Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ministry With Others For Others

Partnering Churches and Nonprofits for Social Justice
Notes by Ron Robinson for a collegial presentation

...Why partner with other nonprofits in your community, particularly other faithbased and secular nonprofits?

Our covenants of the free church (for those of us in this congregationalist tradition):
one of the main four is church and church, but that grows out of the colonial period when wider parish and church were strongly connected, so there is a covenant implicit in our being between the gathered church and its surrounding/supporting community. (which begs the question: what are the boundaries of your parish, your service area, your wider community of focus? and what happens when you don't make distinctions? what are prime needs or gaps in wholeness in that particular community?)....when one of the covenants is weakened, it affects the others, and vice versa, when we strengthen one of our core covenants it will strengthen others.

The Holy is present in many ways and places and persons beyond the gathered church; our mission is to nurture the Holy.

We can help grow our own gifts through partnerships with others.

Ecumenical difficulties…Used to be that churches could band together into partnerships and then through these partner with nonprofits or create their own nonprofits, but as ecumenism has suffered and culture changed from churched to unchurched culture and competiveness increased and church resources dwindled, especially for volunteers and volunteer time, this approach becomes more difficult though it still is more churches partnering directly with nonprofits, or creating their own.

...Ministry Partnership Lessons, from Churches That Make A Difference, by Sider, Olson, and Unruh of Evangelicals for Social Action

1. few churches have resources to carry out their vision by themselves.
2. expand church opportunities to form relationships (that may lead to evangelism, but can hinder it as people may feel stigmatized and not equal with church members unless friendship formed first, sometimes form alternative worship services just for them, invite recipients to social events, invite them to serve alongside church members)
3. prevents duplication of services and focuses the church resources where they are most needed.
4. church ministries are more effective when they cooperate, rather than compete, with local efforts. help local residents grow to help themselves.
5.expose church members to needs and issues outside their usual context
6. working with established agencies can help churches learn structures, and get their feet wet for creating more novel partnerships.
7. there is a supportive climate for faithbased partnerships now

types of partnerships:
1. partner comes alongside a church with the resources the church needs to flesh out its vision for holistic ministry. eg food banks, music ministries for festivals...annual or one time connections...
2. church supplies the partner with volunteers or funding,and in return the partner provides the church with a ministry outlet that does not require much administrative effort. eg habitat for humanity
3. church allows partner to use its space
4. church is the parent of a ministry program that spins off to become its own entity.
5. partnership grows out of a history of cooperation and joint project sponsorship, based on personal relationships and shared ministry goals....individual church member creates entity

How are we doing partnering…
with denominational programs
with businesses to help with jobs for those in need, round out their growth
with public schools, universities
with community coalitions
with ministry coalitions
with church coalitions
with clergy coalitions
with community organizing coalitions
participation on public boards and committees
with national for mission trips, or going on them
with government
with urban-suburban partner

qualities of good partnerships
1. have a compatible core mission
2. don't hinder the witness of the church: state rules may treat people differently than church values
3. mutual trust and respect
4. sense of ownership on both sides: small church partnering with large agency may feel dependent
5. partnerships don't substitute for gifts and resources of congregation: don't subcontract evangelism or social action, fill in the congregation gaps and multiply congregation gifts not become a crutch for its inadequacies.
6. clear communication and accountability for those in oklahoma

Starting a Nonprofit At Your Church: Drawing More Resources to Meet Increasing Community Needs
by Joy Skjegstad

