held our lives together in coherence and health, or if we were not abandoning them, they had little real transformative effect.28
Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984) 125. 27 Grenz, 70. See also the more recent work by Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (Scarborough, ON: HarperCollins Canada, 2004). 28 Richard Rohr, “Holy Fools,” in Sojourner’s Magazine, 7/11/94. Online at http://www.sojo.net Accessed August 25, 2008.
Also in 1962, Thomas Kuhn published his historic work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Four years later, in 1966, Michael Polanyi published his seminal work, The Tacit Dimension. Kuhn tracked several of the greatest breakthroughs in the Twentieth century, and discovered that great breakthroughs do not occur based strictly on factual evidence. Instead there are two different phases of scientific progress. In the first phase, scientists work within a paradigm (a set of accepted beliefs that are a framework and a lens for their study).29 When the foundation of the paradigm weakens and new theories and scientific methods begin to replace it, the next phase of scientific discovery occurs. Kuhn argues that progress from one paradigm to another has no logical method, but instead is based on intuitive and suprarational factors. Kuhn coined the phrase “paradigm shift” to describe this process. Michael Polanyi, the philosopher of science, advocated a new theory of knowledge based on “personal” and tacit knowledge. He questioned not only the possibility but the wisdom of advocating “objective” knowledge (Polanyi’s work Personal Knowledge was published in 1958). The declared aim of modern science is to establish a strictly detached, objective knowledge. Any falling short of this ideal is accepted only as a temporary imperfection, which we must aim at eliminating. But suppose that tacit thought forms an indispensable part of all knowledge, then the ideal of eliminating all personal elements of knowledge would, in effect, aim at the destruction of all knowledge. The idea of exact science would be fundamentally misleading and possibly a source of devastating fallacies.30 Polanyi and Kuhn hunted the same game, their target the supra-rational dimension of knowledge, evident in most scientific discovery but rarely admitted. To openly acknowledge the tacit dimension meant an admission that science was not founded on pure and objective
Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970) 175. 30 Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (New York: Anchor Books, 1967) 20.
knowledge alone. In the minds of some, this was to invite criticism and chaos, to open Pandora’s box, to begin an uncertain process that would erode the foundation of modern science. Perhaps more to the point, the admission that scientific discovery was not founded after all on pure reason and objectivity meant dethroning the scientist himself from his lofty priesthood, and in turn calling into question the “objective” basis of scientific work. Other developments, particularly those in Quantum Physics, resulted in disturbing information like Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle.”31 While Carl Jung looked deep into the heart of western consciousness, Polanyi and Kuhn took aim at modern assumptions. Both were building on revelations in the physical sciences (primarily physics) that were shaking the foundation of western culture. The rumors of change extend even further back, to a series of lectures by Monsignor Romano Guardini (1885-1968) at the universities of Tubingen and Munich between 1947 and 1949. Leonard Sweet in Postmodern Pilgrims recounts the events. With Guardini trumpeting the end of the world then known. Guardini divided western history into three epochs, bound together by particular continuities. He argued that the epoch into which the world was entering was so new that believers could neither go back nor forward.32 Stan Grenz suggests that postmodernity may have been born in 1979 when the Conseil des Universities of the government of Quebec requested a report on “knowledge in the most highly developed societies.” 33 They turned to Jean-Francios Lyotard, a French philosopher
Heisenberg published his “uncertainty paper” in 1927, based on an experiment with electrons. The essence of the principle is that the more precisely the position of a particle is defined, the less is known with regard to velocity; the more precisely the velocity is established, the less is known with regard to position. 32 Leonard Sweet, Postmodern Pilgrims, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2000) xiv. Sweet also proposes a paradoxical solution: that we need to reach back in order to move forward. 33 Grenz, 29
from the Institute Polytechnique de Philosophie of the University of Paris. Lyotard responded with a short piece titled The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Lyotard’s work did not initiate the discussion so much as making it accessible. Not all observers agree that the break with modernity is so radical, but instead see the shift as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. German sociologist Ulrich Beck describes two phases of modernity: early and late. Late modernity he locates as beginning in roughly 1960. The core of the most recent shift he links to the end of the Industrial age and the move to a technological-information age. The result is a highly educated society which has displaced the manual worker society. This move reinforced Cartesian individualism and ended the high value on long term loyalty to the institutions and structures of the 20th century. This new class of people reflect back on their relationships with these institutions and conclude that they are no longer needed in order for them to maximize their potential and achieve the good life (hence Beck’s term “reflexive” modernity, or late modernity). What began to emerge late in the 20th century was a radical shift in the locus of meaning in western societies from a culture where meaning and identity were grounded in loyalty to institutions (an abstract “we”) to the self as the primary agent of meaning. The result is that almost overnight the institutions and structures of the 20th century entered a place where their legitimacy was challenged and loyalty to them removed.34 Others would describe the new context in the west not as post-modern, but as postsecular and post-colonial. Writing in the Journal of Pentecostal Theology, Amos Yong comments on James Smith’s representation of the theological conversation labeled “Radical Orthodoxy” (RO). Yong writes,
Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage Publications, 1992)
RO mounts a five-pronged offensive meant in part to usher in a post-secular space. First, RO criticizes modernity's individualism, liberalism, and dualism… Second.. if there is no autonomous reason, then there is no purely secular space within which such reason operates. The result is a reconciliation of faith and reason which modernity had segregated. Third.. if there is no purely secular space, then the boundaries between the secular and the sacred are also removed….35 I will prefer the common appellation of “postmodern,” with recognition that the term is itself situated. So what is the postmodern condition? John Franke writes, Broadly speaking the term postmodern implies the rejection of certain central features of the modern project, such as its quest for certain, objective and universal knowledge, along with its dualism and its assumption of the inherent goodness of knowledge. It is this critical agenda, rather than any proposed constructive paradigm to replace the modern vision, that unites postmodern thinkers. 36 More specifically, the postmodern view abandons the notion of an objective world, rejecting a “realist” understanding of knowledge and truth in favor of a nonrealist understanding. Grenz writes, “we have moved from an objectivist to a constructivist outlook.”37 Postmodern thinkers argue that we do not simply encounter a world that is “out there,” but rather that we construct the world with language. “There is no fixed vantage point beyond our own structuring of the world from which to gain a purely objective view of reality.”38 Similarly, Kevin Vanhoozer reviews the postmodern condition with reference to Lyotard as "incredulity towards metanarratives." He writes, .. we cannot believe in the "one true story" that explains every other story. We are too aware that other groups have their own stories that claim to be equally comprehensive. Metanarratives thus dwindle into mere narratives; "reason" is situated, deuniversalized.
Amos Yong, “Radically Orthodox, Reformed, And Pentecostal: Rethinking the Intersection of Post/Modernity and the Religions in Conversation with James K.A. Smith.” Journal of Pentecostal Theology, 2007. Vol 15 (2) 233-250. 36 John Franke, Reforming Theology: Toward a Postmodern Reformed Dogmatics. Westminster Theological Journal 65 (2003): 9. 37 Grenz, 40. 38 Ibid., 41
What is knowledge? I .. propose the following metaphor for knowledge: the map. Meta-narratives, I submit, are not so much explanatory as exploratory frameworks. The map also has the advantage of situating knowledge claims in the context of everyday life: our walk. You are here. I agree with the postmodern insight that human reasoning is situated. I also agree with Lesslie Newbigin that the postmodern critique of foundationalism has shown that human thinking always takes place within "fiduciary" frameworks. Even the Enlightenment project began with a "faith" in the omnicompetence of reason, with a faith in a certain way of mapping the world and our way in it. 39 Truth is both situated and mediated by language. In the postmodern world we are recovering a respect for and awareness of context. The modernist elevation of the self as objective knower is being replaced by a recognition of the importance of a hermeneutical community (with respect to theology) and communities of virtue (with respect to practice).40 John Franke writes, Westphal suggests that postmodern theory, with respect to hermeneutical philosophy, may be properly appropriated for the task of explicitly Christian thought on theological grounds: “The hermeneutics of finitude is a meditation on the meaning of human createdness, and the hermeneutics of suspicion is a meditation on the meaning of human fallenness.41 The collapse of Modernity has occasioned great trepidation and fear on the part of some observers, and great anticipation on the part of others. David Fitch, author of The Great Giveaway, observes that postmodernity is an opportunity that can lead us to “a recovery of being the church that is not enslaved to the maladies of modernism.”42 Elsewhere, Walter Brueggemann observes that the conditions of our time are similar to the time of Israel in exile. Exile is understood primarily as a social and spiritual reality. He
Kevin Vanhoozer, “Pilgrim’s Digress: Christian Thinking on and about the Postmodern Way,” in Christianity and the Postmodern Turn: Six Views. Myron B. Penner, ed. (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005) 85-86. 40 This term from William Cavanaugh, Economics, 9. 41 Franke, 13. 42 Fitch, 14.
notes that the collapse of the hegemony of temple resulted in a move from temple to text, and was a period of intense theological creativity for Israel.43 Freed from the presuppositions and limitations of modernity, the new postmodern context has spawned new questions and creative new engagement. The rejection of Modern assumptions has led to an attempt to rethink the nature of rationality, and has reopened the dialogue between faith and reason.44 Simultaneously, there is a new openness to mystery and a re-imagining of the relationship between love and knowledge, a movement to unite relationality and rationality. John Franke comments, This rethinking has resulted not in irrationality, as is often claimed by less informed opponents of postmodern thought, but rather in numerous redescriptions and proposals concerning appropriate construals of rationality and knowledge after modernity. In spite of their variety, these attempts can be broadly classified as producing a chastened rationality that is more inherently self-critical than the constructions of rationality common in the thought-forms of modernity. 45 Modernity was a profound solvent of Christian faith. Postmodernity may prove little different. The gospel transcends any particular culture and all cultures are subject to the Lordship of Christ. At the same time, the gospel must always be communicated and embedded in forms native to each culture in order for the message to be seen and heard. It may be easier to conceive the particular challenge of postmodernity if we summarize the essential features. For the purposes of summary, I will take the essential features of modernity as offered by Earl Creps: • the centrality of the individual • the reliability of human perception • the primary of reason • the objectivity of truth • the inevitability of progress
Brueggemann, Cadences, 108. He writes that, “Postexilic Judaism is a vibrant act of new generativity, not enslaved to its oldest memories, not enslaves by its recent memory of established power.” 44 See in particular John Caputo, Philosophy and Theology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006). 45 Franke, 10.
• the certainty of absolutes • the uncertainty of the supernatural • uniformity of worldview46 In contrast to these features, Creps’ lists the essential features of postmodernity: • The centrality of community • The complexity of human perception • The primary of experience • The subjectivity of truth • The fragility of progress • The unreality of absolutes • The enormity of the supernatural • The plurality of worldviews In modernity and under the aegis of Christendom the Church became primarily an institution, inward looking and more concerned for self-preservation than for its faithfulness to Christ. Postmodernity will be a different kind of solvent. The challenge now is to ask how we embody the gospel authentically in this culture, a culture that is asking different questions and which sees through a multiplicity of lenses. Moreover, postmodern culture is a radically different culture than that of our western church culture, which is largely formed by modernity. If the primary solvent of modernity was Cartesian individualism, then postmodernity adds consumer capitalism. The metaphor of solvent begs the question: what glue will hold us together and cement our identity as a covenant people, an alternative and kingdom culture formed in allegiance to the Lord Christ? Nancey Murphy notes that both the Christian left and the right hitched their wagons to foundationalism. Both groups sought an epistemological foundation that would prove
Earl Creps, “Disciplemaking in a Postmodern World,” Enrichment Journal (April 2002) 12.
reliable. Conservatives chose scripture, and liberals chose experience.47 With the collapse of modernity, foundationalism itself is a house of cards.48 This begs the question as to the nature of a nonfoundationalist approach. John Franke reminds us of the trialogue of Scripture, tradition and culture. He writes that, all three are vehicles of the one Spirit through which the Spirit speaks in order to create a distinctively Christian “world” centered on Jesus Christ in a variety of local settings. In this way theology is both one, in that all truly Christian theology seeks to hear and respond to the speaking of the one Spirit, and many, in that all theology emerges from particular social and historical situations.49 This brings us very close to the Anabaptist conception of the hermeneutical community. Foundationalists will argue that when truth is socially located then truth is relative. Richard Rorty, however, argues that we have no choice but to begin with our social networks. Does this mean that every community is as good as every other one? Rorty denies this assertion and argues that to make that claim we would have to know a God’s-eye view of the world. Only God could claim the perspective to declare all communities good.50 This perspective moves us from one possible framework developed within modernity and rooted in foundationalism to an older framework of communal discernment rooted in a theology of the Body as the dwelling place of the Spirit. Innagrace Dieterich writes, The modern emphasis on the autonomous self too often ignores, or even denies, the formative power of the various communities in which we participate. We assume that our “habits of the heart” — the notions opinions, commitments, and desires that motivate, order, and guide our lives — are chosen and formed in isolation from other human beings and social realities- Robert Bellah and associates conclude that this view is “based on inadequate social science, improvised philosophy, and vacuous theology.”
Nancey Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Agenda (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996) 35. See also Delbert Wiens, “Mennonites: Neither Liberal nor Evangelical.” Direction (Spring 1991) Vol. 20, No.1. 38-63. 48 John Franke quotes Westphal approvingly, “it is philosophically indefensible.” Franke, 13. 49 Ibid. 17. 50 Grenz, 159
Our identity and our vision are both taught and caught from our interaction with others in diverse social groupings. The question is not whether we will be socialized, but what kind of society will have its way with us. In a technological world of mass communication, entertainment, and advertising, we are often unwittingly instructed, in elaborate, skillful and expensive ways, how we should understand ourselves, the good life, and our true worth. Whether we like it or not, and whether we are explicitly aware of it or not, our most intimate and profound habits of the heart are being shaped by societal influences. We are being formed — cultivated—as a people. 51 The relevance of this statement is easily lost in a culture where freedom is understood as the freedom to pursue whatever good suits my small self. But the biblical picture of freedom is much different because God defines the good, and he has already revealed the purpose of human community as summed up in Christ. If culture is a cultivating force, and if culture is formed by habits and practices, then an alternative culture is sustained by alternative practices. In order to preserve covenantal integrity as we engage missionally with our culture, we need to discover a set of practices that bind us together, root us in a common story, and sustain us as a people. Those practices may determine our future in the west. As Walter Brueggemann put it, For Ezra, as for Moses, new church starts do not aim at strategies for success, but at strategies for survival of an alternative community. What must survive is not simply the physical community; what must survive is an alternative community.52
The End of Christendom We noted above some of the reasons that institutional loyalty is being lost in postmodernity. But a simultaneous development and collapse is equally important to this discussion. We turn now to consider the collapse of Christendom. Christendom is that period of time generally identified as beginning with the Constantinian compact about 300 AD,
Innagrace Dieterich, “Cultivating Communities of the Holy Spirit.” In Missional Church, Darrell L. Guder, Ed.(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1998) 155. Similarly, Foucault’s argument that the institutions of civil society are disciplinary. See Smith, Op Cit. 95ff. 52 Brueggemann, Cadences, 108.
