A common question people will ask me about Missio Dei Community is, “how many people are in your group?” Often times, I’m not quite sure how to answer that. And it’s not because I’m embarrassed, or because I want to inflate numbers, or because I’m trying to decide whether or not to count kids. It’s not even because of the frustrations that’s come with trying to count people for years in order to validate yourself and your organization each week. No, it’s more the question of who to quantify as being “in.”
At a traditional church you have a weekly service that people show up to where they can be counted.
You have events that are church sponsored. And of course, you count to know if you are “effective.”
People come to events because they identify with the church, and if they aren’t interested, they don’t come.
But I’ve found something interesting happening as we do faith the way we have chosen to as a community.
We aim to do life and faith together daily, and invite others in to be a part of the rhythms that we believe are shaping us.
At times, as we plan a potluck or a service opportunity, this has led to the question, “Do we call this a ‘church’ event? or even a Missio Dei event? Am I creating the Facebook event or is Missio Dei Community?”
In The Shaping of Things To Come, Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost talk about bounded sets and centered sets. In America, ranchers build a fence to keep all of their cattle in. It’s very clear which animals are in and which ones are out. A lot like the way traditional church operates. Alan, being from Australia, points out that in his homeland it is too expansive to build fences. Instead, a well is bored in the middle of the property. Ranchers know that the animals will want to drink and will stay within a reasonable vicinity of the well.
In the bounded set, there is a clear boundary without a particular center. In the centered set, the edges are fuzzy, but the center is clearly defined. They suggest our churches spend less energy determining who is in and who is out, and rather think of Christ as the center. Everybody is in some proximity to Christ. It’s not always clear who’s in and who’s out, but what’s more important is where are they in relation to the community’s center, Christ.
You see, I’ve discovered that there are people who we love, and who love us, and who spend time with us on a regular basis. There are people who show up to our potlucks and who serve alongside us in the community, and they know exactly who we are and what we’re about. Many of them wouldn’t say that they’re a part of “Missio Dei Community,” yet at the same time, they are very much a part of the life of our community. An important, vital part. They come and go as they please, and they are engaging, right alongside us, in the practices that change us and make us more like Christ.
It’s a different way of doing church than what I learned. Subtle, but very different.
It’s uncomfortable at times.
We don’t have a typical weekly gathering.
Do you count only the people who profess belief?
Do you count anyone who comes to join us for a spiritual discussion?
Do we count everyone who shows up at a barbeque we might be throwing?
(Should we even be counting people?)
It makes it harder to put a metric to what God is doing.
It gets messy at times.
And we love it.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.