All around the country, church congregations are establishing separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations in order to draw new funding, new people, and new partnerships into the ministry of their church. In these difficult economic times when community needs have increased and the amount of money given through the Sunday offering has decreased for many churches, setting up a church-based nonprofit can be a creative way to bring more resources to your community ministry efforts when your congregation may be less able to underwrite the cost of those ministries.
Through my consulting work around the country, I have witnessed the power of the church-nonprofit structure in bringing new ministry into being and helping it grow. Congregations develop a wide variety of ministries under their nonprofits: schools and day care centers, housing and youth development programs, job training and placement, food shelves and feeding programs, health clinics, and a host of other initiatives.
Many of these congregations have found that the church-nonprofit model brings together the very best aspects of the church with the outside resources that a nonprofit can draw. Congregations bring a great deal to the relationship. Churches frequently have the trust of the broader community in ways that few other institutions do. Particularly if your ministry dream is to offer social service programs, the nonprofit's connection to the church may help you draw participants who wouldn't feel as safe approaching a secular nonprofit, a government agency, or a school. Churches also have "captive audiences." A congregation is a ready-made group of workers, donors, and supporters. If you prepare them, communicate with them and inspire them, your congregation can exponentially increase the power of your nonprofit ministry.
When I served as executive director of the Park Avenue Foundation, a nonprofit connected to Park Avenue United Methodist Church, church members served as a core group of volunteers for foundation programs. Volunteer tutors, mentors, lawyers, doctors, and nurses were all mobilized from within the congregation to do good works every day of the week in the church building. I believe their connection to the church made many of the volunteers more dedicated—they were proud of their church and wanted to ensure that the programs offered were of high quality.
The nonprofit part of the structure brings a lot to the organization's effectiveness, too. You'll be able to attract resources from funders that would not support a church directly. New collaborative partners will become interested in what you are doing, and there will be opportunities to recruit volunteers from new sources. One of the most important advantages is the ability to attract the skills you need through new staff and board members from outside your church.
Securing new financial resources for ministry is the most common reason that congregations choose to set up a nonprofit. Particularly now, when your congregation members may not be able to fully underwrite your vision for community ministry, outside funding sources—including foundation grants and gifts from individuals outside of your congregation—may allow you to move forward. However, many foundations and corporations will not make grants to congregations directly (with some it is a stated policy). Other funders have no formal policy against this, but they are uncomfortable giving to religious groups because of fears that contributions for one purpose may be used for something else entirely. Funders might worry that their gift for a church-based job training program might be spent on the Sunday school curriculum or choir robes, for example. A separate legal entity with its own set of books, governance structure, and board members from outside the church will make many funders much more comfortable about giving to a program connected with a church.
Having a separate nonprofit may also allow you to recruit new volunteers from organizations that might be reluctant to send people out to a church. At a time when many congregations are needing to trim their budgets and rely more on volunteers, the ability to attract more people who are willing to give of their time is a real advantage to the church-nonprofit model. Many churches I have worked with found they could recruit volunteers for community programs and services much more readily from other churches, local businesses, corporations or service clubs once they had set up their nonprofit. This is because outside groups are more willing to devote “people power” to programs that are set up to benefit the community, not just the members of one congregation.
Being able to recruit board members from outside the church is another strength of the church-nonprofit model. A church-based nonprofit can choose to have its own board of directors that has at least some members from outside the congregation. These "outsiders" can bring new expertise, connections, and resources to your ministry work. For example, if you are looking for an accountant to serve on your nonprofit's board, you may not find one in your church congregation, but you might find one outside the church, in a nearby business or congregation. A wider variety of board members can also help connect you to more funding sources and potential partnerships with other congregations and nonprofits.
Having a separate nonprofit may also help you collaborate with some organizations that would be reluctant to partner directly with a church. When a group of like-minded people get together to address a community issue, coming under the banner of the nonprofit might make others at the table less suspicious of your motives for involvement. Some people automatically assume that the hidden agenda behind any congregational involvement is recruiting new church members. If your separate nonprofit has the mission of "responding to the foreclosure crisis in the community," for example, it makes your purpose clear and shows others that you are willing to devote time and resources to a community issue that others care about as well.
Partnering with other groups is essential right now—collaborations can provide services, resources, and expertise to make up for what has been trimmed out of your own budget. For example, your congregation may provide job training and placement to community members but may no longer be able to offer a feeding program. A partnership with another congregation or nonprofit could allow you to connect your participants with other resources that they need.
If your congregation aspires to develop more community ministry but needs outside funding, people, and partnerships to do it, starting a nonprofit connected to your congregation could help provide some of the resources that you need.

Cautionary point from Lyle Schaller, small congregation, big potential:
partnering with other churches or organizations in order to keep maintaining the status quo may prevent a church from facing the transformative challenges to its very existence that is needed.
If goal is not maintaining status quo internally, but affecting external community than partnerships can be vital.
might stunt member giving and growth by thinking others outside will provide
also partnerships, in cultural context of contract rather than covenant, litigious society, can tend toward unhealthy conflict

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why Should You Survive?