which produced a certain institutional form of the western church in accommodation to culture. Stuart Murray in his paper, The End of Christendom, warns that post-Christendom does not mean secular.53 Secularization has continued since the advent of postmodernity, but it has not resulted in the withering of spirituality. If anything, the intensity of spiritual seeking has increased. In post-Christendom, however, this seeking is only rarely related to Christianity. In part this is because a church mired in modernity is itself very secular.54 Similarly, postmodernity is not synonymous with post-Christendom and “the transition from Christendom to post-Christendom should neither be marginalized nor subsumed within discussions about postmodernity… Indeed, the shift from modernity to postmodernity may be quite minor in missiological terms by comparison with the shift from Christendom to postChristendom. But this latter shift has received far less attention.”55 It is important to acknowledge that post-Christendom is not the experience of all Christians. It is primarily the experience of western Christians and other societies with roots in European culture. Murray comments that, “Christians in post-Christendom are abnormal: our wealth, whiteness, declining numbers, experience of secularization and postmodernity, weariness and struggle to adjust to marginality are exceptional within the global church.”56 Murray acknowledges that an entrenched Christendom remains in parts of the United States, and that its own transition to Post-Christendom may be delayed. The same is not true
Stuart Murray, The End of Christendom. A paper presented at Global Connections Interface Consultation, 2004. 6. 54 Reggie McNeal opines that “We have a church in North American that is more secular than the culture. Just when the church adopted a business model, the culture went looking for God. Just when the church embraced strategic planning (linear and Newtonian), the universe shifted to preparedness (loopy and quantum). Just when the church began building recreation centers, the culture began a search for sacred space.” The Present Future (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003) 55 Murray, Op Cit. 7 56 Ibid., 8
of Canada, however, which has always been more Euro-centric and more secular than the US. Murray offers a definition of Post-Christendom: “Post-Christendom is the culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story and as the institutions that have been developed to express Christian convictions decline in influence.”57 Murray writes that the demise of Christendom may be sudden or gradual, and involves both institutional and philosophical changes. In part, this is because Christendom itself formed a worldview, a lens through which reality was constructed and maintained. One of the distinctives of this shift is that the Christian story was not replaced by another story but by skepticism about all explanatory and culture-shaping stories. Murray describes this as a unique historical transition and then lists the central features. They are: •
From the centre to margins: in Christendom the Christian story and the churches were central, but in post-Christendom these are marginal. • From majority to minority: in Christendom Christians comprised the (often overwhelming) majority, but in post-Christendom we are a minority. • From settlers to sojourners: in Christendom Christians felt at home in a culture shaped by their story, but in post-Christendom we are aliens, exiles and pilgrims in a culture where we no longer feel at home. • From privilege to plurality: in Christendom Christians enjoyed many privileges, but in post-Christendom we are one community among many in a plural society. • From control to witness: in Christendom churches could exert control over society, but in post-Christendom we exercise influence only through witnessing to our story and its implications. • From maintenance to mission: in Christendom the emphasis was on maintaining a supposedly Christian status quo, but in post-Christendom it is on mission within a contested environment. • From institution to movement: in Christendom churches operated mainly in institutional mode, but in post-Christendom we must become again a Christian movement.
As with postmodernity itself, reactions and responses to Post-Christendom vary from fear and dismay to relief and welcome. Anabaptists, as with Murray himself, tend to welcome this shift from the center to the margins. He notes that the Reformers toyed with radical ideas about the nature of the Church and its relationship to the State, but then gradually retrenched as they received the support of the State. Murray writes, “The Protestant Reformation challenged neither the Christendom framework nor the demise of mission. But their contemporaries, the Anabaptists, rejected Christendom as a delusion, engaged in serious ecclesiological reflection, and designated Europe as a mission field.58 Others similarly welcome the collapse of Christendom and the opportunity for new ecclesial imagination. Robert Farrar Capon writes, "Marginality … leaves the church free, if it is faithful, to cherish its absurdity; establishment just makes it fall in love all over again with the irrelevant respectability of the world's wisdom and power."59 Chris Erdman opines, “Christendom afforded the church and its pastors many advantages, but those advantages .. blinded the church to the many ways the Word of God became compromised to causes subversive and many times antithetical to the reign of God.”60 He later writes that, Christendom is no more, and the church, like it or not, must go into exile and there find its true missional identity. But pastors—themselves frightened by the chaos, unclear about what it means for the future, and made anxious by the anxious people who listen to their sermons, pay their salaries, and cannot help but define the church and its ministry by the standards of the culture around them—will opt to try to hold the center and deny the reality of collapse.61 While many among us welcome this new reality, we also recognize that this new situation brings both opportunity and danger. Walter Brueggemann describes this new
Stuart Murray, “Christendom and Post-Christendom.” Found at Tribal Generation Accessed 2006.
17. Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 64. Chris Erdman, “Entering the Wreckage: Grief and Hope in Jeremiah, and the Rescripting of the Pastoral Vocation in a Time of Geopolitical Crisis.” In Out of the Strange Silence, Brad Thiessen, Ed. (Fresno, CA: MB Biblical Seminary, 2005) 111-122. 61 Erdman, Op Cit. 4.
situation as analogous to Israel during the exile.62 He identifies the dangers of exile as accommodation or despair, and argues that what we must do in response to this new condition is stand in faith and readiness for God to act. This readiness is maintained by intentional disciplines that are marked by danger.63 Given the compromises of the faithful community, exiles know how to grieve and are tempted to despair. Therefore, exiles are lovers in a dangerous time. Bruce Cockburn sings, When you're lovers in a dangerous time sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime -but nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight -got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight..64
The Gospel of the Kingdom The most important social task of Christians is to be nothing less than a community capable of forming people with virtues sufficient to witness to God’s truth in the world… it is not the task of the Church to try to develop social theories or strategies… rather, the task of the Church… is to become a polity that has the character necessary to survive as a truthful society.65 ..if God’s plan of salvation depends on an aesthetic and erotic attraction to a people living a particular way of life—a ‘contrast society’ as Lohfink says—then it is crucial that that community and that way of life be visible, that is, manifest in concrete practices.66 What is the gospel of the kingdom? What is the “good news” that Jesus announced? If we separate Jesus appearance in the world from his context -- Roman oppression and Rome’s insistence that Caesar and his armies offer the path to the good life – then we are left with a spiritual gospel that has little to say about life in this world. But to those who have been
Walter Brueggemann writes, "The exiled Jews of the OT were of course geographically displaced. More than that, however, the exiles experienced a loss of the structured, reliable world which gave them meaning and coherence, and they found themselves in a context where their most treasured and trusted symbols of faith were mocked, trivialized, or dismissed. Exile is not primarily geographical, but it is social, moral and cultural." Cadences, 2. 63 Ibid. 110 ff. 64 Bruce Cockburn, “Waiting for a Miracle.” (Toronto: True North Records, 1983) 65 Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1981) 3. 66 Cavanaugh, “Body Language” 150.
touched by the Spirit of God, something entirely new has entered the world, and that new creation affects all aspects of life and being.67 Of course it was in the interest of the Roman Empire to suppress this perspective, and Douglas John Hall argues that a preference for the triumphal narratives accompanied Roman adoption of the faith. He writes that, No respectable empire wants to set up as its primary religious symbol the spectacle of a broken, publicly despised, and officially criminal human being, particularly one whose execution the empire itself effected! It was inevitable, given the fourth-century establishment of Christianity, that the divinity principle in christology would triumph-as it has triumphed in all the subsequent empires with which the Christian religion has covenanted. Little of the Hebrew Bible's critique of power (the power of kings and military heroes and alleged deities) found its way into Christian christological reflection, except in the thin tradition of the theologia crucis.68 Divorcing salvation from life in the world is a great advantage when you are in love with wealth or power but also want some kind of after-death insurance. Unfortunately, the gospel of God’s good reign does not offer this option. There is no more revolutionary statement than the statement that “Jesus is Lord.” If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not. While Caesar claims to bring peace with his armies, it is the power of the strong over the weak. In Everything Must Change Brian McLaren discusses the military industrial complex as well as theocapitalism. He notes that the US spends 2 billion dollars a day on the military. Weapons and violence are a business, and that business enables us to accrue wealth and maintain our lifestyles at the expense of others.69
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Cor. 5:17. 68 Douglas John Hall, “Confessing Christ in a Post-Christendom Context.” Address to the 1999 Covenant Conference of the Presbyterian Network, Atlanta, Georgia. November 6, 1999. 4-5. 69 The richest 1 percent of the world own nearly 40 percent of total wealth, and the riches 5 percent own 70 percent. Since 1950 global economic output has increased by 600 percent, but 80 percent of this increase was shared by 20 percent of the people. The USA is in the bottom 25 percent of all nations in terms of wealth distribution. In 1998 the richest 1 percent of US households held 47 percent of all household financial assets. Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) 249.
We have already examined the formative power of cultural symbols and practices. The telos of a market culture is good consumers. Good consumers don’t ask uncomfortable questions about how goods are produced, under what conditions, who produces them, and for what wages. In other words, producer capitalism cannot address questions of justice. Yet the reign of God is all about justice. Jesus birth was announced in terms that evoke the prophetic corpus of the Old Testament and that suggest a radical reorientation of life. He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, And sent away the rich empty handed. Luke 1: 51-53 Moreover, when Jesus proclaims his own ministry, he announces, “.. good news to the poor .. release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed..” (Luke 4:18). But where is this alternative community? The western gospel has been largely spiritualized and has not led to the communities of peace and justice that Jesus envisioned. The language of “missional church” is language that is rooted in the reign of God. Moreover, it is rooted in the sovereignty and freedom of God, and the history of his mighty acts. As Robert Webber quipped: “We do not define God’s mission; it defines us.”70 To be missional is to be kingdom centered in our thinking. It is to move the full attention of the church toward the agenda of God’s kingdom and the saving and reconciling mission of God (missio Dei) in the world. Howard Snyder paraphrases David Bosch: “It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world; it is the God of mission who has a church in the world.”71
Op Cit. 241. Source unknown.
If we maintain that the church has no reason for existence apart from participating in the missio Dei and being the sign, foretaste, and instrument of the God’s reign, it reframes the agenda of the church and of its members. No longer is the church’s primary task centered on its own life and preservation; no longer are the goals of ecclesial life growth, success, and propagation; no longer is the church like a club which exists to provide services to its members. Rather, the church gives itself wholly to God’s mission and His kingdom, orienting all its life, leadership, and ministries to that end. In this frame, church members find their meaning and work as they give themselves to this divine project. This missional frame critiques the institutional self-interest we observe as well as the consumer spirituality common among church members. In The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch argues persuasively that “Jesus is Lord” is the starting point for any faith community that is seeking to orient its life by the Gospel. Writing of the Chinese Jesus movement, Hirsch notes that “when all their external reference points were removed, when most of their leaders and theologians were killed or imprisoned and all access to outside sources is cut off, they [were] forced to unlock something truly potent and compelling..”72 In the simplicity of their life in Jesus, the persecuted Chinese church grew like a wildfire. Similarly Newbigin critiques the church growth movement using the work of Roland Allen, arguing for the radical freedom of God and against our western dependence on programs and technique. Allen’s charge against modern missions was that they had been tempted by their alliance with colonial powers to act as though the mission of the church could be pursued in the style of a cultural educational campaign, as though the object was to multiply replicas of the sending churches. In contrast Allen rightly saw that in the New Testament portrayal of mission the central reality is the active work of the living Holy Spirit himself. It is the Spirit who brings about conversion, the Spirit who equips those who are called with the gifts needed for all the varied forms of ministry, and the Spirit
Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006) 85.
who guides the church into all the truth. The Spirit is not the property of the sending church or the missionary who is sent. It is not part of the missionary’s duty to mold the new church in to the style of the old. The Spirit is sovereign and free…73 If Newbigin’s perspective appears so radical to us, it is only because we are so immersed in the ethos of modernity and its confidence in human powers. He affirms both the freedom of the Spirit and the ubiquity of the Spirit. Moreover, against colonialism and the universalizing tendency of modernity he affirms the creativity of the Spirit and his love for diversity. Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost are responsible for a typology that has proven useful to many in thinking about the way we root the Gospel in our communities. In The Shaping of Things to Come, they argue that missional activity must be “incarnational.” They contrast this with the “attractional” approach of the introverted institutional church and maintain that an attractional church “bids people to come and hear the gospel in the holy confines of the church and its community . . . [with the] assumption that God cannot really be accessed outside sanctioned church meetings.”74 This frame is helpful because it illuminates a fundamental dualism in our approach to culture that prevents us from seeing that God is everywhere at work around us and that he goes before us; the Holy Spirit is active in the world and is not the property of the church. An incarnational ecclesiology emphasizes the need for the church to be the authentic people of God in the community where it resides. It calls for taking its geographical and cultural context seriously, being present in culture rather than separate from it, and visibly embodying the gospel in its everyday life in that context. Incarnational ministry affirms that we watch for what God is doing: He is always about his mission and we join in his work
Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1995) 2nd Edition. 130. Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, The Shaping of Things to Come (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003) 41.
rather than calling to the world to come to us. At the same time, an incarnational approach could fail to critique individualism. While recognizing the tribalism of post-modern culture we must resist the move to homogenize communities. Christ broke down dividing walls and created “one new man.” The church becomes a sign and foretaste of God’s kingdom when it embodies unity within a diverse community, breaking the barriers of gender, class, color, etc. It is the particularity of God’s action in the world, and the counter-cultural nature of the kingdom that pushes us to consider the necessity of alternative forming practices. Such practices will shape an alternative culture, which witnesses to an alternative kingdom and a different Lord. The integrity of our witness requires that we find ways to form faithful communities of Jesus followers in a time that is much like the exile. We now turn to consider several movements which are a response to the collapse of modernity and the end of Christendom. Each of these movements recognizes the important of alternative forming practices.
