November 22, 2017

Subversive Orthodoxy

I've recently been reading the works of Kenneth Leech, a priest in the Church of England who worked throughout his career in rough neighborhoods of London. In a few of his books, he writes that if the Church hopes to live into its calling by God we need to create new Christian communities. He defines these new communities by what he calls the "marks of redeemed communities." His most succinct writing on this can be found in his book, Subversive Orthodoxy. Well worth the read.

What Leech describes in his vision for new communities could be applied to any established faith community. In some cases, the effort to shift culture would be time and cost expensive. But certainly worth it. I assume that due to the inertia of too many established congregations Leech argues for starting from scratch! Nonetheless, what Leech calls "redeemed communities" could easily define what some of us call, missional communities. I thought I'd offer some brief thoughts on his "marks".

Leech believes that these communities ought to be defined by baptism. Dallas Willard talks about baptism being initiation into the community of faith. Initiation is fitting here. Leech is saying that these communities need to take seriously what membership to a community means. It isn't a country club it isn't a religious consumable. Church of the Savior in Washington, DC is lovely example of a community that took "initiation" quite seriously. Their sober approach radically changed members and the community around them.

The Lord's Table reminds us of the horror Christ went through on our behalf and reminds us of the dream God has for the world. It re-orients us. William Stringfellow writes about how weekly worship, and communion in particular, is to change how we look at the world and how we engage it. In another time, Sören Kierkegaard wrote about how worship is not just a routine event but ought to shape how we live our lives. In short, we need spiritual rhythms and acts that remind us why we're Christians in the first place and change how we live.

Reading and studying the entirety of Scripture, praying its prayers are, as Leech argues, at the center of the life of these communities. These communities seek to understand how the various writers from different places and times weave together, "harmonize" with each other, to tell an integrated Story of God's People.

This might be one of favorite "marks" from Leech. He states that these communities need to be spaces where truth is sought and debate is welcome. Abstraction is avoided and the community engages in what he calls a "spirituality of struggle." In a culture in which we increasingly avoid at best and demonize at worst those we disagree with, this is truly a subversive vision of community.

Leech does not mince words. As he puts it, Jesus hung out with "riff-raff." This should be our company as well. He argues for communities that do not work for inclusive language but inclusive people. He does not hope for communities that use the right language but are made up of the right mix of people. I say this all the time, but this is the biggest difference between the tradition, ethical and moral debates we read of in Paul's letters: they're discussing communities that are already made of a diverse group of people. We argue about ideas in the absence of a diverse group.

Drawing from Walter Brueggemann's work, Leech argues that these communities worship, fellowship and seek justice in anticipation of God's dream for the world. A sense of expectation, the centrality of God's vision for the world is always at the center their common life.

Speaking of anticipation, we are about to enter the season of Advent. I love this time of year and it is all about anticipation. If Leech's marks spark an idea for you, if you would like to start a community of anticipation–even during Advent!–than you might want to consider joining our 3-part workshop on starting missional communities coming up soon. Just a few spaces left.

November 21, 2017

Ep. 11 Lisa Puccio

My conversation with Lisa Puccio. Lisa is the Coordinator for Special Needs and Family Faith Formation at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Houston. As part of her role at St. Andrew's, she leads Rhythms of Grace, a service for special needs families.

Music created by Adam Powell of Best Friends Creative.

Bishop Audrey Scanlan, who started Rhythms of Grace in Connecticut, co-authored a book of the same name which can be found here.

Subscribe to the podcast: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | iHeartRadio | Stitcher | SoundCloud | TuneIn | RSS

Leave a review on Apple Podcasts.

November 20, 2017

Missional Advent Workshops

Today, my office announced a 3-part video and tutorial series on starting missional communities. In conjunction with this, we also announced 3 workshops to be offered on Tuesdays during Advent. I'm really excited to try doing some training online with the goal to empowering leaders to start more communities. I've done this in person countless times but in order to see the growth we hope for, we need to start trying out tools with more exponential possibilities. The benefit of these workshops? First, you can do this from anywhere–if you have an Internet connection a lunch break or time after work, you're good. Second, we won't waist you're time–we've boiled this down to a total of 3 hours so that you get only the stuff you need.

If you're interested in participating, our "Night Cap" session on Tuesdays in Advent still has some space. Visit our webpage and register. I'd love to have you join us.

By the way, if you were subscribed to my newsletter you would have been one of the first to have heard about this ... just sayin'.

November 19, 2017

That Moment After Despair

Photo: Gratisography
You may, or may not, have heard of Stewart Butterfield. The founder of Flickr and Slack found himself with a failing start-up, kneeling over a toilet with food poisoning when he came up with the idea of Flickr. A precursor to Instagram and the many ways we commonly share digital images these days, the site was an astounding success. This is how many great ideas are frequently generated. We find ourselves at the edge of desperation and it is there that ingenuity strikes.

This is also quite a Jesus-y idea. It's at that point of death that resurrection is possible. Sometimes, ministries need to die but we are people of the resurrection, we believe in the possibility of new life. When a ministry needs to die might be the exact moment that a new idea takes root and new life is found. "Necessity is the mother of invention," so the saying goes. If the time comes for a ministry, a church to shutter its doors, look around carefully and prayerfully–inspiration for the next iteration, a new life might be lying around. That moment after despair is often the most important.

Listen to the Masters of Scale podcast to hear the story of Stewart Butterfield and Slack.

November 18, 2017

The Gospel is Sustainable

Colin Maynard on Unsplash
If you listened to this week's podcast, you heard audio of me talking about my transition into the Episcopal Church. I did not grow up in this tradition and I have spent time with several denominations. Over and over again, when it comes to change and missional efforts I hear the same thing, no matter the tribe:

"That's great but that's not how our tradition does things."

Knowing who you are, your culture is paramount. But here's the truth, every Christian tradition on the face of the globe is no more than a beta test attempt at creating a container for the one thing. The gospel. As Bishop Andy Doyle has been fond of saying recently in so many words: for over two thousand years the one thing that's proved sustainable is the gospel. Not your tradition. Not your buildings. The gospel.

Churches Paul planted? Gone. Ancient parishes of Europe? Housing a pub now or gone.

What's still around? The gospel.

Be grateful for the traditions, the institutions that been handed down from generation to generation to you but hold them loosely. They are not the thing that has stuck throughout this two millennia experiment.

The good news of Christ's kingdom is what you should be investing your energy in.

That's your tradition.