‎"Why should you survive?" the consultants got the church to ask themselves. Excellent question. But perpetuates the problem. They need to find ways to ask the same question of their/our/your congregation to others in the community they serve and listen to the hard answers from that most important place. Good article though, skimming the surface of so many vital aspects.

A form of missional church....

Good use of merging secular sacred, serving others first.

White, Middle Aged, Eurocentric, Well Educated, Suburban Immigrant Churches?

In Robert Putnam's newest book, American Grace, he quotes the work by Oscar Handlin on the religious effects of the great migration of immigrants to America around the turn of the 20th century, namely "Struggling against heavy odds to save something of the old ways, the immigrants directed into their faith the whole weight of their longing to be connected with the past."...

If, as Leonard Sweet uses the terms native and immigrants in his book Postmodern Pilgrims, to mean immigrants are those of older generations who do not feel this is their home culturally anymore and natives are those younger generations whom are right at home in the "cloud culture" of social media and experientialism, participation and interactivity, image-driven, and communal....

Then, putting the two together, it might explain the deep-seated resistance in established churches where the majority age are those born before 1963, hence the new cultural immigrants, to missional transformations in the church--which are even more revolutionary than "mere" worship wars in the church, or its corrolary in some liberal churches over conflicts on what language is used, what is taught, etc.

Immigrant churches served, and serve, a purpose. Putnam cites how one German Lutheran church in Houston still fosters a lot of German language in its hallways even four generations after its founding, to prove the continuing attachment of them.

Perhaps we should consider the established churches today as immigrant churches and seek not to change them missionally. If anything, this might free them up, from anxiety or other emotional reactiveness, to support to the best of their abilities the manifestations of missional church beyond themselves, as community ministries, the same way the old established churches supported missionaries abroad; now they could support missionaries in neighborhoods and hear reports from those missionaries, but maintain the ways of the "old country."

Nurturing A Common Life

an excerpt from Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okuro, used as part of communion homily at our worship welcome table Nov. 21, 2010:

In reading this excerpt I am particularly mindful for the Thanksgiving Season, remembering our religious ancestors who formed a free church (and a "commonwealth") with a covenant, not a creed, in Scrooby England in 1606, travelled to Holland, then on a journey to a new continent with the ringing words from their Pastor John Robinson who said "more light and truth are yet to break forth", who gathered inside the Mayflower and signed their Compact for a "civil body politic" in November 1620, enduring loss and hardship through bonds of community, both with members of their church and with those who had travelled with them to new shores, and who discovered a thanksgiving with others already here, where God was already present waiting to be discovered by them. We are in many ways pilgrims today, envisioning a new kind of common life possible, on new shores amid the wreckage of the American Empire. This is a vision, an aim, both idealistic but also grounded in the utmost realism of what is necessary, what hasn't worked before, and what is worth pursuing. Common Good may require Common Life.

"Nurturing a Common Life":

Independence is a value of our culture, but it is not a gospel value. Jesus lived in community and was part of a village culture...Jesus' culture was more like the Bedouins than the Burbs.

The Scriptures teach us to value interdependence and community more highly than independence, and tell us that we are to lose our lives if we want to find them. Forming our lives around something other than our own desires, jobs, and goals is radically counter-cultural. Even our architecture is built around individual families, not around community. But for many Native Americans and tribal cultures, society and architecture are built around a village. Individual dwellings...are very small, and they are built around a central common space where people eat, dance, sing, and tell stories. The rampant individualism of Western society is a relatively new thing, and its emptiness is increasingly evident. We are wealthy and lonely. But God invites us into a common life with others.

Rather than build our lives around the individualistic dream of a house with a white picket fence, we can build our lives around God's vision for community.

We dream of a holy village in the middle of the urban desert, with a little cluster of homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other. Some folks are indigenous to the neighborhood. Some are missional relocaters. Some have gone off to school, trained as doctors, lawyers, social workers, or business folk, and then returned to the neighborhood to offer their gifts to the work of restoration. The houses are small, but that is all we need--a place to lay our heads--because most of our lives are lived on the streets, on the stoop, sweating in the practice of resurrection. Village life begins by greeting the day in morning prayer, and in the evenings we share a meal or grill out on the street. Maybe there is a village center where folks can cook healthy breakfasts for the kids as they head off to school. Perhaps in that center there are laundry machines that we can all share and a game library where kids can borrow a game for the afternoon. Maybe there's a tool library so folks can check out a saw or drill for the day; maybe there's an exercise space for lifting weights or taking an aerobics class to keep our bodies healthy. It's a dream for a village that shares things in common, a space that makes sure possessions and privileges are available for all, a place on earth where there truly is a "common wealth."