Emerging, Missional, and New Monastic Movements Co-opted by the promises of a false Lord in an empire that proclaims the gospel of peace and prosperity,75 the Church in the west stands in need of both repentance and deliverance. The word “gospel” was already politicized when Jesus arrived, and was used with reference to the peace and prosperity promised by Caesar and enforced by the sword. The good news of the kingdom, however, moves in a completely different direction. Brian
In Static, Ron Martoia notes that the word gospel was found on a stone tablet dated to 9 BC in a proclamation about the divinity of Caesar and his deliverance of Rome by his armies. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007) 34. See also Walsh and Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2004)
McLaren writes that, “when Jesus proclaimed his central message of the kingdom of God he was proclaiming not an esoteric religious concept but an alternative to empire.”76 With the collapse of Christendom and the growing awareness of a need to respond to the cultural captivity of the church, a variety of renewal movements have sprung up since 1990. These attempts have been grouped by Tom Sine as missional, emergent, neo-monastic, and mosaic. 77 All of these groups are attempting to respond to the fragmenting forces of modernity and the Faustian bargain of the church with market capitalism. 78 More than merely an attempt to critique the captivity of the church, these movements or conversations are attempts to reinvigorate a post-modern ecclesiology, an ecclesiology that is rooted and grounded in the local, and that centers around rhythms and relationships. All these groups acknowledge the need to recover the church as a peculiar culture, with its own disciplinary, or forming, practices. They each acknowledge the need for covenantal integrity, and in each movement are groups shaping their life around a rule. Each of these movements has unique characteristics. While it is possible to observe the phenomenon of convergence, empowered by new networks and new media, it is still possible to describe the history and emphases of each of these conversations or movements independently. 79
McLaren, Everything, 90. Sine, 30ff. 78 Alan Roxburgh asks, “How is it possible for churches to talk about anything and everything except the very forces that pull the most basic human relationships apart?” He writes, “There is a rising tide of awareness that the effects of globalization are destructive and deleterious. People are being overwhelmed as the most basic relationships that make us human are being stretched to the point of breaking by the effects of this economic vision of a secular utopia. People are asked to trust the high priests who really know how to manage the mysteries and bring forth the new world. Like any religious vision, globalization promises to re-make the world through a universal free market. In this evangelistic movement, the local and the particular are encumbrances. All peoples and places are to be homogenized into a single McVillage.” “Missional Mapmaking, Part VI.” Available at www.allelon.org Accessed Sept. 17, 2008. 79 For more on this convergence and its significance, see Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008)
David Dunbar, President of Biblilcal Seminary, characterizes “missional” and “emerging” uniquely. 80 The missional movement grew out of the Gospel and our Culture network and came to prominence with the publication of Missional Church in 1998. This conversation, profoundly theological, was built on the insight and experience of Lesslie Newbigin who recognized that the west had become a context for mission. The reorienting power of this paradigm may be best represented by a statement attributed to David Bosch: “It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world, it is the God of mission who has a church in the world.” To be missional is to re-center our thinking and activity around the reign of God and the saving and reconciling mission of God (missio Dei) in the world. If we accept the theological premise that the church has no reason for existence apart from participating in the missio Dei, it reorients the agenda of the church and of its members. No longer is the church’s primarily task to seek its own growth and success. Rather, the church gives itself wholly to God’s mission, orienting its structure, leadership, programs, and ministries around that agenda, and its members find their meaning and place in community as they give themselves to this larger purpose. Frost and Hirsch in The Shaping of Things to Come identify a central mark of missional orientation as “incarnational.”81 An incarnational ecclesiology emphasizes the need for the church to be the authentic people of God in and among the community – in the neighborhood -- where it resides. It calls for taking location and context seriously, being present in culture rather than separate from it, and performing (embodying) the gospel in its everyday life in
David Dunbar, “Missional, Emerging, Emergent: A Traveler’s Guide,” in Missional Journal (May 2008) Vol.2, No.4. 81 Frost and Hirsch, 33ff.
that context. While the outcome of this position could be increasing fragmentation as hundreds of small incarnational and contextualized works spring up in a city, we hope for a new catholicity as we continue to embrace affiliation and mutual support, but from a decentered ministry. We remain one local Body in many expressions, continuing to embrace diversity in one faith. The emerging movement or conversation, while incorporating some of the insights from the missional movement, (in particular this one related to incarnation) is also built on insights rising from the new science, and in particular from emergence and chaos theory. David Dunbar writes, Emergence theory argues that dynamic systems grow out of a combination of top-down and bottom-up processes that unleash the creativity necessary for organisms to adapt and thrive in their environments. Emerging church leaders are therefore quite prepared to reinvent traditional church structures and leadership roles in favor of promoting life. 82 That observation and contextualization is accurate. The work being done at the convergence zones of biology, quantum physics, and organizational science is helping us move beyond rationalized and mechanistic thinking to an older and more organic paradigm.
Recently some careful surveys of churches and groups who self-identify as emergent was completed by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger of Fuller Seminary. The study was undertaken over five years, from 2000-2005 and resulted in Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Culture. The study spanned the Atlantic (though it neglected Canada) as it identified fifty emerging church communities in the United States and England. Gibbs and Bolger interviewed leaders of these communities, conducted multiple surveys, and visited many of the communities in person.
One of the results of this substantial effort was a simple and functional definition oriented around practice: “Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures.”83 In addition to this definition, the authors distilled nine key practices of emerging churches. While all nine of the practices did not appear in every community they studied, all possessed the first three in their list, which they identify as “core practices.” Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Six additional practices were identified as derivative of the first three. These are: (1) welcome the stranger, (2) serve with generosity, (3) participate as producers, (4) create as created beings, (5) lead as a body, and (6) take part in spiritual activities. 84 David Dunbar focused on two of the four streams identified by Sine. In the western Canadian context I have no contact with the mosaic, but I am in conversation with many in the “monastic” stream. In his journal, David accurately cites David Fitch as a leader in the emerging movement. Fitch’s community, Life on the Vine, is one of those bodies that has crossed from the emerging conversation into the monastic movement by scripting and adopting a rule of life. Similarly, Alan Roxburgh is known as a leader in the missional movement, but as far back as the publication of Missional Church has had a strong interest in covenant structures,85 which are common to the new monastic movement but also a variety of other historical groups, including Mennonites. Monasticism is unique in these streams, with roots reaching back as far as the Cappadocian Fathers c 360. In the following century Benedict of Nursia (c 480-547) founded
Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005) 44. 84 Ibid., 45 85 His chapter, “Equipping God’s People for Mission,” Guder et al, Missional Church (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1998) 204ff.
twelve communities, the best known of which is his first monastery at Monte Cassino in southern Italy. His main achievement is his "Rule", containing precepts for his monks. It is heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, but it has a unique spirit of moderation. This spirit, combined with the interest and writing of Pope Gregory (c 540-604), persuaded most religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it.86 As a result, the Rule of St Benedict became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom and Benedict is considered the founder of the monastic movement. The most recent recovery of the monastic movement, or core elements of it, seems to coincide with renewed interest in Celtic spirituality. But the reasons for that renewal are more complex, and may be closely tied to the collapse of modernity. 87 The monastic communities that sprang to life in the 6th to 10th centuries rose as the Roman Empire was collapsing and society was fragmenting. Moreover, the communities that rose in the barbarian lands of the west were different than those that rose in the ordered and civilized lands of Europe where Rome once held sway. George Hunter III describes the difference. Briefly, the Eastern monasteries organized to protest and escape from the materialism of the Roman world and the corruption of the Church; the Celtic monasteries organized to penetrate the pagan world and to extend the Church. The eastern monks often withdrew from the world into monasteries to save and cultivate their own souls; Celtic leaders often organized monastic communities to save other people's souls. The leaders of the Eastern monasteries located their monasteries in isolated locations, off the beaten track; the Celtic Christians built their monastic communities in locations accessible to the traffic of the time, like proximity to settlements, or on hilltops, or on islands near the established sea lanes. Celtic communities were much more diverse than eastern monasteries. They were also populated by priests, teachers, scholars, craftsmen, artists, farmers, families, and children, as well as monks and/or nuns-all under the leadership of a lay abbot or a lay
Joan Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today (New York: HarperCollins, 1991) 10. 87 Phyllis Tickle notes that the monastic movement was born during a time of upheaval similar to that of the reformation and was fostered by the initiative of Gregory the Great. The Great Emergence (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008) 22-25.
abbess. They had little use for more than a handful of ordained priests, or for people seeking ordination; they were essentially lay movements..88 One of the most recent communities to follow the pattern of the eastern monastic movement was born in the late 80s in the UK with John and Linda Skinner and Andy Raine in Northumberland. Andy Raine writes, In the mid 80’s the Nether Springs Trust was formed to release John into a ministry of spiritual direction in the context of a contemplative calling. In 1989 an apostolic group called Northumbria Ministries, committed to mission in the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, led by Roy Searle, met with the group that represented Nether Springs and explored a coming together as one. This led in June 1991 to The Nether Springs Trust, Home of Northumbria Ministries, a prelude to the Northumbria Community. As the founders pioneered and explored, a Community emerged around them, unplanned, spontaneous. Then out of a life actually being lived, with shared relationships and common values, a way of life was formed centred in ‘the one thing necessary’ of seeking God through Availability and Vulnerability. In discovering the history and heritage of Celtic Northumbria; the strong links to the saints and scholars of Ireland, the wisdom tradition of the Desert Fathers, the ‘mixed life’ of the Franciscans, there was a blending of cell and coracle, of monastery and mission, from which the language and ethos of the Community was born and is still sustained.89 The Northumbria community website quotes Rudolfo Bahro, “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” The community describe their rule around two poles: vulnerability and availability. They write, We say yes to availability, yes to vulnerability. We are called to be available to God and others. We are called to intentional, deliberate vulnerability. (See Appendix B for a detailed account of the Rule). A Rule then is a means whereby, under God, we take responsibility for the pattern of
George G. Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000) 28. Online at www.northumbriacommunity.org . Accessed September 19, 2008.
our spiritual lives. It is a ‘measure’ rather than a ‘law’. The word ‘rule’ has bad connotations for many, implying restrictions, limitations and legalistic attitudes. But a Rule is essentially about freedom. It helps us to stay centred, bringing perspective and clarity to the way of life to which God has called us. The word derives from the Latin ‘regula’ which means ‘rhythm, regularity of pattern, a recognizable standard’ for the conduct of life.. A Rule is an orderly way of existence but we embrace it as a way of life not as keeping a list of rules. It is a means to an end – and the end is that we might seek God with authenticity and live more effectively for Him. 90 Making a similar point on freedom the Benedictine Joan Chittister writes, “Conformity is not the end of Benedictine life; it is community of heart and soul and mind toward which we move..”91 Not long after the rebirth of Northumbria, a group of friends in Reading were rediscovering the power of prayer and an intentional life of mission. Pete Greig quotes Bonhoeffer: The restoration of the church will surely come from a sort of new monasticism which has in common with the old only the uncompromising attitude of a life lived according to the sermon on the mount n the following of Christ. I believe it is now time to call people together to do this. 92 The 24/7 prayer movement was birthed by Pete Greig, Andy Freeman and friends around 2002 in Reading, England. At the time they were reading in the history of spirituality, with particular interest in the Celts, the desert fathers, and the monastic writers. Three years later they formally founded a missional order around their own rule of life: the Order of the Mustard Seed. Joining the Order requires a threefold vow of kindness, faithfulness to Christ, and missional living. The website for the Order specifically references the Northumbria Rule. The 24/7 prayer movement encourages involvement with marginalized people.
Ibid. Chitistter, 46 92 Andy Freeman, Pete Greig. Punk Monk: New Monasticism and the Ancient Art of Breathing (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2007) 35.
Moot Community in the UK similarly orders their life around a Rule. The Moot rhythm is described as ordered through presence, acceptance, creativity, balance, accountability and hospitality. InnerCHANGE is another monastic movement, taking its inspiration from the Franciscans. To date they have birthed communities in eight countries and they emphasize prayer and service to the poor.93 Urban Neighbors of Hope (UNOH) was founded in 2001 as a missional order by the Churches of Christ in Australia. UNOH has teams living in five countries and their vision is to live among the poor in the Asia-Pacific region. 94 The most recent expression of this spiritual vitality is the new monastic movement. Formally birthed in 2005 at a gathering in Raleigh-Durham, it was comprised mostly of people in their 20s and early 30s. From this initial meeting came a book titled, Schools for Conversion: Twelve Marks of the New Monasticism.95 Shane Clairborne and Jonathan Wilson were two of the founders. Claiborne writes that earlier believers “found it necessary to go into the desert to find God … Our desert is the inner cities and abandoned places of the empire.”96 Alasdair MacIntyre closes his book After Virtue by drawing a parallel between our age and the last days of the Roman Empire. He warns that it is dangerous to make assumptions about two epochs that are so distant, but nevertheless notes the points of connection. He writes,
Sine, 51 Ibid., 52 95 See Appendix A for the twelve marks. 96 Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 166.
A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained..97 MacIntyre concludes that we too have reached this turning point. He notes a crucial distinction between those earlier days and our own in that now, “the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.” And then he makes a critical observation: “We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another – doubtless very different – St. Benedict.”98 Jonathan Wilson in his book reflecting on MacIntyre’s work agrees that we have not been cognizant of the dangers of compromise with modernity and the hegemony of empire. 99 He closes with a reflection calling for a new monasticism and suggests four key characteristics: a recovery of the gospel telos that sees the whole of life under the Lordship of Christ. This recovery will blur the distinction between the sacred and the secular. • It will be for the whole people of God. It will not divide the people of God into “religious” and “secular” vocations. • It will be disciplined [but] cannot simply be a recovery of the old monastic rules. The disciplines are always only a means to an end.. • It will be undergirded by deep theological reflection and commitment. The purpose of the new monasticism is to provide the church with a means to recover its life and witness [mission] in the world… we must strive simultaneously for a recovery of right belief and right practice.100 Wilson underscores the counter cultural nature of the people of God in this world. He affirms that “we are constantly tempted to form a church that will simply undergird the civil
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (London: Duckworth, 1981) 263 Lesslie Newbigin picks up on this comment in his classic work Foolishness to the Greeks. Newbigin then asks what are the conditions for the recovery by the church of its proper distinction from and proper responsibility for this secular culture. He lists seven essentials for answering the question. Those essentials are clearly reflected in the following reflections by Jonathan Wilson. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986) 134150. 99 Jonathan Wilson, Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press, 1997) 72. 100 Ibid., 72-76
order. A new monasticism refuses that temptation… The new monasticism envisioned here is the form by which the church will recover its telos, the living tradition of the gospel, the practices and virtues that sustain that faithfulness, and the community marked by faithful living in a fragmented world.”101 To summarize, Wilson argues for: • a recovery of the wholeness of the gospel in a non-dualistic framework for viewing faith and life; • an alternative lifestyle that witnesses to a new polis, a political reality disciplined life under a rule; • theological reflection in community; • engagement in mission; • a prophetic critique of culture in view of the Lordship of Christ and his victory over the fallen powers. In October of 2007 Allelon, the organization of which Alan Roxburgh is Canadian Vice-President, called for a gathering of persons from around the world who were interested in the formation of a dispersed missional order around a rule of life. The group of forty persons met in Seabeck, Washington to share stories, to read Scripture, to pray and to discern the mind of Christ. The group that gathered was Anglican and Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist, Baptist and Mennonite, evangelical and charismatic. They gathered in October to listen for sounds of a new birth — a missional order. An order is a covenanted structure that is centered around a rule. A rule defines a set of practices that grow out of shared purpose and shared understanding. After Seabeck the group was drawn back to the Northumbria rule, which is structured around intention in availability and vulnerability. Gordon Cosby reminds us of the call to vulnerability and availability:
We forget that Jesus, ‘though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself.’ Our culture promotes a constant filling up, but our disciplines will draw us toward greater emptiness, so that we can be better prepared for obedience and, ultimately, for finding our place in God’s plan - finding true relevance.2 The goal of this project is to discover what alternative practices sustain spiritual vitality and missional engagement in respective towns and neighborhoods. The communities I will involve in the study may or may not self-identify as missional, monastic, or emerging. The discussion above is not meant to develop a template for ecclesial community, but rather represents the renewing life of the Spirit among God’s people. My survey will identify specific practices in each community that sustain missional vitality. While rules vary, they incorporate rhythms of inward movement (community) and outward life (mission). The movements I have described, when they organize around a rule, include the following elements: • • • • • • Disciplines of prayer and contemplation Disciplines of celebration and recreation Disciplines of learning and study Practice of hospitality and sharing resources Practice of mission, usually engaging the poor Pursuit of justice and peace, earthkeeping
My survey instrument will seek to assess which practices are central and to what extent.
Conclusion In this chapter we considered the core issues with regard to missional orders and a rule of life. We observed how covenantal structures are a response to the solvent of modernity, our market culture, and the increasing fragmentation and hyper-individualism of postmodernity. I believe that faithful apprentices of Jesus embody the transforming reality of the
Gospel in an alternative culture, formed by alternative practices, in a rhythm of inward and outward life. In the next chapter we will consider the biblical and theological foundations that support this project from the perspective of theology in context. The particular theological concepts that support and inform this project include: covenant (and body), kingdom (God’s authority and reign), Trinity (relationality and the creational echo of peoplehood), and missio Dei.
