Friday, November 21, 2014

Community Patterns for the Church (7 C's)

When my wife and I got married 16 years ago we'd already been dating for 5 years prior. We had a winding dating relationship that was stretched by time zones, career u-turns and simple immaturity (mostly mine) but we continued to hold onto each other despite these challenges. Naively I thought our sheer romantic-will-power would be enough to cultivate a vibrant marriage. I was an idealist that needed to experience the school of hard knocks. The first year was filled with beautiful memories but the assaulting arrows of: demanding jobs, fluctuating finances, existential crisis (mostly mine), complicated outside friendships, the intensity of school, and learning to grow up, was an onslaught to our bondedness. Our emotional love for each other was still strong but a significant shift needed to take place if we were going to build an abundant life for the future. We needed new patterns.

Organized-Organic

All of life is built upon patterns. In the natural world bees form their honeycombs methodically, robins put together their nests piece by piece and planets loop around the sun in a strict cycle. All of these are wild expressions in nature, yet none of them is spontaneous and random. They are exuberant but they are organized around a pattern. These prescribed patterns form the platform for robust displays of brilliant beauty. Patterns on the surface can seem constricting, stiffly organic expression. Funny thing, organic farming is hip but organic farming is anything but haphazard. Ask any organic farmer how intentional, premeditated and rhythmic their toiling is in order to produce a bountiful, colorful, natural crop.

Shaping Together

Patterning is part of the modus-operandi of God. The Genesis one account reflects creation patterns, instructions given to Moses for building a worship tabernacle reflects patterning – “See that you make this according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain” (Exodus 25) and the Apostle Paul urged people to model their lives on the pattern of other Jesus-followers – “Take note of others and live according to the pattern we gave you.” (Phil 3). My own marriage lacked healthy patterns that would produce fruitful character in our oneness. We lived by anti-patterns. I love mystery but we both learned our relationship needed to move out of the abstract and into some particular patterns we could commit to and apply together. We fashioned daily, weekly, monthly and yearly patterns we began to massage into our active lives. The goal was not to reach some level of self-congratulation but rather partnership towards growing something beautiful in our midst. Some of those early practices were as simple as a daily cup of coffee to download the happenings of the day, or going over finances weekly so no one bore the stress alone, or having a full date day monthly to indulge in each other. Some of our patterns have changed over the years but we've committed to them, rallied around them and trusted they would shape our life together in the typhoon nature of the world.

Shared-Patterns

This post is not about my marriage but it is about patterns and the church. I share my waking-up to patterns because what I felt in my early years of marriage, I feel deeply about the church now. The church needs to re-evaluate its patterns of togetherness in the places they dwell. Lesslie Newbigin has said "We are shaped by what we attend to". We must refresh what will conform us into a love-filled, grounded people, for the good of the world and the glory of God. The pressures on our existence as the People of God are numerous and are primed to choke the embodied life of Christ out of us. I’m a minimalist, believing that the power is in the essentials not the luxuries. From that perspective I ask "what are those essential patterns we must cultivate that foster a vibrant life together in the world?". I find the question "how can we be a relevant church" distracting from what will nourish ecclesia for the future. What is really relevant is when the church is the church, not when it’s an impressive production. We need a full recovery of simplified, sacred, shared-patterns that mold a new but old way of being Kingdom-Come in the neighborhoods we inhabit. We are human so our joy, energy and emotional maturity towards living as the church ebbs and flows, which makes it paramount to covenant to foundational patterns. I use 7 C's to explain the patterns I attempt to live into with others.

1.    Commitment (A Pattern of Fidelity) – We need a foundation of mutual commitment to each other. If you're gathering a cluster of people to live as the People of God do not be afraid to ask for a long term commitment to a neighborhood together. We're not in a promise-keeping culture so commitment sounds alien and potentially cultic. Covenanted-community is a core sacrament of the church. This is not an issue of control but of mutual love for one another. Love is not sentimentality it is fidelity. Love is a rugged commitment to be with and for someone. We don't have a relationship with Jesus by ourselves. We are invited into a family. Many live their lives with a strong dose of individualistic-ADHD, transitioning to the next shiny, exciting opportunity that benefits them. We cannot be fueled by inspiration as inspiration comes and goes; we are fueled by covenant-love, patterned after God’s relentless faithfulness to us. Discover rootedness, converse about it, come together, fashion some vows together, don't take them lightly and press into a long faithfulness.

Read more at http://danwhitejr.blogspot.com/2014/11/community-patterns-for-church-7-c.html?m=1

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