After years of being a youth pastor, I remember the time I came home from yet another event that required endless administration, energy and resources and asked myself, “Is this what it means to be the Church? And if so, there have to be better ways to embody the supposed life-giving, relational aspects of Jesus discipleship.”
For me, church had become a place that I drove to and “performed, ” not a living organism that involved sharing daily life with fellow disciples seeking participation in the Mission of God. Instead of giving life, it drained me of life. I felt disconnected, depressed and alone.
The problem was that I had gotten really good at this version of church. In fact, it was less about the structure I happened to be part of and more about my unwillingness to step faithfully into a life that called me to embody the Church every moment of everyday. When I was finally willing, I didn’t even know what it looked like to live out the Church in this way. It was a paradigm I not only hadn’t mastered, but didn’t know existed.
Despite it all, I knew I was called to something more. Something that required all of me, everyday. Something that was shared with fellow pilgrims living in the way of Jesus as Kingdom representatives in our local contexts and neighborhoods. The Good News was not simply to be preached through spoken word, but lived out in the everyday realities of life. And it could no longer be primarily about building my personal reputation, but about building a communal reputation through a leadership structure that invited all into participation.
The good news is that the Church doesn’t only take one form and I was not the only one with a yearning for a more holistic embodiment of God’s community. In fact, there are communities sprouting all over the globe that are taking seriously their communal vocation of living out the Church in their daily, local contexts. They live where they serve and serve where they live. They don’t accumulate massive numbers of people or physical resources, but they multiply through the continual development and sending of Apostolic leaders.
Life. Church. Faith. Community. Discipleship. Service. Suddenly integrated into something whole. Something beautiful that challenges, inspires and calls all of life into submission to the reign of Jesus.
My wife, daughter and I are now part of an intentional community of missional leaders who are seeking to embody the Church in fresh, yet ancient ways. As a community of faith, each year we make a covenant commitment to commune with God, open ourselves to rich community and submerge deep into our local contexts. It is not simply a dream or a theory, it is a daily reality.
Neighbors coming out to share a meal in the park. The smell of fresh produce as the community walks the streets of our local farmers market. The family that invites us into their home and says, “There is something different about you, and it is really good.” The new life of three newborn babies. Reading the Scriptures with the man living in a backstreet alley. Walking alongside persecuted refugees as they integrate into a new culture. Sending leaders across the globe to use their gifts to advance the Kingdom.
This is the life God’s community was created for and it is the life we can all choose to live. May we be a people who daily come to life as we more faithfully step into our vocation as participants on God’s Mission. May we step into this Mission rooted in faith communities that challenge, inspire and embody the dream God has for all humanity.
Jon Huckins is on staff with NieuCommunities, a collective of missional communities who foster leadership and community development. After much international travel and study in the Middle East, Jon focuses much of his writing and graduate studies at Fuller Seminary on ethics and social advocacy. He writes for numerous publications including, theOOZE, Burnside Writer’s Collective & Red Letter Christians. Jon has written two books: Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling (Zondervan) and soon to be released Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community (Beacon Hill). He lives in San Diego with his wife Jan, daughter Ruby. Jon blogs here:http://jonhuckins.net/. You can also follow Jon on Twitter and Facebook.