Shaping a life together sometimes begins simply by creating a space for community. For many intentional communities, that means that we work only part-time so that we free up time for things we don't get paid to do, like welcoming homeless folks for a meal, helping neighborhood kids with homework, planting gardens on abandoned lots, or praying together each day. Sometimes we have to remove some of the clutter that is occupying our time and energy, like getting rid of the television. But then, as we say no to some things, we say yes to others--cooking meals, painting murals, playing games. And most people don't miss the old life much anyway. A reporter once told Mother Teresa, "I wouldn't do what you do for a million dollars." She responded, "Me neither." We live in community and among the suffering because it is what we are made for. Not only does it give life to others, but it gives us life as well."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

from "Living Mission" ed. by Scott Bessenecker
Excerpts from the new book about the visions and voices of the new friars movement among the world's urban poor.

"Walking with friends who wanted out, we started to dream together: what could this place become if we stayed here together?...Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove..."rethinking church means rethinking Christian mission"

"They are artistic, entrepenuerial, international, ecumenical, contemplative misfits. They are apostolic activists with a vision to see the flourishing of God's shalom among commercial sex workers, refugees, street kids and their neighbors trapped in poverty--communities committed to work toward systemic change in the halls of power." Scott Bessenecker

"Mother Teresa's sisters pray six hours and work five hours. Protestants, by contrast, enter mission "teams" not communities, and then they "work" or found "works" as if they were starting a business...We formed Servants as a movement...based on a lifestyle of incarnation, community, simplicity, suffering and sacrifice." Viv Grigg

Craig and Nayhouy Greenfield share about the helpful frame of John Perkins' 3 Rs or relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation, but also how Perkins has a 3rs of Relocation itself--relocaters who move into poor areas to live incarnationally; returners (like Bonnie and I) "who were born and raised in the community and then left for a better life...yet choose to return; and remainers, who could have fled the problems of the community but have chosen to continue living there incarnationally. The three types working together in an area help keep the privilege of middle Class in check so it is not always at the core of the communities. But each of the three types of experiences is important to the other two and bring special gifts to a community. They write: "The incarnational approach is more than the sum of its parts. The value of incarnation lies not only in the immediate relationships developed but in the symbolic nature of the act. When the nonpoor reject their position of privilege and move toward the poor, they encourage others to do the same and model a way of life that values the poor and underprivileged."

"Ivan Illich, the philosopher and social theorist, was once asked, "What is the most revolutionary way to change society: Is it violent revolution or gradual reform? He gave a careful but very insightful answer: "Neither. If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story."...Mahatma Ghandi once commented on this when he said: "You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature." Indeed, it seems that a significant number of Christians have accepted Christianity as a religious belief system--a little Jesus to spiritualize their life and a little extra God to give them peace in a stress filled world. But they have not allowed the biblical message to transform their underlying worldview, the framing narrative or storyline that continues to shape the way they really live their lives....
[This leads to] eight categories of transformation: 1. reproducing transformational communities of people following Jesus. 2. increased civic participation for the common good. 3. improved accessibility to education that equips and enhances life. 4. expanded opportunities to achieve economic sufficiency. 5. increased spiritual and psychological health and freedom from destructive patterns. 6. increased family health and well being. 7. improved environmental and community health. 8 presence of political, economic, and legal systems that work for the poor and vulnerable. --Derek Engdahl and Jean-Luc Krieg

"People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor. And theyn they discover something extraordinary: that Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor, not to those who serve the poor" Jean Vanier..."It is only when the church relinquishes the privilege of the world's power centers that we can denounce its tactics. It is only when we Christians detach ourselves from the world's claims on us that we can find the power to criticize its values...The madate for the margins is not simply a strategy to get the gospel out to the whole world; rather, the movement toward the margins is primarily a reflection of God's heart for the world. When we walk with God, we are directed toward the margins because this is the way God works in the world. And when we see God on the margins, we find that what the world calls marginal is central for the church." Christopher Heuertz and David Chronic

"Activism without contemplation opens us to the risk of imposing our will on the world. If we are blind to our distorted compulsions, even our very best intentions and deeds can have self-ish motives and exploitative effects. These hidden motivations deceive us in the moment but are glaring in the rear-view mirror of history--like the dark side of colonial and imperialist missionary endeavors....What would it be like for our socieites--even our churches--to quiet our frantic frenzy down to a whisper? Imagine the impact of a church whose activism flowed from a life of devotion rooted in contemplation." Phileena Heuertz and Darren Prince.