CHAPTER 3 RECOVERING A WHOLE LIFE SPIRITUALITY UNDER GOD’S REIGN: BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL MOORINGS
The research question of this project centers on practices that sustain missional faithfulness. I believe that faithful apprentices of Jesus embody the transforming reality of the Gospel in an alternative culture, formed by alternative practices, in a rhythm of inward and outward life (community and mission).1 This chapter considers the biblical and theological foundations that support this project. Particular concepts include: covenant (and body), kingdom (God’s authority and reign), Trinity (relationality and the creational echo of peoplehood), and missio Dei. We begin with a look at the nature and purpose of God’s covenant with humankind and the closely related concept of God’s kingdom reign. Next we’ll consider the relationship of the reign of God and his mission. We’ll finish with a consideration of the implications for ecclesial practice.
Covenant Again and again there is a prophetic call to recognize the hand of God, who will never cancel his covenant but whose unshakable purpose is that Israel shall be the witness that manifests his sovereign glory to all the nations.2 Shalom and berith (”covenant”) are practically synonymous. Shalom refers to the state of those who participate in the harmonious society. Berith refers to the community and
George Lings suggests that the relationship of community and mission is analogous to the double helix, intertwining and growing together. Unpublished paper, 2. October, 2008. 2 Newbigin, The Open Secret (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1978) 73.
all the privileges and obligations that community implies. Covenant and shalom go hand in hand; God’s community must have one to experience the other.3 There would be no holy community apart from God’s reign in the world, and no reign without God’s mission. God’s reign and God’s mission are intimately connected, and his purpose in renewing and restoring creation begins with his work in making covenant. In making covenant, God creates a people. Covenant sets the foundation for God’s formative work in creating a people to show his glory, and it sets the foundation within the church for our relationships one to another. We are a people because of what God has done in history. Edmund Janzen writes, The identification of the disciples of Jesus as the covenant people of God is supported by the New Testament’s application to the church of a multitude of other terms and concepts once applied to Israel in the Old Testament—the remnant, the elect, the sons of Abraham, a holy nation, the exodus pilgrims. And that was their self-perception as well. Though never using the word ecclesia (lit., “called out together ones”) in his epistles, Peter states most clearly the idea that the body of believers (“God’s own people”) is the continuing people of God (1 Pet. 2:9-10)—but only if they respond to God’s grace. As Israel, so the church.4 Covenant has been described as one of the most prominent themes in the Old Testament. From Genesis through the prophets, God is displayed as one who is wedded in covenant love to all that he created, and in particular to humankind. The Hebrew word for covenant is berîth. While not certain in its etymology, berith may derive from bârâ, meaning “to eat.” This makes sense, because the phrase for “making a covenant” is kârat berîth; literally “cutting a covenant.” The ancient Semitic ritual involved cutting a sacrificial animal in two halves and the covenant parties then pass between the halves. The common meal which usually followed made use of the sacrificed meat. A
Jon Stock, Tim Otto, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Inhabiting the Church: Biblical Wisdom for a New Monasticism (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2007) 112. 4 Edmund Janzen, “A Covenanting People.” Direction Journal, (Fall 1986).Vol. 15, No. 2. 32-44.
covenant was a physical and spiritual life-bond, the bringing together of two separate bodies and all that they represented into a new unified whole. 5 A second critical word is hesed. Mounce’s Expository Dictionary describes the meaning: “hesed” is one of the richest, most theologically insightful terms in the OT. It denotes “kindness, love, loyalty, mercy… Hesed describes the special relationship God has with his covenantal people, and as such can be a difficult word to translate because it is so specific.. God’s great self-disclosure, when allowing his glory to pass before Moses, includes hesed. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love (hesed) for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearly the guilty” (Ex. 34:6-8).6 Mounce describes hesed as the defining characteristic of God in covenantal relationship with His people and that it defines God’s rule: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness go before you” (Ps. 89:14).7 Why covenant with humankind, who demonstrated our rebellious nature in the garden? God longs to restore the broken relationship. He created male and female in his image, and sin has distorted that image. In redemption we reveal again to the world the love and faithfulness of God as we are renewed in his image. God is on a mission to restore what was lost, and his method of choice is covenant. God’s covenant was mediated through individuals like Noah and Abraham, but it embraces a community of people. Through the agency of a people, God then reaches out to all humanity.8 The idea of covenant has become nearly foreign to us, yet salvation history takes shape around a series of covenants. After the fall God’s saving intervention is sealed in a covenant
In Genesis 15:7-21 the animals are cut in two and a smoking fire pot and torch pass between them. William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) 426. 7 Ibid. 8 This idea of a mediating priesthood to the nations is picked up in 1 Peter 2: 9-10.
with Noah (Gen. 9). Not long afterward, God calls Abraham and the history of Israel unfolds. The history of Israel revolves around three covenants: the Abrahamic, the Sinaitic and the Davidic. Each of these covenants become turning points in the history of Israel, and form the frameworks for understanding that history.9 The first point we can make about these covenantal acts is that they are acts of divine grace: they are understandings, interventions and commitments structured by God out of his deep mercy, not because of any merit on the part of humanity, or any constraint outside of Himself.10 The second point we can make about covenant is its relationship to law. Nearly all the laws in the Pentateuch appear within a covenant framework. Law is integral to God’s saving plan, which is worked out through covenants. Gordon Wenham makes the point that, “these laws are more than an abstract system of morality. They are the personal demands of the sovereign, personal God on his subject people….11 At this point in western history, we psychologize love to a romantic feeling and inward experience, and “law” connotes legality and outward conformity. For Israel, however, God’s law defined love and faithfulness, and faith was something visible in the concrete way we deal with the material world. William Cavanaugh writes, The Law was a way of training in the practices of the community. Jews were made, not born. Furthermore, if God’s plan of salvation depends on an aesthetic and erotic attraction to a people living a particular way of life—a ‘contrast society’ as Lohfink says—then it is crucial that that community and that way of life be visible, that is, manifest in concrete practices. The Law is the primary way the Israelites had of maintaining their distinctive visible identity as God’s people.12
Daniel I. Block. “Preaching Old Testament Law to New Testament Christians.” Part I. In Ministry, (May 2006) 5-11 10 Daniel I. Block. “The Grace of Torah: The Mosaic Prescription for Life.” In Bibliotheca Sacra 162 (January-March, 2005) 3-22. 11 Gordon Wenhman, “Law and Grace in the Old Testament,” in Law, Morality and the Bible, Bruce Kaye and Gordon Wenham, Eds. (Downers Grove.: IVP, 1978.) 5. 12 William Cavanaugh, “The Church as God’s Body Language,” Zadok Perspectives (Spring 2006) 149.
Our response to God’s faithfulness must likewise be faithfulness, and that seen in concrete practices. Israel’s self-understanding was that it must be a community of promise keeping and covenant faithfulness. Micah 6:8 reads, He has shown you, O man, what is good: And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, To love loyalty, And to walk humbly with your God. The context of the Micah passage is a layperson approaching a religious official. The person wants to atone for sin by sacrifice, and the prophet uses hyperbole to emphasize that even “thousands of rams rivers of oil” will not satisfy God. Instead, what Yahweh requires is justice (mishpat), covenant loyalty (hesed) and trusting humility. Again we filter these concepts through our cultural context, and justice becomes something we find in a court of law. But the prophets intended something different, and justice referred to the fulfillment of responsibilities that rose out of particular relationships within the covenant community.13 Anderson writes, “Each relationship has its specific obligation, and all relationships ultimately are bound by relationship to God … When the demands of various relationships are fulfilled, justice or righteousness prevails and there is shalom, “peace” or “welfare.”14 Yahweh’s covenant love, or hesed, was expressed through steadfast love and loyalty. Similarly, our response is to be faithfulness, obedience, and justice. Our obligations to Yahweh are to be manifest in every relationship in our communities. Thus we will show forth “what is good” and Yahweh’s offer of salvation -- of peace -- will be made known to the world. We are called to be Holy as Yahweh is holy by giving ourselves to covenant practices.
Bernhard W. Anderson. The Eight-Century Prophets: Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003) 43. 14 Ibid., 43
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, it is evident that God’s intention is to form a people that belong to him, for the sake of the salvation of the world. Speaking through Isaiah, God declares, “I will give you as a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6). Similarly, Newbigin writes, “Whenever it is forgotten that we are chosen in order to be sent; wherever men (sic) think that the purpose of election is their own salvation rather than the salvation of the world; then God’s people have betrayed their trust.”15 Community and mission are at the core of Israelite identity in the scriptures. The people who called Abraham their father have a divine commission to be a kingdom of priests to the nations (Exodus 19:5-6). Their existence as a people owes itself to God’s covenant and his mission of restoration and renewal. God forms a people who belong to him as the core of his mission to the world. The purpose of the covenant community is to perform and proclaim, to announce and to embody, in practices that mirror God’s covenant faithfulness, the good news of the kingdom.
The Reign and Mission of God The ‘political’ metaphor, ‘Kingdom,’ insists on a gospel that includes everything and everyone under the rule of God. God is no religious glow to warm a dark night. Christ is no esoteric truth with which to form a Gnostic elite. The Christian faith is an out-inthe-open, strenuous, legislating, conquering totality: God is sovereign, nothing and no one is exempt from his rule.16 When he returned to the West after decades of work in India Lesslie Newbigin was astounded by the extent to which the church had assimilated to the values of its surrounding culture and adopted the secular assumptions of pluralism. He saw clearly that the church
Lesslie Newbigin, The Household of God (Bletchley: Paternoster Press, 2003) 111 Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988) 117-18.
needed to rediscover its unique calling in a pluralistic world.17 Newbigin coined a phrase that has since been quoted by every significant missional thinker, and has shaped conversations about the church, the Gospel, and Western culture. He wrote that the church is to be “sign, instrument and foretaste of the reign of God.” The Church in each place is to be the sign, instrument and foretaste of the reign of God present in Christ for that place; a sign, planted in the midst of the present realities of the place but pointing beyond them to the future which God has promised; an instrument available for God’s use in the doing of his will for that place; a foretaste - manifesting and enjoying already in the midst of the messianic tribulations a genuine foretaste of the peace and joy of God’s reign. 18 The term “reign of God” (or “kingdom of God”) is used here as a comprehensive and universal term, indicating the rule of God over all that exists. As Newbigin said, “We are not dealing with a local and temporary disturbance in the current of cosmic happenings, but with the source and goal of the cosmos.”19 Although universal and comprehensive, God’s reign nevertheless must be worked out in less-than-perfect human experience. Where is the kingdom of God now in the midst of the kingdoms of this world? This question is complex, yet it shapes our mission. Howard Snyder calls the church to recognize the mystery of the kingdom, pointing to Jesus’ teaching in the parables.20 Snyder identifies the paradox of the kingdom – it is both present and future, embodied in the individual and in the community, and is both distinct from and identical to the church.21 While we are forced to embrace paradox, other affirmations are simpler. The nature of the kingdom of God is tied directly to the missio Dei. If the mission of God is to redeem,
Lamin Sanneh, “Mission to the West—Lesslie Newbigin, 1909-1998,” The Christian Century 115, no. 9 (1998): 277. 18 Lesslie Newbigin, “What Is a Local Church Truly United?” Ecumenical Review 29 (April 1977) 119. 19 Newbigin, Open Secret, 66. 20 Howard A. Snyder, Models of the Kingdom (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991) 16. 21 Ibid. For each of these points of tension or polarities, Snyder provides New Testament references: present/future (Mark 1:15, Matt. 6:10), individual/communal (Matt. 13:44, Luke 12:32), spirit/matter (1 Cor. 15:50, Luke 4:18-21), gradual/climactic (Mark 4:26-28, Matt. 25:1-6), divine/human (Luke 19:11-27, Matt. 6:33), and church as same/different (Matt. 16:19, Matt. 7:21).
reconcile, and restore creation to its original purpose through the covenant community, then the kingdom of God is manifest wherever this restoration is being realized. N.T. Wright expresses it like this: Because Jesus is raised from the dead, God’s new world has begun. We are not only the beneficiaries of new creation, we are the agents of it when we do new creation. So when we encourage one another in the church to be active in projects of new creation — of healing, of hope for communities—we are standing on the ground that Jesus has won in his resurrection. God intends to renew the world and what we do in the present matters.22 God’s kingdom opens a rule of justice and peace. When Jesus announces his ministry by proclaiming the arrival of the kingdom he is appealing to the grand story of God’s mighty acts in history and declaring that it is reaching its climax. Heaven is arriving on earth. Wright continues, For me, therefore, there's no disjunction between preaching about the salvation which is ours in God's new age—the new heavens and new earth—and preaching about what that means for the present. The two go very closely together. If you have an eschatology that is nonmaterial, why bother with this present world? I put it this way for my audiences: "there is life after life after death.” A person goes to heaven first and then to the new heavens and new earth. The New Testament doesn't have much to say about what happens to people immediately after they die. It's much more interested in the anticipation of the ultimate new world within this one. 23 Similarly, Stanley Hauerwas elaborates on the phrase “heaven on earth.” Hauerwas argues that Jesus’ proclamation of God’s kingdom was “a claim about how God rules and the establishment of that rule through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus...” a way of life that God has made possible here and now.24
Brian Lowery, “N.T. Wright on Resurrection.” Preaching Today Blog. Available at http://blog.preachingtoday.com Accessed July 5, 2008. 23 Ibid. 24 Stanley Hauerwas, John Berkman, and Michael G. Cartwright, The Hauerwas Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001): 129.
John Howard Yoder wrote that to the extent that the church is oriented toward the kingdom of God, it cultivates an alternative consciousness,25 shaped by an alternative narrative,26 embodied in an alternative community. In chapter two we considered practices common to missional orders and I argued that alternative practices define an alternative culture. We are an alternative culture when we embody the reign of God. Alternative practices amount to “disciplines of resistance,” to the host culture. Anticipating Newbigin’s formula, Yoder wrote, “the church can be a foretaste of the peace for which the world was made.”27 Yoder believed that the church as an alternative culture occupies a priestly role in the world on behalf of God’s kingdom. An awareness of God is cultivated by “the vitality of communities in which a different way of being keeps breaking in here and now.”28 In a parallel to Yoder’s concept of church as “priest” to the world, Thomas N. Finger suggests that the church is an eschatological sacrament which “makes God’s desires for all people visible as its members live and work among them.”29 In order to occupy this sacramental role, however, the church must also be distinct from the world. Thus it must find a way to order its life in a particular and distinct way around the calling to embody and announce the reign of God. The task becomes that of discerning and living in a way that is both communal (oriented around the reign of God) and missional (oriented around the missio Dei).
John Howard Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984): 95. 26 Ibid. 94 27 Ibid. 94 28 Ibid. 29 Thomas N. Finger, A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 255.
