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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Being The We.

I had a conversation recently with an imagineurian and good friend, Jon G.Hill. We were talking about teamwork and group process. My friend has a singular and refreshing wit (it comes from his intelligence). As we were ending our conversation, he said something like "It's be the we, man." His bon mot was dead-on.

Here's why.

In my previous post I wrote a bit about the essentiality of communitas for getting at the heart of what it means to share the Kingdom mission of living the Gospel for people who can't or won't see Jesus. I quoted Michael Frost in Exiles: "It involves movement and it describes the experience of togetherness that only really happens among a group of people actually engaging in a mission outside itself."

To "be the we" reflects a communal depth and vitality flowing from an unabashedly shared sense of "we're up to our necks in this together," and "I got your back, period." I find as Americans we're often so unreflectively immersed in the ethos of individual freedoms, pursuits and identity that even our church life can appear as an exercise in being alone together. We're born and bred individual consumers and volunteers. We share worship services, bible studies, mission's trips, outreach events, volunteer projects, small groups, etc. We do share some substantial life together as friends; we serve, give and sometimes go spiritually deep, especially women. But when you and I say, _______________ (insert the name of your church) is my church, do we mean "it's where I go and feel most comfortable," or do we mean: "God called me to share with these folks His Kingdom mission adventure of a lifetime. I would die for my compadres, and they for me. What I have is theirs and vice versa. We've walked through the valleys of fire together. Nothing could separate me from them, nor them from me.

I know for a fact from conversations I've had with people, especially those in their 20's, that the longing for such a community resonates largely unmet. They want to live for something magnificent than themselves . . . with others; something heroic and noble; something hard to do, but so worth it. Sadly,  they've not  really seen "be the we" lived out in their church experience. The closest some of them get is in college as part of Christian Fellowship or parachurch ministry.  Once away from those spiritual environs, they feel a sadness and frustration about not finding missional community lived out in the local church, even a little cynicism. We in the church can talk a good game and still live a shamefully tepid discipleship - being spectators and religious consumers. Comfort zones thrive in American Christianity.

Being alone or in affinity cliques together, misses the point of the Church in the world. Jesus has unequivocally summoned us to accomplish something courageous in our neck of the woods. That's why we're here together. "Being the we" is each one of us following hard after Jesus, but together; not alone. All of us covered, supported, encouraged, given rest, then gently lifted back to our feet when we need it, and loved as we work to change the world toward the Kingdom reign of God. No one is left behind. No one is kept silent. We don't shoot our wounded, shun our "difficult" ones, or send the sinner packing. The broken are welcomed, embraced,  healed, trained, strengthened, and invited into the fray beside all of us when they have their sea legs. We all share inestimable worth, and a wondrous destiny.

I've observed being the we missionally takes one person saying: "Is this all there is . . . really?" He or she starts asking, "What if we could...?" or "How come we can't...?" questions, and keeps asking until someone responds, "Well, why not? I'll go with you." You start to pray together, asking the Lord for the mission.You persist. Then, you go and experiment following his leading; all the while talking to others about what you're seeing Jesus do in your life, and the lives you're beginning to rub up against. It can be infectious when you all reach the missional tipping point in the community where the Holy Spirit is changing hearts and freeing the captives because you love, and serve, and have learned how to tell your personal redemption story. If you keep it up, there will be all manner of challenges and struggles, but somewhere along the way, "being the we" became your way of life, and turning back turns unthinkable.

"Be the we" where you are. Try it. Others are waiting for you to begin.

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