"Incarnational, missional, marginal, and devotional--taken together, these signs amount to heady wine and require an appropriate wineskin. It is challenging to wrap these powerful currents into cohesive community. But without careful attention to the wineskin, the new wine spills onto the ground." Jose Penate-Aceves and John Hayes.

"Can I share my biggest fear in contributing to a book like this?...What I fear most is that people will read this book and live vicariously through the few of us who are already out there and overwhelmed by what is in front of us. Reading is not the same as living your faith....(quoting a professor in a class attended by Elias Chacour: "If there is a problem somewhere, he said with his dry chuckle, this is what happens. Three people will try to do something concrete to settle the issue. Ten people will give a lecture analyzing what the three are doing. One hundred people will commend or condemn the ten for their lecture. One thousand people will argue about the problem. And one person--only one--will involve themselves so deeply in the true solution that they are too busy to listen to any of it. Now, which person are you?"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What conservatives are learning and progressives need to about community

This is a call for conservatives to welcome in a new kind of community to help make their values real, speaking of ways their sphere, especially its libertarian circles, will be challenged by these new kinds of local intense transforming communities. They see this as a wave of the future for conservatives at a time when progressives are turning, in their view, to more national rather than local community identity and solutions. The political conservatives are seeking to learn from new forms of religious community as well as the megachurch model of community village. There are some parallels I believe with how mainstream and progressive religious denominations also turn toward the national identity and put emphasis in a one size fits all branding and campaigns rather than shifting resources to develop these local high demand high relationship communities.

Food for thought.

As missional communities of faithfulness, perhaps we even have put so much stress on the missional component, and its differences with traditional modern attractional church, that we have not put that focus on the inner shape of the community itself as a community. I sometimes catch myself in trying not to be like traditional church neglecting the real cultivation and nurture of the bonds of the community. Communitas yes, but it is still a community even though turned outward.

Food for thought.

Restructuring Boards and Leadership for Mission and Growth by Freeing the Social Entrepeneur

A fine article about the ways missional communities can form their leadership core team in order to keep on track and continuing fulfilling the mission and not get sidetracked; imagine replacing an organization's pres, vp, sec, treas, etc. board positions with 1. evangelist, 2. scaling partner, 3. connector, 4. program strategist, and 5. realist. all committed to the mission of the group. It has an aura of Ephesians 4 about it where early Christian groups were designating partners with a specific purpose such as evangelist, pastor, teacher, prophet, apostle. This also, as opposed to the old modernist roberts rules of order-esque approach of officers, puts the focus of leadership firmly facing outward rather than taking care of its own organizational needs which can be handled other less visible and authoritative ways.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why is missional seemingly so foreign to progressives, and why each need the other in the conversational community

Pay attention to this quote from "Understanding North American Culture" chapter two of Missional Church; this section written by Craig Van Gelder:

"Freely choosing, autonomous individuals, deciding out of rational self-interest to enter into a social contract in order to construct a progressive society, became the central ideology of modernity."

Read it again.

So much of so-called mainline and progressive church, including my own tribe of Unitarian Universalism on the far spectrum of that but squarely in the center of having created and shaped American spiritual landscape, fits that description to a tee. Our churches in the progressive and mainline mode are embedded in modernity. What happens when that is no longer the air around us in which we must breathe? We bottle what we can of it and subsist on it? But for how long? At what cost of cutting us off from the new air and lifeblood of new creation emerging around us.

Missional church is embedded in a different culture, though still navigating through the wreckage of modernity. In this postmodernity missional church finds its DNA not in Reformation and Renaissance and Enlightenment, but in the DNA of premodernity which shares more with the current and coming culture(s) of our context than does modernity. As a Christian I can say that the roots of my faith are back with the murky missional ways of the Jesus communities before and after 70 CE, and so though I am born once into modernity because of my age and location, I am born again, through the missional church, into deeper sense of relationship and inheritance and belonging with those earlier times, fully realizing that our call is not to go back there, because we can't and wouldn't want to go back to that home again. But it can nurture us and help us use the developments of the renaissance reformation and enlightenment without having to be used up by their ghost.

