Friday, January 29, 2010

ways into small missional community [13] accessible and committed - the traveling band

here's the latest in my series of posts I'm offering on small missional communities online:
Here’s an interesting task that comes in creating and sustaining a new Christ-following community: how can we find ways to make the life of the community both accessible to anyone who might just want to explore or visit, and at the same time enable others who want to commit themselves to do so. Can accessibility and commitment happen in the same space?

One possible route is to nurture a way of seeing the life of the community as being like a journey, and picturing the community as a traveling band, perhaps like a bunch of medieval pilgrims. So the community is not understood as a fixed entity. People join the traveling band and find a welcome to share the journey for as long as that works for them. Some may become committed to the journey and to this traveling band. Others will share the path for a while and then find another way. Some will join and leave and rejoin at different points. The key [and at times demanding] thing is to grow a sense that this fluidity is OK.

If the offer of fluid access is important, so is the possibility of commitment to sharing the journey with the community, and space for commitment to following the Christ. Communal vows are one possibility. My experience is that these need to arise from the community in reflection, prayer and conversation - definitely not imposed - and are best offered for a reasonable but limited and renewable period of time, like a year. Another way is to offer people the opportunity to commit themselves to a particular community project or task. This will probably be a shorter time span - an event, a month’s activity, or a festival season. And of course some kind of disciple-formation [catechumenate] is another route.

In the gospel of Luke chapter 7 Jesus is pictured teaching the disciples, surrounded by a larger and involved audience of interested onlookers - perhaps another helpful picture of the possibility of both accessibility and commitment...

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