Missio Dei Community

Who’s In?

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.

2 Comments to Who’s In?

  1. Boomer's Gravatar Boomer
    04.09.12 at 4:44 pm

    Hey Brother! Thank you for posting a great thought provoking question. I think an awareness of ‘who is in’ or the accounting of people may be beneficial for the following reasons:

    I think numbers, whether they are small or large, have the potential of helping people see the greatness of God on display and help us as a church know who is on God’s side. Numbers (people) matter to God, otherwise He wouldn’t emphasize quantity the way he does. God is not just a God of quality but of quantity too! He is the One saving people and wants all of us to see and glorify Him. Revealing numbers may be an opportunity for others to take notice and see the wonderful things that God is doing through our numbers as He seeks and saves the lost.

    OT Example: Gideon knew who was ‘in’! They were the water “lappers”, the ones God had sifted out of the rest. Gideon’s army of 300 defeated the Midianites (Judges 6-8), because of God. Here are small numbers making a huge impact for the glory of God. The reason why God wanted a small military…so “Israel may not boast against Me that her own strength has saved her…” (7:2) and as He said a few verses later, “I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands.” (7:7) He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:4) not giving His glory to another. (Isaiah 42:8) What an encouraging story to help us see that no matter what challenges we face in our cities with opposing forces whether they are in the spiritual realm or natural, we can see victory, because of who God is. He will work through the community of people He chooses to work through. Gideon knew who was on his team as he moved forward to victory. That’s a very important detail when you’re in a battle.

    NT Example: The Day of Pentecost is a great example of God showing through numbers that the Holy Spirit was working powerfully to save people and the church knew who was ‘in’. (Acts 2) They knew through baptism that the number of new converts was about 3000. (v.41). That’s a lot of people to be baptized in one day. They stayed in community and “the Lord added to THEIR number daily those who were being saved.” (v.47) It seems clear that once again God was saving and they were counting, otherwise it wouldn’t be mentioned. It wasn’t about how cool or culturally relevant their church was, it was about how powerful the message of Christ was and they knew through numbers that something big was happening…God was saving people in massive numbers. They certainly knew as they moved forward with the gospel who “they” were.

    All I know for certain…I’m in!

  2. 21.11.12 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts Boomer.
    I didn’t know comments needed to be approved here and just saw this one. Fail for the blog moderator!

    I understand some of what you are saying. But in terms of our communities of faith, I would say our number one concern is now who is on “God’s side.” There is a core group of us that are Christ followers and make up the DNA of Missio Dei Community, but hopefully people can feel a part of the community, feel in, even if they have yet to believe in Jesus. Judas was one of the closest people to Jesus, yet most would say he was not on “God’s side.”

    If people don’t feel the freedom to be a part of a community of faith, and to be on a spiritual journey with us, whether they turn out to believe in the end or not, they will never come close to believers or hearing and understanding the Gospel and the impact it has on our lives.
    When it comes to commitment to the kingdom and the lordship of Christ, then it is a different conversation.

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