Until progressives become born again of a different source, missional will seem a far land they have been exiled from.

Progressives can, however, draw from our own church history to feel supported in missional work. Witness the Cambridge Platform of 1648. Two major things occurred in the creation of the founding document of American congregationalism that shaped our whole civil society as well as a few religious movements. The Puritans gathered and without ado adopted theologically the confessions of orthodoxy of Westminster; this in a way freed them to do the second thing, to be groundbreaking and experimental in adopting a new kind of polity and ecclesiology (new, but one that they were at pains to point out were rooted in the early church, and in the inspiration of the Hebrew scriptures). Of course you can't separate ecclesiology from the theological web and so that new polity over time and with other influences affected the original orthodoxy as well. So progressives have precedent at plunging into the waters of reforming ecclesiology.

The mainstays it seems of the missional church are doing a similar two-step dance today. They are saying we are not going to address theological confessions of orthodoxy and adherence on creeds which have given us our identity and connected us to many of our brothers and sisters in Christ; we are going to accept those and move on, and not get caught up in the cultural battles over role of women, for example, or gay and lesbian et al, but will focus on the reformation or at least extension of what it means to become the church. However, at the root of the missional worldview, is the primary context not of the church for itself but of the world as it is waiting for the service of the church to change itself so it can change the world and bend it back toward the lovingkindness and justice of God. Progressives have gifts of how to engage with all of the world, in all its pluralisms, that the non-progressive missionals need in order to better know and love the world and become the church in the process. Otherwise so much of the world to be missional within will be left behind. And part of that progressive gift is the gift of theological pluralism itself surely as much a challenge to missionals, as the challenge of postmodernity is for the progressive church that can only see itself as a church of modernity.

So, not freely choosing but Chosen; not autonomous but inherently and primarily relational and communal, and finding deeper definitions of freedom in that; not individuals but persons, with personhood possible only as a relational self that is formed in community; not entering into community out of rational self-interest but to give up ego and to give one's self to all that the culture of consumerism and self and nationalism says does not make sense; covenanting to imitate and in doing so help initiate the "empire of God" or beloved communitas, taking a central stance in the new context of postmodernity.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A diverse set of resource links on the missional church

A whole semester's worth of reading through the link above :) but a good way to search and find conversation partners and how missional church is being lived out, thought out.

Women Voices in the Missional Church Movement

Someone asked for missional links from women in the these below from a great source of all links missional:

Two of the six essays in the foundational anthology Missional Church ed. by Guder, 1998, are by women: Mennonite Lois Barrett and United Methodist Inagrace Dietterich. And also important especially in feminist perspectives and missional church is Cathy Ross of the London School of Theology.

A Former Leaders Journey – BarbA Silly Poor Gospel – Peggy Senger ParsonsAdventures In Mercy – Molly AleyAuthor Intrusion – Lisa SampsonBeyond the 4 Walls – Lyn HallewellDecompressing Faith – Erin WordDry Bones Dance – Christy LambertsonEmergent Self – Judith Hougenemerging sideways – bobbieEmerse – CynthiaEternal Echoes – Sally ColemanGodspace – Christine Sinehappydaydeadfish – Holly Rankin ZaherHow God Messed Up My Religion – Pam HogeweideHeadspace – Lainie PetersenKingdom Grace – GraceLive With Desire – Heidi DanielsOnehandclapping – Julie ClawsonRedemption Junkie – Heidi ReneeRun With It – Cindy BryanSecret Women’s Business – Janet WoodlockSpiritual Birdwatching – MariaSwinging From the Vine – Makeesha FisherThe Best Parts – Tracy SimmonsThe Carnival In My Head – Kathy EscobarThe Margins – Erika HaubThe Margins – Erika HaubThe Virtual Abbess – Peggy BrownVikingFru’s Place – Lori Bjerkander

Monday, October 4, 2010

Missional Church Links: Where to Start

Begin at Lots of foundational blogposts and links from there to many of the authors listed down below in the starter books post.