To affirm this communal orientation is to affirm that the body is shaped by Jesus’ message and demonstration of the kingdom of God. Newbigin writes, “Interpersonal relatedness belongs to the very being of God. Therefore there can be no salvation for human beings except in relatedness.”30 Jesus gathered his followers into an “eschatological community”31 to demonstrate life under God’s reign. Thus kingdom life is communal life. Baptism is more than a symbol of cleansing but is an incorporation into the community of God’s people,32 who are oriented around the reign of God. To affirm that ecclesia is oriented around the missio Dei is to affirm that God is at the center. In western churches the missio Dei has been continually framed around ecclesiology rather than around the reign of God. Moreover, the church sometimes gives the impression that she can organize the kingdom into being.33 God tends to disappear from view as if the missio Dei is the possession of the church. In contrast Newbigin writes, The reign of God that the church proclaims is indeed present in the life of the church, but it is not the church’s possession. It goes before us, summoning us to follow… it is enough to say that the picture given us in the Acts is one that is constantly being reproduced in the missionary experience of the church. It is the Holy Spirit who leads the way, opening a door here that the church must then obediently enter, kindling a flame there that the church must lovingly tend…. The significant advances in my experience have come through… not part of any missionary “strategy” [but] the free and sovereign deed of God, who goes before his church.34 Focusing on the missio Dei is a corrective which affirms that the biblical narratives are about God’s mission in, through and for the sake of the world. The missio Dei centers on
Newbigin, Open Secret, 70. Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus and Community: the Social Dimension of Christian Faith (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1984) 32 Ibid. 33 In contrast, the famous preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones opined, “The trouble with us, I am afraid, is that we have not sufficiently diagnosed the situation," he said. "We are still confident in our methods. It seems to me that there is no hope until we shall have so realized the nature of the problem that we are driven to our knees, to wait upon God.” Iain Murray, The Life of D.M. Lloyd-Jones (London: Banner of Truth, 1990) 41. 34 Newbigin, Open Secret, 64.
God, not on humankind. As with our understanding of covenant, missio Dei is God’s initiative and rises out of His mercy and compassion and his intention to restore all things. Alan Roxburgh writes that God in Christ “breaks into creation in order to call forth that which was promised from the beginning—that in this Jesus all things will be brought back together and made new. The perpendicular pronoun is not the subject of the narrative; God is the subject.” 35
Trinity, Kingdom and Mission At first glance it seems unfortunate to make the connection between Trinity and mission. How does such an esoteric, seemingly philosophical category translate into practice? What might appear as a random doctrine arising from a distant church council has deep relevance for the kingdom and mission.36 Lesslie Newbigin locates the missio Dei firmly in the Trinity. He writes that, God is no solitary monad. The unreal picture of human beings as isolated spiritual monads belongs to the same world of thought as the picture of God as an isolated spiritual monad. The reality is not so; God, as he is revealed to us in the gospel, is not monad. Interpersonal relatedness belongs to the very being of God. Therefore there can be no salvation for human beings except in relatedness. No one can be made whole except by being restored to the wholeness of that being-in-relatedness for which God made us and the world and which is the image of that being-in-relatedness which is the being of God himself. A glimpse of this is given to us in the consecration prayer (John 17) where Jesus prays that those who believe may be made part of the very unity of the divine being, united by that which binds the Father and the Son, which is nothing other than the glory of God.37
Alan Roxburgh, “What is Missional Church?” Unpublished article. 4. Newbigin touches on this question and the authority of the Church Fathers in The Open Secret, 27ff. as does Douglas John Hall in his paper “Confessing Christ in a Post-Christendom Context.” In relation to the complexities of the original Latin framing of the doctrine, Hall proposes the following. Let us say, “that insofar as Jesus bears within his person and represents for us the very presence (the being-with-us; the Emmanuelhood) of God, he turns inevitably towards the creature for whose love God yearns: that is his "divinity"; and that, insofar as Jesus bears within himself and represents for us the very soul and pathos of the human creature, he turns inevitably towards the eternal Thou who (as Augustine rightly said) "created us for thyself": and that, relationally understood, is Jesus "true humanity." Address to the 1999 Covenant Conference, Network of Presbyterians, Atlanta, GA. 37 Newbigin, Open Secret, 70
I believe that God is a plurality of being, and created human beings for relationship. Newbigin carefully affirms that the missio Dei is the activity of the triune God. The concern for mission is nothing less than this: the kingdom of God, the sovereign rule of the Father of Jesus over all humankind and over all creation. Mission.. is the proclamation of the kingdom, the presence of the kingdom and the prevenience of the kingdom. By proclaiming the reign of God over all things the church acts out its faith that the Father of Jesus is indeed ruler of all. The church, by inviting all humankind to share in the mystery of the presence of the kingdom hidden in its life through its union with the crucified and risen life of Jesus, acts out the love of Jesus that took him to the cross. By obediently following where the Spirit leads, often in ways neither planned, known, nor understood, the church acts out the hope that it is given by the presence of the Spirit who is the living foretaste of the kingdom. 38 Howard Snyder in Decoding the Church makes a similar point. He writes that the church is: genetically missional, an alternative community, a covenant community, and Trinitarian.39 These last three points are my special concern in this paper. Snyder writes that the church is genetically missional because it is the community of Jesus Christ, God’s great missionary.40 It is the body of Christ, the community called into existence by the mission of God. To Snyder this is the starting point for all ecclesiology. Mission is the church’s DNA, even if mission often gets suppressed in practice. Snyder affirms that the church is an alternative community called to build its own culture, economy, and lifestyle in the world and among all peoples. “A faithful church is a visible alternative to both neopagan society and to ecclesial models of Christendom that clash with the church’s basic DNA.”41 The church is an alternative community when its mission is the kingdom of God. Its mission makes it countercultural; and it is an alternative reality when it exists as a covenant community.42
Ibid. 64-65 Howard Snyder, Decoding the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002) 49. 40 Ibid. 49 41 Ibid. 51 42 Ibid. 52
Snyder argues that the church is a covenantal reality. The church is the covenanted community of God’s reign. The covenant calls the church to ministry and mission, to “equip [God’s people] for the work of ministry” (Eph 4:12) and to structure its life and mission accordingly. A covenant community focused on ministry and mission must have some form of covenant groups, and the split between clergy and laity must be overcome.43 Snyder writes that the church is Trinitarian. Because the church is Trinitarian — based on what God the Father has done and will do through Christ by the power of the Spirit — the church is at the same time incarnational and eschatological. 44 Snyder makes three critical points in this section: the church is a Trinitarian worshipping community; the Trinitarian community is sent especially to the poor; the church’s whole ministry is grounded in the Trinity. 45 1. The church is a Trinitarian worshipping community. The church in its worship adores Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the Trinity forms the basis of the church’s mission as the community responds to the call of the Trinity to participate in the missio Dei.46 2. The Trinitarian community is sent especially to the poor. Though “being in very nature God,” Christ “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Phil.2:6-7) and carried out his mission. God’s special concern for the poor and oppressed47 is grounded in the Trinity, in the overflow of eternal love. The message of the kingdom is “good news to the poor.” 3. The whole ministry of the church is grounded in the Trinity. All ministry.. ordained, non ordained, paid or unpaid.. is rooted in the Trinitarian mystery. Ministry is rooted in
Ibid. 53 Ibid. 54 45 Ibid. 56 46 Ibid. 54 47 See also Luke 4:188ff where Jesus announces his mission.
Spirit-empowered community, not in organizational hierarchy. The Trinity is the opposite of hierarchy.48 Snyder raises the ancient concept of perichoresis at this point. The concept was birthed by Gregory of Nanzianzus and is sometimes pictured as a dance. Clark Pinnock writes that “the metaphor suggests moving around, making room, relating to one another without losing identity… At the heart of this ontology is the mutuality and reciprocity among the Persons.. a circle of loving relationships.”49 The concept becomes a way of picturing an abundance of love that overflows in self-giving, inviting others into the dance. At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is..50 Douglas John Hall argues that we must make two parallel affirmations as we confess Christ in our post-Christendom context. First, we must affirm that Jesus is Lord. Second, we must affirm that God is triune. Failure to make both these assertions results in Christomonism, or as Dorothee Soelle put it, Christofascism.51 Acknowledging the triune nature of God allows us to acknowledge both the transcendence and immanence of God, and thus allows God to maintain his radical freedom. 52 Failure to maintain this tension tends to place God and his mission in our control. At best we find ourselves with evangelism and mission programs out of a mechanistic and non-relational paradigm. 53 At worst we find
Ibid. 56 Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1996) 31. 50 T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” in Four Quartets (London: Faber and Faber, 1960) 15. 51 Douglas John Hall, “Confessing Christ in a Post-Christendom Context.” Address to the 1999 Covenant Conference of the Presbyterian Network, Atlanta, Georgia. November 6, 1999. 3. 52 Paulo Suess puts it like this: “The tension between God’s transcendence, on the one hand, and God’s presence in the world, on the other, draws our attention to the question of the mediating divine presence. Missio Dei is the theological concept that allows us to speak of both the presence and transcendence of God.” “Missio Dei and the Project of Jesus.” International Review of Mission, Vol. XCII, n. 367, October 2003. 53 As Seng-Kong Tan, “Our theological anthropology of the human person as the imago Dei cannot be seen apart from our missional theology that is centred on the missio Dei, as both doctrines are foundationally Trinitarian. This prevents us from constituting missions in binary terms, either as a purely humanistic enterprise
ourselves with a God who is at our call, and who can no longer stand in judgment over every human institution, including the church. We conflate church and kingdom and create small human kingdoms that are nearly always oppressive.54 No longer can we affirm that “the wind blows where it will.” Rather, we know exactly what God is up to and what he approves: and it is us. On the contrary, Newbigin affirms, “The reign of God that the church proclaims is present in the life of the church, but it is not the church’s possession. It goes before us, summoning us to follow.”55 Likewise Karl Barth affirms, "In the life of the Christian community it can never be taken for granted that the community serves the Word of God by all its projects and institutions. The fact may be, instead, that the Word of God is being made to serve the community and its projects and institutions."56 Any neglect of the role of the second Person of the Trinity thus contains this danger: that we view the kingdom as our possession, if not in theory then in practice. Similarly, Amos Yong has pointed out that a Spirit-Christology has promise not only for recovering a Trinitarian faith, but for missional activity. When we understand that God goes before us, we may become more attentive to his ways, knowing it is our task to follow obediently. Moreover, Spirit-Christology may help us “navigate a via media between imperialism on the one side and relativism on the other…”57
or as mere divine prerogative. Rather, the church missionizes because she is missionary in nature.” “A Trinitarian Ontology of Missions.” International Review of Mission. Geneva: Apr 2004. Vol. 93, Iss. 369, 288. 54 In The Prophetic Imagination Walter Brueggemann remarks that what we see in our western culture is a religion of immanence, anchored by the economics of affluence and the politics of oppression. He finds these features in Scripture in the transition of Israel from a theocracy to a monarchy, and in particular in the transition from David’s rule to Solomon’s, where God and the temple become a part of the royal landscape, in which the sovereignty of God is fully subordinated to the purpose of the king. From this point forward God is “on call” and access to him is controlled by the royal court. Op Cit. 31. 55 Newbigin, Open Secret, 64. Likewise Arthur F. Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006) 225. 56 Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963) 191. 57 Amos Yong, “Discerning the Spirit(s) in the World of Religions.” In No Other Gods Before Me? Ed. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001) 53. Yong’s thesis is that God’s Spirit is the life-blood of the Imago in every human being and the presupposition of all human community.
Any perspective on Christ that is not firmly rooted in Trinitarian thought will tend to result in a non-covenantal expression that moves away from the relational center implied by “body of Christ.” If we embrace the popular shorthand, Christology à mission à church, 58 we may tend to frame mission as a solitary enterprise, rather than a communal expression. Jesus viewed through the lens of western individualism is an individual who represents God and who follows the lead of the Spirit. With this lens on mission our practices may follow, reducing salvation to a private exchange between abstracted individuals and assent to a set of propositions; the outcome will likewise be isolated, abstracted individuals who are not rooted in the life of faithful communities. The fragmentation that resulted from the fall is not healed, and the individualistic and consumer driven culture that represents Imperial reality is not challenged. But thankfully, Missio Dei is a Trinitarian work, and God is creating a new humanity. Jim Wallis writes that, “Community is a place to grow in truth, wholeness and holiness. The only way to propagate a message is to live it. That is why there can be no conversion without community. Community makes conversion historically visible.59 Similarly, Douglas John Hall reminds us that, “the ontology of Jerusalem is a relational one: being means being-with; existence is co-existence. Reality is not to be glimpsed through the examination of individual entities or abstract universals but in the between-ness of all that is.”60 It could not be otherwise. The image of perichoresis is the “dancing together” of the divine Trinity. This dance is a spontaneous, eternal act of love and “othering,” and it overflows in mission. Love invites love, toward the end of “uniting all things together in
Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church (Sydney, Au.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008) 43 59 Jim Wallis. Call to Conversion (New York: Harper & Row, 1981) 116 60 Op Cit. 5
Christ” (Eph. 1:10). Merton writes that, “the world and time are the dance of the Lord in emptiness.”61 Newbigin reminds us that interpersonal relatedness belongs to the very being of God. Therefore salvation itself occurs in relatedness. “No one can be made whole except by being restored to the wholeness of that being-in-relatedness for which God made us and the world and which is the image of that being-in-relatedness which is the being of God himself.”62 Some writers, notably Moltmann and Holmes, move beyond affirming the missio Dei as the action and purpose of God, to affirming that God is missional in Godself. 63 In this view God does not merely have a mission, but is a missionary God. Working from Augustine as well as Barth, Holmes locates the missional activity of God in the immanent (or social) Trinity and not merely in the economic Trinity. More on this later when we consider John 20:21-23.
Covenant Practices Covenant is a relational reality that is embodied in real people and real practices. Faithful apprentices of Jesus embody the transforming reality of the Gospel in an alternative culture, formed by alternative practices, in a rhythm of inward and outward life (community and mission). The church is a community that shares in God’s life, experiences God’s covenant love, and embodies justice and faithfulness in her own practices. As God’s people engage in practices of covenant faithfulness they are formed as an alternative culture. This culture forming process is part of the mission because community makes the good news visible in history.
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1962) 297 Ibid. 70. 63 Stephen R. Holmes, “Trinitarian Missiology: Towards a Theology of God as Missionary.” International Journal of Systematic Theology. Vol.8, No.1 (January, 2006) 72-90.
