How We Approach “Being the Church”
The following perspectives guide how we understand and approach “being the church."
Our communal calling is more centered than bound; for BEING CENTERED IN JESUS, rather than merely bound in a form of “religious identity,” is what keeps us called every day into an active and ongoing relational response.
We recognize that the traditional way we speak of one “becoming a Christian” can focus on a single and settled choice. While we value the significance of such an initial choice, we recognize that Jesus’s call was to “follow” him, which captures the truth that we are always living in response to his calling.
All that Jesus revealed in his life and teaching, which is rooted in the living testimony of the Scriptures, presents a continuous call on our lives. As such, we recognize that the direction of one’s posture of responsiveness, and ultimately obedience, towards Jesus, is more important than one’s current outward “fit” within a religious tradition.
Our COMMON GROUND is more important than our differences.
We want to confront our common tendency to find our identity through the differences that divide us… by which we so easily distinguish between “us” and “them.” We hear the challenge of Jesus to confront our false notions of separation and superiority. (Luke 10:25-37) Without diminishing our differences; we recognize the common ground of our basic human nature and needs… and that fundamentally “everyone is us.” Therefore we find value in recognizing the common ground and common good we can share with others. This recognition brings freedom to enjoy diversity in our communal life – across ethnicity and culture, age and stage, and even political perspectives. (Romans 12:18; Matthew 7:3-5; Colossians 1:19-20; Galatians 3:28) Similarly, we want to follow Christ‘s lead as he shared meals with many with whom he did not share the same religious, moral, or political positions… sharing common space without compromising differences. We find it helpful to realize that Christ bears both exclusive truth claims and inclusive love aims.
ENGAGING OUR CURRENT CULTURE’s relevant questions and ideas is a vital part of engaging God.
Culture is neither “good” or “bad”… it is just the collective mindset shaped by current ideas and trends. While the most core nature of human life and ultimate truth may not change, we understand that culture does change. Styles change. Values change. Questions change. The way we think changes. We value engaging the culture as it is. Therefore we want to openly and honestly engage the current views of our day, including those of science, sexuality, ethics, and every other sphere of common thought.
God is involved in EVERY SPHERE OF LIFE.
There has been a longstanding tendency to divide life into what we consider “spiritual” and “secular”… and reduce our sense of what parts of life God is involved in. What if we began to consider God’s involvement in every sphere of life? What if we understood that God is always at work… in our workplaces and living spaces? It is from such an awareness that we can begin to overcome the artificial separation between Sunday and Monday, worship and work, and seek instead a more fully integrated life by listening for how God is speaking into every aspect of it.
Real faith is a journey that unfolds through REAL EXPERIENCE.
Faith begins with something new breaking into our lives… and exploring it. While it begins with something we may hear, it is never something that grows merely from accumulating more knowledge. As Dave Schmeltzer articulates, “Instead, we’re each invited into the kind of adventure that Abraham—“the father of faithful people”—was invited into. Abraham left his comfortable world to take a trip to someplace he couldn’t exactly place on the maps he had, a trip that would require close attention to a supernatural guide. [It involves] feeling vulnerable and taking new risks and wondering if we’re on the right track and suspecting we’re misunderstood and needing to pray at a gut level.” As such, we approach faith as an ongoing process involving personal and practical steps that are always before us.
There is freedom to be “NATURALLY SUPERNATURAL” as we engage the intersection of heaven and earth.
Jesus explained that he had come to reveal that the Kingdom of God was now at hand breaking into this world… and that God’s reign and rule would be reflected in signs and wonders of such justice and restoration. (Luke 4:18-19) From this, he began to pray for those who were sick… and oppressed. He sent out his followers to do the same – to share and show how God’s working was at hand. (Matthew 10:7-8) After Jesus crossed paths with a man in need and healed him, Jesus explained to those who were surprised, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (John 5:17)
We join the call to pray for those in need. We want to remain increasingly aware that we live at the intersection of heaven and earth… and serve what God is doing wherever we are.
We understand that Jesus was inaugurating that which would not be fully realized until God brought the full judgment and restoration of creation. Until then, we embrace that the Kingdom of God is both “now and not yet.” As such, we are able to embrace that suffering is real… that God is here with us in the midst of our suffering… and that signs and wonders that point to God’s ultimate reign are real. We find freedom to be “naturally supernatural” without presuming we always understand what only God can sovereignly understand about His working... and knowing that we ultimately need connection more than answers.
LOCALITY MATTERS because loving our neighbors includes our actual neighbors and the communities in which we live.
We recognize that we have become an increasingly “event” oriented culture. This shift has led to approaching “church” as an event with little relationship to location. We value restoring the relationship to where we actually live. The paradox of modern urban culture is that we have more means to connect yet often feel more estranged from those who are the closest in proximity to us. As our world becomes more globally connected, we must also seek to become even more locally connected. We believe we will serve the calling of God best when our connection to Jesus relates more naturally to where we live... and we consider what it means to love our actual neighbors. (Romans 12:13; Luke 5:27-29; Acts 17:26-27)
The healthiest community is one which values and creates connections for EVERY STAGE OF LIFE… and the relationships between them.
We recognize the tendency to become increasingly identified with our own particular generation… and neglect the value and connection with those in other stages of life. As a result, church communities can become either those of adults reaching later years and disheartened that the next generation is missing… or a church community made up primarily of younger adults left to wonder how to navigate the future when the reality of life stages continues.
We hear the beauty of God’s call to bless the children (Mark 10:13-16) and the eldest (Leviticus 19:32; 1 Peter 5:5)… seeing what each offers to life.
We believe this is also true of every stage in between. We believe that we are the healthiest as a community when we cultivate connections for each age and stage of life… as well as the relationships between them. We believe that there is something vital in having groups in which we can share with those of the same “generational world” and stage in life, while also being able to have connections that continue through and across all life’s stages.