See the basic frequently asked questions about "The marks of missional church" at by Ryan Bolger, now at

Also for a good place to use as a hub go to especially for the conversation about whether or not, or how, a "traditional" meaning modern-era church can become missional.


Also check out, especially the descriptions of the churches in the network over at,

Imagine connecting the insights here with the insights of the progressive Christian movement, or, or denominations on the cutting edge of theological engagement with pluralism in the 21st century.

For a Unitarian Universalist side of things, who works with different denominations, someone who gets it, check out the recent work of Michael Durall at

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A brief summary theological history and explanation of Missional Church

The missional church grows out of a new reforming movement in Christianity that began in both England and the U.S. in the 1980s.

At that time in particular church leaders realized that "Christendom" (an environment of a predominantly churched culture that set the cultural markers) was over. Most church identity and life had been molded in the world of Christendom where the church was seen as primary, and because of its primary influence in the culture little effort was needed to attract people who often inherited their faith and church loyalty. (This could be the case whether or not one was any particular kind of church or whether or not one was Christian; the cultural influence was the same). Any mission to others, especially in other parts of the world without churches, was seen simply and secondarily as a program of the church.

Thus were born individual missionaries of the church.

But in a post-Christendom world, as in a pre-Christendom world before the Roman Empire coopted the church, Church is not primary; instead now, as in the first 300 years, Mission is primary. However, it is not the church's mission; it is, rather, the Mission's church. This is the difference between missional church and a church that does outreach programs. The missional church is an effect, a creation itself, called into being out of a deeper identity and sense of mission. That mission comes from the very "missio" nature of God, using the Greek word for "being sent." God sends God's self into the world, which is also known as incarnation. And especially is God's self sent into the world of suffering, of the poor, the outcast, as evidenced by the presence of God in and through Jesus. As God is, then, so should be the church.

Rather than creating and sending out missionaries as before, the church at this point thus becomes itself wholly missionary.

But the forms and practices of most church life today in the European and North American context, because they have been created by and in the context of Christendom, often stand in the way of the church as a people being sent into the world together to gather with the suffering, the poor, the outcast. The missional church, which also comes in different forms itself, including more organic than organizational relationships of people, turns the Christendom model inside out and upside down. Now the church only exists when it is gathered from out of the midst of the very vulnerable ones where God is already at work. This is its mission: serving others, finding God at work there, and joining with God and all, and in gratitude celebrating through worship that refreshes the spirit for the cycle of more serving, more finding, more worship. See how that inverts the "usual Christendom model" of resources and identity and church life that focuses first on worship celebration, then the "finding" one another and belonging, being taught, only then serving others.

But if that is the case, that the church only exists when it is gathered in the midst of being with the most vulnerable, then all its forms and practices, its leadership, its resources of people and space, its activities, should be directed toward and reflected by that mission.

Finally then, as opposed to the centuries of Christendom culture and history, it is the mission that converts the church.

Friday, October 1, 2010

That Troublesome Word Church

So, the description says we are re-imagining and re-incarnating "church." Does that mean this blog is only for Christians, especially those of a progressive bent, or Religious Communities? Can you be a missional progressive and not "believe" in God? (I hope so, for even for this specific Christian Theist Jesus Follower, there are those days..., days I actually affirm my doubt).

I have wished at my own particular blog called progressivechurchplanting that I hadn't used the word church. It reflects a particular now a decade old mindset about "planting a church" even "planting a church that plants churches." I am now more interested in planting mission, planting communities, planting relationships, ones that may not, probably won't be, 501c3 or otherwise organizations, and may not be set up to "last forever" in a single identity, geared to grow the numbers of members of a group.

So while so much of this movement has been rooted in the soil of the Christian movement, and I suspect much of what we share here will continue to be in and of that movement which is itself undergoing so much change anyway, the portals are open for those progressives who are engaged in missional re-imagining and re-incarnating of communities and relationships, perhaps just their own life at the moment, without any theological tests. If you are in such a tribe, others of us who aren't need your learnings and sources, as you will ours. In the spirit of generosity and hospitality, we allow for "the shaping of things to come."

This is one of those frequently asked questions of missional progressives. I am sure there are others to come.
Ron R.
(who will try to remember to sign posts that come from me, as i hope we soon have other major post threads originating from others)

Common Misperceptions of Missional?