Let’s begin with a definition. Craig Dykstra offers, Practices of the Christian faith...are not...activities we do to make something spiritual happen in our lives. Nor are they duties we undertake to be obedient to God. Rather, they are patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy, and presence of God may be made known to us.64 Anytime we speak of faith and practices in the same sentence we raise the concern of legalism. Are we making the connection between faith and salvation? Do our practices save us? If not, how do they function? Henri Nouwen writes that, “A Rule offers ‘creative boundaries within which God’s loving presence can be recognized and celebrated.’ It does not prescribe but invite, it does not force but guide, it does not threaten but warn, it does not instill fear but points to love. In this it is a call to freedom, freedom to love.”65 In his Pastoral Rule, St. Gregory warns that there is a danger in transforming “supplies for the journey into hindrances to arrival at the journey’s end.”66 He understood from experience that monasteries, habits, prayer books, liturgical practices and the like are never to be the end of our worship, but a means only. Like the Scriptures themselves, they should add light to our path and strength to our walk. If they don't draw us closer to God and empower us in mission, then they are of little value. Dorothy Bass refers to practices as “embodied wisdom.” She explains the thoughtaction (or faith-works) connection in this way. Practices are those cooperative human activities through which we . . . grow and develop in moral character and substance. They are ways of doing things together in which and through which human life is given direction, meaning, and significance, and through which our very capacities to do good things well are increased. And because they are shared, patterned, and ongoing, they can be taught… We can pass them on from one generation to the next.67
Craig R. Dykstra, Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices (Louisville, KY.: Geneva Press, 1999) 66. 65 Found at the Northumbria Community website. Online http://www.northumbriacommunity.org 66 Source unknown. 67 Dykstra, Op Cit. 69-70
In Part two of his recent book Brian McLaren addresses the place of faith practices.68 McLaren uses the analogies of art and sport to help us understand practices. In the end, all disciplines are composed of practices that take us to places we can’t reach directly. We do the scales so that one day we can play Bach or Mozart; we lift weights and run so that one day we can compete in a marathon. But these represent individual means and the kingdom is a place we must reach as communities of faith. Missional orders and a rule of life are covenantal expressions that move us beyond individual measures and lenses for discipleship, and form the environment, or soil, that must exist in order for any practice to help us toward an authentic expression of kingdom life. McLaren's argument is that "practices make possible." He writes, "They say that practice makes perfect, but I wouldn’t know about that. What I do know is that practice makes possible some things that otherwise would have been impossible.”69 A Buddhist koan makes a similar point. The story runs like this: A disciple comes to his master and asks, “Master, what can I do to become enlightened?” Master: “As much as you can do to make the sun rise.” Disciple: “Then, what point are all these disciplines?” Master: “So that when the sun begins to rise, you do not miss it.”70 McLaren lists about twenty different contemplative practices. Some will be familiar, others, like journaling, may be less familiar. He separates out gathered practices from individual ones, and then devotes a separate chapter to missional practices.
Brian McLaren, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008) 87. 69 Ibid. 70 Source unknown
But surely the most radical practice is the practice of covenant faithfulness itself. Walter Brueggemann makes this point powerfully in his article, “Covenant as a Subversive Paradigm.” Our world is a marketplace of consumption and competition, forces which divide and fragment community and which perpetuate violence and fear. In this context, community is often viewed as either fate, or futility – something nasty which we cannot avoid, or something that is tenuous and temporary. The practice of covenant faithfulness in this context says “no” to either option and instead recognizes that community is something created by God – something new and divine, and something which the world will notice because it is our deep hope that we can live in peace. Brueggemann writes, So we are pressed to ask: What might be expected yet for the world? The response is that the world is intended by God to be a community that covenants, that distributes its produce equally, that values all its members, and that brings the strong and the weak together in common work and common joy. Though it is not yet that kind of community, we are assured that soon or late it will be (cf. Rev. 11:15). And the mission of the believing community is to articulate, anticipate and practice that transformation which is sure to come.71 In communities that are formed around a rule of life, covenant is at the center. A rule is a set of covenant practices, sometimes framed around a vow, that shapes and guides the community in faithfulness. The very existence of such communities is itself both radical and subversive. In her book on practices, Dorothy Bass writes of faith as a way of life. Speaking of “practices” of faith is a way of avoiding abstraction. Why call these activities “practices?” She identifies a number of reasons. First, learning a new term may help us think in new ways. Second, “practices address fundamental human needs and conditions through concrete
Walter Brueggemann, “Covenant as a Subversive Paradigm.” The Christian Century, November 12, 1980, 1094-1099.
human acts.”72 In this sense practices are incarnational. They help us remember that we are to love not in words alone, but in deed and in truth. Third, “practices are done together and over time. Enter a Christian practiced and you will find that you are part of a community that has been doing this thing for centuries.”73 Practices are both ancient and larger than an individual. At the same time they may be fresh as they adapt to new contexts around the world. Fourth, “practices possess standards of excellence.”74 Because practices are flexible, we must think about what it means to do them well rather than badly. Our human frailty and the frailty of our systems and institutions create obstacles in the way of practices that are good for us and for our world. Thinking about our practices can help us find new ways to affirm life and bring change in our world.75 Fifth, when we regard some of our ordinary activities as Christian practices “we come to perceive how our daily lives are all tangled up with the things God is doing in the world.”76 It becomes our deep hope to become partners in God’s reconciling love, and when we set our ordinary activities in this context, they, and we, are transformed. 77
Practices, Community and Mission Bass and her fellow writers identify and unpack twelve practices. Those persons in missional orders who participated in my survey identify their own practices that sustain covenant faithfulness, including missional engagement.
Dorothy R. Bass, Ed. Practicing Our Faith (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997) 6. Ibid. 7 74 Ibid. 7 75 Ibid. 8 76 Ibid. 8 77 Ibid. 8
Earlier we examined the shorthand scheme that Frost and Hirsch use to describe the relationship between mission and church. They move from Christology to mission to church. In contrast, I sought to place this movement in the context of the inner life of the Trinity. Perichoresis is the eternal dance of love that overflows into creation and redemption and that centers in the new community, which in turn is called to give its life for the sake of the world. In an unpublished paper on missional orders the Director of the Sheffield Center, George Lings, writes that, an Order has the strategic chance to embody that church and mission are intrinsically connected; they act as a double helix, with both intertwining and growing. The essential linkage between church and mission is first rooted in Trinity as Community-in-Mission. This is played out in New Testament language that sees church as both sower and fruit of the gospel. Fruit is the precursor to more seeds. No sooner is church the consequence of mission, than it becomes also the conductor of mission. The New Testament also tells us church is more than the bearer of the message, it also embodies the message. This is related to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit who gives us a foretaste of what we proclaim. 78 Described in theological terms, community is the inward life of the body, just as community describes the inner life of the Trinity. Mission is the outward overflow of Trinitarian life, just as mission is the outward movement of the church engaging culture. Mission and community are two sides of one coin, or the kenotic dance of the church in the world. Community and mission both require vulnerability and emptiness of our own agendas. We must become as children to enter the kingdom of God. Community founds mission, and mission generates community. The inward and outward journey are a rhythm of love that is founded on the life of the Trinity. Concrete practices root this inward and outward movement.
George Lings, quoted in Telford (Safe Space) Review, 2008. Available at http://markjberry.blogs.com/Telford%20Review%202008.pdf Accessed Dec. 15, 2008.
When considering one or more New Testament passages that describe this movement, I selected a single pericope that was also clearly Trinitarian. John 20: 19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” This is a beautiful passage and must be one of the richest pericopes in the gospel of John. There are circles within circles here. I’ll outline what I see and then work through the passage systematically. 1. The passage is Trinitarian, and beautifully expresses the perichoretic life of God. Jesus describes himself as sent by the Father. He is also the giver of the Holy Spirit. 2. The life of the Trinity is recreated in the new community. The Trinity is "communityin-mission."79 Here the new community is sent on mission. 3. How are they sent? “as the Father sent me..” Jesus was sent to proclaim shalom: the good news of God’s kingdom and his just reign. Moreover, the apostolic mission stands in continuity with Jesus’ own mission. 4. Jesus breathes shalom. Shalom is the goal of new creation and both the means and end of mission. Shalom also connects us to the larger story of God, his covenant faithfulness and his promise to make all things new.80 Shalom is kingdom language. 5. Kingdom language underscores a clash of power. The disciples are locked away in fear of the Jews in a land under Roman control. They receive the power to announce and embody a new world (alternative culture) and a new kingdom. Jesus is Lord; Caesar is not.81 6. We see the Spirit in new creation and this connects us back to the original creation in Genesis 1-3. Moreover, it is by the Spirit that the church participates in the mission given to Jesus by the Father. 7. Forgiveness connects us back to covenant and shalom (see Micah 7:18-20, Neh 9:17b and in particular Jer. 31:33,34).82 Reconciliation is the heart of the good news. 8. The framing of the story around the scarred yet physical resurrection body of Jesus “invites us to understand that joy and peace flow in some direct way from Jesus death.”83
Suess, Op Cit. 2 G.R. Beasley-Murray, John, Word Biblical Commentary 36 (Waco, TX: Word, 1987) 378-79. 81 Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2004) 89 82 Newbigin, Open Secret, 48. 83 Holmes, Op Cit. 75
The beauty of this story is that we see the beginning of the church among ordinary men and women who are locked away in fear. It is to these ordinary ones that the kingdom comes to make all things new. It is the Risen Christ who offers peace. He has conquered both sin and death. I see the passage as kenotic, demonstrating in seed form the vulnerability required to journey with God in mission. The disciples are fearful and self-protective. In contrast the risen Lord shows them his wounds. They too will be wounded as they learn the meaning of the cross and the necessity of their own vulnerability. They have some unlearning to do and will have to leave behind many cherished assumptions (Luke 10:4, Acts 10). The Trinitarian base of this passage itself points to mission. It is the doctrine of the Trinity that makes sense of the cross, revealing a God who suffers with his creation and for his creation. “God is revealed as a God of pathos not apatheia.”84 In this context, shalom is a shocking greeting. Peace and God’s good kingdom, to a people locked away in fear? Peace to a people who are like prisoners in their own land? Peace to a leaderless people who have no hope? To these ones both hope and authority are given. The Spirit, the one sure sign of the new age,85 is breathed on them. They enter the eschatological life of the kingdom so that they may proclaim its arrival. As the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the new covenant: “I will put my law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.. they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest.. for I will forgive their
Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. Trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991). 9. 85 I. Howard Marshall, “The Hope of a New Age: the Kingdom of God in the New Testament.” Themelios. Ns 11 No.1, 5-15 Spring, 1985.
sin…” (Jer 31:33b-34). The kingdom of God has come! And these ones are now sent out to carry the good news of God’s just reign, his shalom. Of the John 20 pericope Stephen Holmes asks, “When Jesus says ‘As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you,’ is he speaking of a merely economic event, essentially foreign to the life of God, or is he linking the life of those who participate in the apostolic mission with the very life of God from all eternity?”86 Holmes affirms the latter position, one which has implications for deriving a doctrine of the church from the Trinity. Moreover, it would mean that God does not just regard his world with benevolent interest and concern but that he exerts himself in a pattern of cruciform self-sending to bring about his loving purposes.87 Finally, Newbigin writes, “The church is a movement launched into the life of the world to bear in its own life God’s gift of peace for the life of the world.”88 How will this revolutionary movement sustain covenant faithfulness? We now turn to examine the results of surveys of persons in missional orders as we identify practices that sustain an alternative culture in a rhythm of life around community and mission.
Holmes recounts Augustine’s arguments suggesting that the latter position is impossible, based primarily on a particular account of the indivisibility of the divine works ad extra. He notes that nervousness about structures of authority within the godhead, derived from Hellenistic intuitions, made this position necessary. He presents the case that alternatives are now possible, and that ‘being missionary’ could be listed amongst the perfections of God, allowing that John 20:21 might speak of the eternal life of God. 87 Holmes, Op Cit. 88 88 Newbigin, Open Secret, 48
CHAPTER 4 PROCEDURES AND RESEARCH DESIGN
My survey will identify frequency of practices among participants in missional orders that sustain missional faithfulness. While rules vary, they incorporate rhythms of inward movement (community) and outward life (mission). The movements we have examined, when they organize around a rule, include the following elements: • • • • • • Disciplines of prayer and contemplation Disciplines of celebration and recreation Disciplines of learning and study Practice of hospitality and sharing resources Practice of mission, usually engaging the poor Pursuit of justice and peace, earthkeeping
The research question is this: of the practices common to missional orders, what and to what degree do participants orders identify as the practices that sustain missional faithfulness? Using a variety of networks in the missional, monastic and emerging movements I have participated in the conversation on missional orders, covenant community and forming practices. Since the current study does not allow for a longitudinal approach that would more accurately discern the impact of these practices on the participant and the group, this study sought to probe the perceived importance of particular practices among participants in missional orders. Beginning shortly after the approval of my survey instrument by the TWU Research and Ethics board, I began contacting groups in the Pacific Northwest who were forming or participating in missional orders. Some of these groups were familiar with the ALLELON
meeting, some were not. This was not a criteria for selection. I hoped to obtain fifteen to twenty participants, located within British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Eventually I had to widen the participation to include Life on the Vine, a church in Chicago, Illinois. The groups I contacted varied not only in geography, but in the duration of time with which they had participated in missional orders. Some were very new (a few months) and others have been long established (up to three years). I offered a brief sketch of the project along with its intention, and described the survey in outline along with the requirement of 30 minutes of time to complete it. I did not have to describe “missional orders” or a philosophy of formation practices or of covenant, since the groups which I contacted were already articulate in these areas and most of them possess a sophisticated critique of culture.
Survey Design and Reliability In late November I sent out the first “Communal and Missional Practices” surveys. The survey has three sections containing a total of thirty-two questions.1 The first twenty-eight items measure the frequency with which the respondent engaged in various missional and communal practices during the six months preceding the survey date. For each item there were four possible responses, ranging from least frequent to most frequent. The wording of the response varied, depending on the particular practice and its reasonably expected frequency. For example, the practice of setting aside time for prayer, meditation, and/or Bible reading had a high-frequency option of “one or more times daily,” while the practice of sharing a meal in the home of a church member had a high-frequency option of “more than twice a month.” In each case, however, there were four options from low to high. The second section was four rating-scale items pertaining to (1) the purpose of
The survey instrument is included under Appendix 3.
worship, (2) the mission of the church, (3) the relationship of Christian faith to American culture, and (4) the purpose of Christian community. These four main questions each contained six sub-items to be rated on a five-point Likert scale: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree. To test reliability of the instrument I established a control group. In addition to giving this survey to participants in missional orders, I gave it to a random sample of twenty-five persons in a church community in Kelowna. These persons were not in a missional order nor did they have any consistent understanding of the meaning of the term. All persons, however, are active participants in their church community. The survey was described to this group as relating to practices of spiritual disciplines. The survey was identical in every way to the one given the project participants. It also measured the frequency of practices during the preceding six months, and measured perspectives on church, mission, kingdom of God, etc. I received twenty responses from this group. In addition to acting as a control group, I intend to compare the answers of the control group to the primary test group. This allows me to test the perception of spiritual vitality in relation to missional orders against non-participants in orders. It also allows me to compare those practices which are identified as essential to sustaining vitality in practice across participants and non-participants. Of the twenty-four surveys distributed to participants in mission orders, twenty were returned. I promised all respondents confidentiality. To achieve this, while still being able to track participation, I asked each of them to reply to me once the survey was complete. This allowed me to send reminders to some participants. All were sent the survey via email and returned them by email, and their responses were entered by myself.
Independent Variables This project required interaction with Scripture, history, and theology in conversation with culture. Participants brought varying degrees of biblical and theoretical knowledge and a variety of attitudes toward culture. This affected outcomes for the project. Geographic location varied widely from the Pacific Northwest of Canada to the mid-western United States. All participants are members of missional orders, but some are seasoned and some are very recent members. The age of the participants varied from the mid twenties to late fifties, and both male and female persons participated. Denominational history and educational levels varied widely.
Dependent Variables While practices vary from group to group, the instrument was designed around the rhythms of inward and outward life: community and mission. It is assumed that disciplined practices are more consistent and more frequent in missional orders than among church members who do not participate in an order, and that many practices are held in common. While rhythms may be less obvious among those new to a rule, they should nevertheless be strongly in evidence. Correlation to spiritual vitality should be evident among all, though more strongly in evidence among those with a longer history.
Delimitations It was initially hoped that the study would be restricted to the Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada. In the end this was not possible and the study expanded to the American Midwest. All participants are covenant members of an order and participate in a rhythm of shared practices.