For some the word missional itself will conjure up images of colonial imperialism. We intend to use it actually as the very opposite. Not as ways to seek power over, but as a means of serving the powerless. As ways communities, relationships, can undermine the "Empire" of The American Dream of Affluence, Achievement, Appearance, The Corporate Culture of Individualism and Coolness that influences church as well as state. We use the word in its Greek sense of missio, being Sent, being Sent to Serve love and justice.

In The New Conspirators, Tom Sine creates a spectrum or river that includes such streams as "emerging" "mosaic/multicultural" "missional" and "monastic". For missional see his article here at Basic missional characteristic, from Sine and Reggie McNeal's work (see book list below) is a turning inside out of time, talent, and treasure from building up "a church" to which people come, to building up "the church" which goes to become itself in the world. Particularly the world of the poor.

Have you encountered other common misperceptions? Issues in trying to "explain" it other than "come and see"? Wouldn't it be, really, so much easier if there were a "red pill" to take? What or who has been your "red pill?"
Ron R.

A Few Starter Books on Being Missional

Just a few of the many, many out there. Generally missional, not all progressive. But definitely places to begin from the realm of recent books. Check out their bibliographies and footnotes for many of the ones that have laid the various groundwork. Comment and add your own I haven't.

The Shaping of Things To Come, by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost
Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal
Missional Church, ed. Darrell Guder
The New Monasticism by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne
Organic Church by Neil Cole
The New Conspirators by Tom Sine
The New Friars by Scott Bessenecker
Living Missionally, by Scott Bessenecker
Exiles by Michael Frost
The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch
Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood, Alan Roxburgh
Tribal Church, Carol Howard Merritt
Right Here, Right Now, Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford
Wide Open Space, Jim Palmer
Divine Nobodies, by Jim Palmer
Revolution by George Barna
Change The World, Michael Slaughter
Discontinuity and Hope by Lyle Schaller
churchmorph by Eddie Gibbs
The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
The gathered and scattered church, Halter and Smay
The Almost Church Revitalized, and Church Do's and Don'ts by Michael Durall
Let Justice Roll Down; With Justice For All; Welcoming Justice, all by John Perkins
Take This Bread, Sara Miles
Jesus Freak, Sara Miles
Emerging Church, Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger
A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren
Inside The Organic Church by Bob Whitesel
The Small Church at Large by Robin Trebilcock
Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor
An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor
Under The Radar, Bill Easum

Introduce Yourself and Your Missional Lifework and Dream

I will start us off. I am Ron Robinson. You can follow my particular missional church experiences via here in Turley/NorthTulsa, Oklahoma. We transformed from small attractional oriented church to an incarnational oriented church in 2007, creating a community center for our 74126 and neighboring zipcodes, and meeting for worship gatherings inside the center or out wherever we were doing "small acts of justice with great love" in our area.

The dream continues. We are about to move again, we hope, soon into an even bigger space, with a dedicated chapel space, along with community center and health hub, food justice center, and more. Even the chapel space will primarily be oriented toward the wider community. We also just bought a block with abandoned homes and are turning it into an outdoor community center space for gardening, kitchen, play and parkspace here. You can follow also our community renewal focus at, but look for a new website for it soon.

Introduce yourself first in the comments here. I may then move them into posts of their own for more specific followup commenting.

Contribute To The Conversation

Besides commenting to posts here, or simply sending to me at links to share here from your own blogs, consider also writing and sharing pieces originally for us. Just send them to my email address and I will make a post for them here. Of course, be a follower, and share us with your social and email networks and link to us.
Ron R.


We are in that "hinge of history" when new incarnations of "church" are being grown all over, or are sprouting in the hearts and minds of many people of diverse backgrounds. This is simply a place to connect with one another to help tend this common garden for one another. We hope it helps our seeds of mission wherever and however sown.

But why specifically for progressives? So much of the inspiration, and experience, of the missional church has come from the more theological conservative end of the spectrum. God bless them for this. We need their companionship and inspiration and even challenge still. But we need a place to be unapologetically progressive in our sharing too; where we know it is the norm to be affirming of diverse religions, sexual orientations, genders, ethnicities, etc., so we can channel our energies not into these issues but into the creation of relationships and communities of all kinds that reflect these core progressive values.