Limitations of the project include a one time assessment and self-reporting. A further limitation is the size of the sample. Another limitation is inability to assess the individual spiritual history within the control group. There could be, for example, past members of missional orders within the group or persons who participate in a covenant structure that is less formal than an order.
Group Follow-up At the outset I informed participants that follow-up would be very limited. This was the case. I provided very limited support and follow-up once the survey was sent. I assumed that participants in missional orders were well informed with regard to practices and their meaning. In the case of the control group this was not the case, but the generalized indication of the survey as measuring practices of spiritual formation appeared adequate. I instructed all participants to contact me if any concerns or questions arose. This did not occur.
Survey Data Compilation The final step was to compile the survey data into a format in which it could be adequately analyzed. To accomplish this, I entered the survey data sets into a spreadsheet, giving each data set a separate designation: “P1” for the survey of participants, “N1” for the survey of non-participants. Using this method I have a basis on which to note the correlation of participation in missional orders with frequency of disciplined practice and the selfreporting of spiritual vitality. Moreover, I can also compare the perception of the importance of frequency of practices against reality (participants to non-participants in terms of perceived importance of identified practices).
CHAPTER 5 MISSIONAL ORDERS AND ALTERNATIVE PRACTICES: RESULTS OF FINDINGS The research question of this project centers on practices that sustain missional faithfulness. I believe that faithful apprentices of Jesus embody the transforming reality of the Gospel in an alternative culture, formed by alternative practices, in a rhythm of inward and outward life (community and mission). I identified common practices among groups within the new monastic movement, and I hoped to relate these practices among those who participate in covenantal groups to missional faithfulness and spiritual vitality. I also hoped to evaluate the frequency of such practices, and relate increased frequency to missional faithfulness.
Known Limitations Before discussing my findings I will reiterate built-in limitations to the survey (Appendix C). One general limitation is the small sample size, both of participants and the control group. A sample of twenty make up the participants, and twenty in the control group. Another general limitation is lack of a longitudinal study. It would have been good to issue a second survey after six months, and a third after twelve months. This would have enabled a second analysis in terms of change and growth over time, again relative to a control group of persons who are not participants in a missional order.
Another limiting factor in the study is untracked covenant group activity among persons in the control group. Many persons are discussing spiritual formation and new monasticism these days, and groups form in a variety of locations which are not always formally identified. Some of these small groups are quite intentional about their group life and share a form of covenant defined in terms of practices. I made no attempt in this study to create a control group comprised of persons not involved in any congregational small group experience.
Survey Findings The limitations described above may seem to render my findings suspect. If this study were aimed at a social-scientific standard of precision the survey results would be seen as limited in application. However, my aim was simply to learn whether there was any evidence to support the claim that missional faithfulness is enhanced by participation in a group formed around a rule of life. The first part of the survey measured frequency of missional-communal practices over the previous month. It had twenty-five quantitative questions (Q1-Q25), most beginning with “How often did you . . .?” Each question had four possible responses, sorted from least frequent to most frequent. In order to tabulate data, I assigned each response a numerical value. Beginning with the least frequent (or least impact) I gave the first response a value of “1”, the second “2”, the third “3”, and the fourth “4”. In this way, I could calculate an average response for each question, and compare differences between respondent groups. Calculations were noted in decimal numbers, rounded to the nearest hundredth. Thus, a score
of 2.50 would indicate an average response just halfway between the second and third options. I will begin by noting some items of potential interest.2 One conclusion is very clear: in explicitly communal practices, participants in missional orders showed the highest overall frequency of practices compared to nonparticipants. For example, the practice of gathering with other Christians for moral and ethical accountability (Q10), showed an average monthly frequency of 2.00 points for participants. Non-participants showed an average monthly frequency of 0.50. In this case a full point and a half (1.5) indicates the average response across the covenanted group was much higher. Participants also had a much greater frequency than non-participants in other communal practices; that is, practices done jointly with other Christians in small face-to-face encounters. Seven questions in the survey dealt with these communal practices: Q8 to Q14. The average monthly frequency for these seven communal practices is shown for both participants and non-participants in Table 1 and Figure 1. Table 1. Average frequency in communal practices Q# Q8 Practice Participants 3 2.1 1.9 1.8 2.0 1.9 2.0 NonParticipants 2 1.5 1.2 1.6 1.7 1.5 1.2
Spending time with other church members Q9 Sharing a meal with other church members Q10 Mutual accountability Q11 Q12 Q13 Q14 Group worship Group prayer Group bible study Discerning faith and culture
I won’t reflect on every result in the survey, since some of the results are not significant.
When the practices that are more common to participants and non-participants are eliminated, we see a significant difference. Worship, prayer and bible study are common practices to both groups. Sharing meals, mutual accountability, and discerning faith and culture are more frequent among participants in missional orders by a factor of 3 (9.0) to 2 (5.9).
As significant as the difference appears the result is not surprising since participants in covenant groups commit themselves to greater intentionality and mutuality. The result simply reflects that people who make such commitments tend to follow through. Perhaps what is instructive here is the similarities more than the differences. The differences are far less dramatic for what might be considered very common Christian practices: prayer, worship and bible study. The differences are much more significant for time spent with other members, mutual accountability and discerning faith and culture. We might tentatively conclude that these practices are more important in sustaining an alternative culture. Another observation that tends to confirm my hypothesis comes from Q5, Q6, and Q7, pertaining to the extent to which we interact with persons who do not identify themselves as Christian. Presumably, someone with a missional identity who engages in missional practices will have significant times of being present with persons outside their community of faith. One would expect that missional Christians routinely cultivate friendships with persons unlike themselves, thereby embodying in their everyday lives God’s mission and self-giving love for all people. Q5 asked respondents how many of their significant friends would not identify themselves as Christian, Q6 asked how often they spent significant time with persons who don’t self-identify as Christian, and Q7 asked how often they had significant conversations about faith with such persons. One would expect that Christians being intentional about their formation in missional and communal practices would demonstrate a high likelihood to have significant contact with persons who are not Christian, and this is exactly the case.. In all
three questions participants in covenanted groups were more likely than non-participants to show significant interaction with those outside the faith.
Table 2. Time spent with those outside the faith.
The difference is dramatic and raises some further questions. In spite of the fragmentation and pace of our lives, individuals in missional orders give more time to communal practices (inward life) as well as to missional practices (outward). One might expect the first to be higher, or the second, but one might not expect to find both practices higher.
Practices around Hospitality, Peace and Justice The next set of questions, Q16-Q24, deal with practices around peace, justice, and stewardship of creation. This data set similarly supports my hypothesis. Persons who intentionally choose a missional identity and covenant with others around this shared purpose are significantly more likely to engage in practices around peace and justice. Question 16 asked, “How often do you share personal resources (finances, household items, property, food or time and assistance) with other members of your faith community?” The participants average 3.5 was more than double the non-participants score of 1.5. The scores appear below in Table 3. Table 3. Hospitality, peace, and justice Q# 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Item Share personal resources community of faith Share personal resources - Other Participate in Reconciliation Participate in peace-building or justice Creation care Structured learning Extend hospitality.. poor Receive hospitality .. poor Structured discernment activity Participants 3.5 2.25 2.0 2.0 2.25 1.5 2.5 2.0 2.25 NonParticipants 1.5 1.25 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 1.75 1.25 1.25
Because the difference between participants and non-participants was so high for the first item, it skewed the chart scale. I eliminated it from the following chart to better show the difference in the rest of the items.
One of the curious results is for Q21, “How often did you participate in a structured learning activity (class or study session) within your community of faith?” Results averaged to an identical response between “rarely” and “once or twice a month” for both groups. This practice appears not to vary significantly from missional orders to non-participants and therefore may not be a key practice in sustaining an alternative culture. Another possibility is that learning is perceived differently among those in missional orders. However, on every other item the average response is significantly higher with participants. In virtually every practice of hospitality, peace, justice and stewardship participants in missional orders are more intentional than non-participants. These practices may be tentatively identified as key practices in sustaining a missional order.
Rating Scale Questions The second section of the survey is comprised of four questions which asked respondents to indicate (1) the reason they attend worship, (2) their view of the primary
mission of the church, (3) their view of how we as Christians should relate to contemporary culture, and (4) their view of the goal of Christian community. The four questions each offered six possible answers, to be rated on a five-point scale: strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree. Of the six options for each question, three of them reflect a more communal and missional frame of reference. The remaining three reflect a more consumeristic, individualistic, or institutional frame of reference. The options are worded in a neutral, nonpejorative manner. For instance, when presented with, “A major reason I attend public worship is to . . .” one of the missional-communal responses was “join the church in its witness to the world,” while a consumeristic-individualistic response was “be personally inspired by the music or preaching.” This selection reflects my bias, but respondents answered according to their own frame of reference and interpretation, with their own inclinations for thinking communally and missionally. Table 4. Rating Scale for Institutional/Individual vs Missional/Communal Posture Q# Q27 Q28 Q29 Q30 Question Why I attend public worship The primary mission of the church Stance toward culture The goal of Christian community Participants 3 4.2 4.2 4.0 NonParticipants 2.5 3.0 3.25 2.5
Value Scale: 1 – Strongly institutional, individual 3 – Neutral 5 – Strongly missional, communal
I conclude that participation in a missional order has a positive impact on the responses to these four missional-communal questions. There is a significant difference in the average overall value. Participants in these communities gave an average value of 3.85 to missionalcommunal responses, while non-participants gave an average value of 2.80. The higher response for participants in this section is consistent with earlier sections of the survey, where differences were more pronounced (frequency) in favor of participants.
Summary of Findings In spite of noted limitations, it seems reasonable to draw some conclusions. First, participants in missional orders are significantly more focused on missional and communal practices. They are more intentional and more frequent on most measures of communal and missional identity compared to those who are members of churches but not participating in a covenanted structure.
Second, certain practices are common to both participants and non-participants, but frequency and focus of practices changes when people share a rule of life. While worship, prayer and study practices do not differ significantly between participants and nonparticipants, other communal and missional practices are more frequent. On the missional side, these include hospitality, contact with marginalized people, and practices related to peace and justice. On the communal side, these include practices like sharing meals, mutual accountability, and gathering to discern their relationship to culture. While the results of this study are positive overall, there remain some unresolved issues. One of those is the question of diversity. The groups participating in this project were relatively homogeneous in terms of general age and ethnicity. Moreover, only three of the participants who returned surveys were female. It would have been intriguing had the returns been more balanced, enabling some analysis of data by gender. It would have similarly been intriguing had this same survey been administered in a cross cultural context. Another question relates to integration in missional orders. The persons in the present study were primarily middle class and Caucasian. But they were unusually active in their outreach and service, including their outreach to persons on the fringes of society. It would be intriguing to know how groups formed around a rule of life will be impacted as they welcome into their covenant life people from the margins. Another question relates to sustainability among groups who are so focused on kingdom living. Is the pace and strain sustainable? Without a longitudinal study sustainability is difficult to measure. Do practices remain more consistent and more frequent for participants five years along the road? Is spiritual vitality nurtured by the disciplined practices of community and mission? Is there a high burnout factor in missional orders?
These are some of the questions that would be worth examining in a future study. This project finds that persons who participate in missional orders differ significantly in the frequency of missional and communal practices. I conclude that missional faithfulness is enhanced by participation in a group formed around a rule of life. This bodes well for the life and vitality of their communities as well as for a sustained witness to the transforming power of the Gospel. Persons in missional orders observe their practices with greater frequency, and some of those practices are somewhat neglected in the larger church. These groups tend to be small and widely dispersed. Yet it could be that like leaven in a lump, or the smallness of the mustard seed, the future of the church is hidden in obscure places among obscure people. Perhaps they, like the few disciples who gathered together in the upper room for fear of the Jews, embody God’s future.
CHAPTER 6 IMPLICATIONS, APPLICATIONS, AND CONCLUSIONS The renewal of the church will come not through a recovery of personal experience or straight doctrine, nor through innovative projects of evangelism or social action, nor in creative techniques or liturgical worship, nor in the gift of tongues, nor in new budgets, new buildings, and new members. The renewal of the church will come about through the work of the Spirit in restoring and reconstituting the church as a local community whose common life bears the marks of radical obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Practically, this means a clear recognition that the demands of obedient discipleship will bring us into conflict with the ordinary social values and normal patterns of the world systems which continually seek to fashion us into their image and conform us to their molds.1
Implications and Application In recent years in North America the seeker sensitive model has come to dominate our ecclesial imagination. At the same time, cultural forces have pushed us to view certain outcomes as desirable, and the ABC’s (attendance, buildings and cash) have subverted more biblical measures of effectiveness. While hierarchy appeared effective under certain conditions, hierarchical leadership models have disempowered the laity. 2 Moreover, in a culture of self-potential, too many churches look like member clubs and are purveyors of religious goods and services.3 The missio Dei, and the meaning of the cross, are obscured. If this were the end of the story, it might also be the end of the movement birthed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But happily, ordinary people choose to follow Jesus in extraordinary
Jim Wallis, Agenda for Biblical People (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1976) 100-101 See in particular Eddie Gibbs, Leadership Next (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2005) 95ff. 3 Reggie McNeal, The Present Future (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003)
ways.4 This has been one of the marks of the work of the Spirit in renewing his church through history. Those who take up missional orders and form a disciplined life together appear extraordinary to this writer. For no apparent reason, they choose an alternative path, and they give their lives in service to Christ and his kingdom. Not satisfied with the status quo, they seem to hold a different vision in their imagination – a vision of a city they have not seen. They embody an apologetic and a way of life in following Jesus. Thomas Merton writes of them, It is in the souls who love God that peace is established in the world. They are the strength of the world, because they are the tabernacle of God in the world. They are the ones who keep the Universe from being destroyed. They are the little ones. They do not know themselves. The whole earth depends on them...They are the only ones who will ever be able to enjoy life altogether. They have renounced the whole world and it has been given into their possession.5 The new monastic movement is strongly rooted in a theological critique of society, similar to the one voiced by the Radical Reformers. We examined some of that thinking in the second and third chapters of this project. Emerging churches often share a similar critique of culture. Yet both of these groups exist on the margins and while garnering some significant press, they remain a very small proportion of the Christian world. It may be important to remember, however, that small things often have profound influence. We see this reality in science as “the butterfly effect.”6 Moreover, Jesus himself called us to take note of small, apparently insignificant things: leaven in a lump of dough, and the tiny mustard seed. Douglas John Hall writes, "Today we are constrained by the divine Spirit to rediscover the possibilities of littleness. We are to decrease that Christ may
This is the thrust of the latest book by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009) 5 Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1962) 288. 6 The butterfly effect is a phrase that encapsulates the more technical notion of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory. Small variations of the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. Wikipedia. Online http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect Accessed Feb. 10, 2009
increase. We cannot enter this new phase without pain, for truly we have been glorious in this world’s terms. It seems to many of us a humiliation that we are made to reconsider our destiny as “little flocks.”7 Similarly, sounding very Anabaptist, Robert Capon writes that, "Marginality, in short, leaves the church free, if it is faithful, to cherish its absurdity; establishment just makes it fall in love all over again with the irrelevant respectability of the world's wisdom and power."8 Obscurity. Smallness. Absurdity (foolishness). Hiddenness. Weakness. These are gospel themes. What can the wider church learn from this project? The implications, on one hand, are not so impressive: a few people in scattered groups are pursuing the Jesus way more intentionally. They observe a set of practices with greater frequency, and some of those practices are somewhat neglected in the larger church. They eschew titles and positions in favor of a strong lay emphasis, with every member acting out a spiritual vocation. They intentionally mingle with those outside the faith. They often share possessions. They have a special concern for the poor. This project demonstrates that missional faithfulness is enhanced among participants in missional orders. In a day when REVEAL9 has revealed many weaknesses in the seeker sensitive model, we need to pay attention to alternative ways of being the church that appear to enhance the sustainability of our mission. This project was written as the conclusion of a doctoral program in leadership and spiritual formation. This writer believes that, as Henri Nouwen voiced it, “the leader of the
Douglas John Hall, Op Cit. 66 Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1973) 64. 9 “Willow Creek Repents?” Christianity Today blog Oct. 18, 2007. Accessed Feb. 14, 2009. Online http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/10/willow_creek_re.html See also David Fitch, “What REVEAL reveals.” Nov. 14, 2007. Accessed Feb.14, 2009. Online http://fitch-reveal.notlong.com/
future must be willing to be completely irrelevant.”10 Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!”or, “There it is!” For behold, it is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20). One of the legacies of Christendom is an unholy alliance with the Empire, a willingness to use power – a temptation Jesus rejected (Luke 4) -whether that power is political or technological. The more we have embraced success as measured by our culture, the more irrelevant we have become. The bias of the cross is the bias of foolishness, “because the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25b). Similarly, we have largely ignored Jesus fundamental example and teaching on leadership. He emptied himself of power and privilege and made himself insignificant and vulnerable (Phil. 2). We prefer parking stalls with our names attached. In Reframing Our Conversation with Paul the Australian writer Mark Strom observed, Dying and rising with Christ meant status reversal. In Paul’s case, he deliberately stepped down in the world. We must not romanticize this choice. He felt the shame of it amongst his peers and potential patrons, yet held it as the mark of his sincerity. Moreover, it played a critical role in the interplay of his life and thought. Tentmaking was critical, even central, to his life and message. His labour and ministry were mutually explanatory. Yet, for most of us, “tent-making" belongs in the realms of missionary journals and far-flung shores. As a model for ministry in the USA, Britain or Australia, it remains as unseemly to most of us as it did to the Corinthians. At best it is second best. Evangelicalism will not shake its abstraction, idealism and elitism until theologians and clergy are prepared to step down in their worlds.11 So it is that in obscure places, in small and weak ways, the kingdom breaks into our world. Those in missional orders choose this way of life because they choose to seek first the kingdom and God’s just reign. They want to be formed in the image of Christ. They are no longer much interested in secular measures of success, or in who gets credit for what. They are not interested in status, but rather in pointing to an alternative Lord by forming an
Henri Nouwen, Creative Ministry (New York: Doubleday, 1986) 22. Mark Strom, Reframing Our Conversation with Paul (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2000)
alternative culture with alternative practices. Is it possible for the average evangelical church to not only learn from this example but to apply it? Many churches exist with some kind of cell group structure at the heart of their communities. Some of these churches loosely embrace a shared covenant. It could be that the renewal of that covenant and the embracing of further definition and shared accountability could lead toward greater vitality and renewed engagement in mission. Churches which make space for this conversation may find themselves led to deeper commitment.
Conclusion The goal of this project was to discover whether a rule of life defined by alternative practices can support missional faithfulness. This project demonstrates that this is the case. My wife and I participate in a community rooted in the downtown core of Kelowna. On any given morning, half our congregation is hung over. Some of them are dressed in old and tattered clothes. Many haven’t slept. Yet it seems to us that the place is always pregnant with the Spirit. He seems to hover over the chaos, creating newness and light. I suspect that Jean Vanier was right, that the future of the church is hidden in such places where we learn to serve “the least of these.” We are not much valued in such places for our fine words or erudition, but simply because we can offer a warm cup of coffee, a listening ear, or a smile. No one cares if we have written articles or if we can cast a wonderful five year plan. We are important because we are there. We meet at the level of our shared humanity and brokenness. And isn’t that what the Incarnation was all about? Gerhard Lohfink writes, It can only be that God begins in a small way, at one single place in the world. There must be a place, visible, tangible, where the salvation of the world can begin: that is, where the world becomes what it is supposed to be according to God’s plan.
Beginning at that place, the new thing can spread abroad, but not through persuasion, not through indoctrination, not through violence. Everyone must have the opportunity to come and see. All must have the chance to behold and test this new thing. Then, if they want to, they can allow themselves to be drawn into the history of salvation that God is creating. Only in that way can their freedom be preserved. What drives them to the new thing cannot be force, not even moral pressure, but only the fascination of a world that is changed.12
Gerhard Lohfink, Does God Need the Church? Toward a Theology of the People of God (Collegeville, MN: Michael Brazier Press, 1999).
APPENDIX A Twelve Marks of the New Monasticism Moved by God’s Spirit in this time  called America to assemble at St. Johns Baptist Church in Durham, NC, we wish to acknowledge a movement of radical rebirth, grounded in God’s love and drawing on the rich tradition of Christian practices that have long formed disciples in the simple Way of Christ. This contemporary school for conversion which we have called a “new monasticism,” is producing a grassroots ecumenism and a prophetic witness within the North American church which is diverse in form, but characterized by the following marks: 1) Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire. 2) Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us. 3) Hospitality to the stranger 4) Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation. 5) Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church. 6) Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate. 7) Nurturing common life among members of intentional community. 8) Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children. 9) Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life. 10) Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies. 11) Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18. 12) Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life. May God give us grace by the power of the Holy Spirit to discern rules for living that will help us embody these marks in our local contexts as signs of Christ’s kingdom for the sake of God’s world.
APPENDIX B Summary of the Rule of the Northumbria Community - A Way for Living This is the Rule we embrace. This is the Rule we will keep: we say YES to AVAILABILITY; we say YES to VULNERABILITY. We are called to be AVAILABLE to God and to others: Firstly to be available to God in the cell of our own heart when we can be turned towards Him, and seek His face; then to be available to others in a call to exercise hospitality, recognizing that in welcoming others we honour and welcome the Christ Himself; then to be available to others through participation in His care and concern for them, by praying and interceding for their situations in the power of the Holy Spirit; then to be available for participation in mission of various kinds according to the calling and initiatives of the Spirit. We are called to intentional, deliberate VULNERABILITY: We embrace the vulnerability of being teachable expressed in: a discipline of prayer; in exposure to Scripture; a willingness to be accountable to others in ordering our ways and our heart in order to effect change. We embrace the responsibility of taking the heretical imperative: by speaking out when necessary or asking awkward questions that will often upset the status quo; by making relationships the priority, and not reputation. We embrace the challenge to live as church without walls, living openly amongst unbelievers and other believers in a way that the life of God in ours can be seen, challenged or questioned. This will involve us building friendships outside our Christian ghettos or clubmentality, not with ulterior evangelistic motives, but because we genuinely care.
APPENDIX C ALTERNATIVE PRACTICES SURVEY This survey will also be available in an online version, identical in content and format. Instructions: Thank you for participating in this study, and for your willingness to give honest feedback. To maintain confidentiality, you need not put your name on this survey. Please answer all questions. Some terms in the survey can be fluid in their meaning. Define the terms as you see fit (for instance, you decide what qualifies as a “significant friend” or “faith community.”) If the basic meaning of any question is unclear to you, you may ask for clarification. Return the survey to Len Hjalmarson. My age
c 19-29 c 30-39 c 40-49 c 50 or older
c M c F
Choose the most accurate response. Please answer all questions. During the last month, on average... 1. How often did you attend worship gatherings?
c once or less c twice c three times c weekly or more
2. How often did you attend some other gathering that was intentionally focused around Christ?
c once or less c twice c three times c weekly or more
3. How often did you take time out of your day for prayer and meditation or related spiritual practice (e.g., Journaling) ?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times daily c at least once weekly
4. How often did you take time out of your day for reading, listening (AV) or study?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times daily c at least once weekly
5. How many in your circle of significant friends would NOT identify themselves as committed Christians?
c a small fraction c a quarter or less c from quarter to a half c more than half
6. How often did you spend significant time with persons who do NOT identify themselves as committed Christians? (excluding family and co-workers)
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
7. How often did you have a significant conversation about faith with someone who does not identify her/himself as a committed Christian?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
8. How often did you spend significant time with covenant partners (excluding family and co-workers) in non-religious settings, such as at home or a public space?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
9. How often did you share a meal with covenant partners ...in their home?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
...in your home?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
...in a restaurant or public space (not a church event)?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
10. How often did you meet with other believers to hold each other accountable regarding moral or ethical issues (e.g., sexuality, relationships, money, power, etc.) ...in one-to-one conversations?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
...in a group of 3-12 persons (approximately)?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
11. How often did you meet with a group of 3-12 persons (approximately) in any setting, for intentional Christian worship?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
12. How often did you meet with a group of 3-12 persons (approximately) in any setting, to engage in a significant time of prayer?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
13. How often did you meet with a group of 3-12 persons (approximately) in any setting, for biblical study or reflection?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
14. How often did you meet with a group of 3-12 persons (approximately) in any setting, for the specific purpose of discerning how to live faithfully as a Christian 107
in light of the values of the surrounding culture?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
15. How often did you deliberately proclaim, in word or deed, the gospel of Christ in a way that confronted the values of the surrounding culture?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
16. How often did you share personal resources (finances, household items, property, food or time and assistance) with other members of your faith community?
c never, or rarely c once daily c several times weekly c at least once weekly
17. How often did you share personal resources (finances, household items, property, food, or time and assistance) with persons OUTSIDE your faith community?
c never, or rarely c once daily c at least once weekly c a few times monthly
18. How often did you participate in a ritual of healing or of reconciliation?
c never, or rarely c once daily c at least once weekly c a few times monthly
19. How often did you participate in a specific act of peace-building, or justice-seeking for others? (as you define it... e.g., mediation, public witness, advocacy, etc.)
c never c once or twice a month c once or twice a week c more than twice weekly
20. How often did you participate in a specific act of creation care or eco-stewardship with others? (gardening, environmental care or cleanup, etc.)
c never c once or twice a month c once or twice a week c more than twice weekly
21. How often did you participate in a structured learning activity (class or study session) within your community of faith?
c never c once or twice a month c once or twice a week c more than twice weekly
22. How often did you directly extend hospitality to persons who are materially poor or marginalized (homeless, working poor, addicts, new immigrants, etc.)?
c never c once or twice a month c once or twice a week c more than twice weekly
23. How often did you accept an expression of hospitality from one of these persons?
c never c once or twice a month c once or twice a week c more than twice weekly
24. How often did you participate in a structured discernment activity (whether a presbytery, or theological reflection, or community decision making) within your community of faith? 108
c never c once or twice a month c once or twice a week c more than twice weekly
25. How often do you participate in a recreative or retreat type activity (including spiritual direction, a day apart, etc)?
c never c monthly c once or twice a month c at least weekly
Rating Scale: For the following items, indicate your level of agreement or disagreement with the statements, exactly as they are worded. SD = strongly disagree D = disagree N = neutral or undecided A = agree SA = strongly agree 27. A major reason I attend public worship is to a. help me grow in my personal faith b. be personally inspired by the music or preaching c. join the church in its witness to the world d. get help and encouragement for my problems in life e. publicly offer praise and honor to God f. strengthen my identity with the body of Christ 28. I believe a primary mission of the church is to a. discover and participate in the mission of God b. invite people into the body of Christ c. become established and grow in numbers d. engage in acts of evangelism and social ministry e. convert persons to Christianity f. be an agent of the kingdom of God 29. As we consider our setting within contemporary American culture, we Christians need to a. separate ourselves as much as possible b. enter fully into that culture, without judging it c. limit that culture’s influence on our lives d. evaluate that culture in light of the gospel e. try to ignore that culture f. proclaim the gospel to that culture 30. I believe a primary goal of Christian community is to a. strengthen our identity as the people of God b. have fellowship with like-minded persons c. protect each other from worldly influences d. hold each other accountable for life and faith e. interpret and be formed by scripture f. support each other in times of need SD D N A SA
c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c
c c c c c c
c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c
c c c c c c
SD D N A SA
c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c
SD D N A SA
c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c c
APPENDIX D Contact Letter
Letter of Initial Contact
Dear ______________, I am in the process of completing research for my dissertation. I’m looking for 15 to 20 individuals who would be willing to share information with regard to specific practices around the keeping of the rule that their community has chosen. All information will be shared and stored anonymously. Would you be interested in participating in the survey? It is composed of thirty questions around specific practices with regard to community and mission. All participants will have access to the project when complete. My hope is that the project will encourage others to consider ordering their lives around a covenant.
APPENDIX E Consent Form
A Peculiar People: Practices that Support Covenant Faithfulness
Principal Investigator: Leonard Hjalmarson, DMin. (candidate). (250) 765-3596. This research comprises part of a dissertation project. Supervisor: Roland Kuhl, PhD. 2481 N. Bridle Circle, Round Lake Beach, IL 60073 (847) 223-6180 Purpose: I aim to discover the practices that members of covenant communities identify as aiding their faithfulness and vitality. I hope by this to confirm that certain norms and practices support covenant faithfulness. Procedures: I will distribute a simple survey instrument with 30 questions to assess the nature and extent of practices by individuals in various communities. Research findings will later be available to participants. Estimated time to complete the survey 20 minutes. Potential Risks and Discomforts: A small risk exists that the experience will be unsatisfactory and there are few resources to address this problem. Potential Benefits to Participants and/or to Society: Participants who later read the study may be encouraged to note that the practices shared by their communities do support covenant faithfulness. Others outside these communities may be encouraged to explore covenant practices or a rule of life with others. Confidentiality: Data will be collected anonymously and names will not be linked with any information. Data may be stored anonymously for future use. Contact for information about the study: If you have any questions or desire further information with respect to this study, you may contact Leonard Hjalmarson at (250) 765-3596. Contact for concerns about the rights of research subjects: If you have any concerns about your treatment or rights as a research subject, you may contact Ms. Sue Funk in the Office of Research at 604-513-2142 or email@example.com. Consent: Your participation in this study is entirely voluntary and you may refuse to participate or withdraw from the study at any time.
Completing the survey and returning it will be taken as indication that you consent to participate in this research. Please read this page thoroughly before you proceed, and print a copy of this consent letter for your records.
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CURRICULUM VITAE LEONARD E. HJALMARSON EDUCATION: Doctor of Ministry—Leadership and Spiritual Formation 2009 ACTS Seminaries, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC Master of Divinity 1990 MBBS, Fresno, California Diploma in Christian Studies 1983 Regent College, Vancouver, BC Bachelor of Arts—Bible 1980 Winnipeg Bible College, Otterburne, MB EXPERIENCE: Director, ALLELON Training Center June, 2008 – Present Kelowna, BC http://www.allelon.org Founder, Kelowna Theology Café September, 2007 – Present Kelowna, BC Co-Founder, RESONATE Network September, 2004 - Present http://www.resonate.ca Director, NLV School of Ministry 1998-2000 New Life Vineyard, Kelowna, BC Director, Kootenay Counseling Services 1994-1997 Cranbrook, BC Elder, Leadership Team 1994-1998 Cranbrook Vineyard, Cranbrook, BC Therapist, Family Guidance Program 1990-1993 MSA Community Services, Abbotsford