Category Archives: Uncategorized

living intentionally for mission

wow, there is an overwhelming amount of material in the “blogosphere” about intentionally missional churches!  since an initial google search last week, i probably came across at least one hundred blogs dedicated to this.  interestingly, a lot of these bloggers kind of strike me as very similar– progressive white guys educated at places like fuller.  i really appreciate the time they took to document their experiences; some of the recent ones can be found here, here, here, and here.  many of the discussions i came across seemed to reinforce the modern-western concept of “church”, or an organization dependent upon a full-time pastor and a traditional leadership structure, which makes sense if all these guys went to grad school to become pastors.

i have come across almost no information about what an intentionally-missional “small group” would look like, which is what i’m essentially interested in.  i don’t even know how living in an intentional community would be possible in a traditional “church” setting unless that “church” essentially started out like an independent small group.  i love my church and its dedication to the great commission, but churches are not going to be spontaneously planted out of small groups that ostensibly revolve around “fellowship”.

i think i’m attracted to the idea of “missions” because of its seeming radical commitment to the gospel in a perpetual season where the “workers are few”.  from my years of being an “overseas missionary” on full-support, i found that our “ministry” was in many ways a glorified and complicated version of what a good christian life should look like in the states:

  1. be actively present in the local culture through tentmaking or going places where people are
  2. actively pursue friendships and relationships
  3. share christ whenever appropriate and possible
  4. disciple those who come to faith
  5. repeat cycle with new believers

and yet i hesitate to do the above here in LA, at least actively and intentionally, because i do not like relationships driven by agendas or view people like projects.  i like things to be “organic” and “relevant” and yet find it difficult to reconcile this with being “intentional” and “missional”.  i’ve shared and lived the gospel in multiple ways with my non-christian friends.  they get it, they don’t want it, and i can’t force them.  i’m still, of course, friends with them, because i need them as much as i need my christian friends.  i also have little energy to go out and make “new” friendships.

over the last five years, we’ve tried different things: international student ministry, starting a ministry with homeless families, and leading a life group.  they were all great experiences but we still feel like we’re searching for a ministry model that fits.

we are starting to think about what it would look like to be part of a church-sponsored life group that is committed to an intentionally missional lifestyle.  such an endeavor would likely require a high degree of collective commitment and even require some major life changes, like moving to the same neighborhood. it would basically be similar to an overseas or urban ministry team-based model, except that everyone would be bivocational– meaning nobody would be on support and everyone would view this ministry as like a second job and not one of many commitments.  like parachurch missions ministries, it would probably involve  a “memorandum of understanding” where individuals would commit to certain guidelines and principles.  it would be highly-structured even though these sorts of undertakings usually attract non-structured people.

i’ve been thinking more about this since having a conversation with a friend from life group.  she and her husband are planning to serve in the middle east next year and, as our life group leaders, have been thinking about “multiplying” our life group since it doubled in size to over 20 people in the last few months.  “multiplication”, at our church, is designed to happen as a result of life groups growing from new believers, not because of a revolving door of christians, which has been the case for most of our groups.  for example, most of the members who were part of the life group bry and i led a few years all moved to a santa monica megachurch once we decided to “close” the group since we were moving to pasadena (after failing to raise up new leaders).

i plan on praying through this more intentionally this year and hope that God provides an opportunity to see this in action– even if it remains in “dialogue” mode for awhile.  one MAJOR lesson bry and i learned as leaders is the importance of your “team” having similar levels of personal and relational commitment and conviction.  everyone loves the idea of doing awesome things for the kingdom but few are ready to make the necessary sacrifices.  as bry and i were talking about this last night, we agreed that something like this would likely precede with at least 6 months of “preparation” of major prayer, intense bible study, disagreements and reconciliations.

resurrection

resurrecting this blog after nearly 3 years. what’s happened since then?
* facebook became and remains wildly popular, sadly killing many blogs
* we moved to pasadena
* bry finally finished his phd and is now a professor!
* we led a life group and tried to spearhead different ministries

i (mar) have been wanting to journal more substantially about what it means to live missionally. i randomly started another wordpress @intentionallymissional, but realized that it was probably easier just to continue what we have here, since this is supposed to be a sort of documentation of our spiritual journey together. it realistically captures about 1% of what’s really going on in our lives but it’s a nice little depository for us to reflect back on. i’m also (finally) a full-time grad student again so i need some diversions from my dissertation.

– mar

culture making

Andy Crouch is out with his long-anticipated book on Christians and culture. It has apparently already temporarily sold out on Amazon, but the PDF of the Intro through chapter 2 and chapters 3-5 are available on the book website.

I just read chapter 5, so let me summarize the argument. In the past century, Western Christians have typically adopted one of the following postures toward culture:

  • Condemning
  • Critiquing
  • Copying
  • Consuming

While these may be appropriate cultural gestures from time to time, our postures ought rather to involve Creating and Cultivating. We are to adopt the creative posture of artists and gardeners if we really want to fulfill the vocation God gave to humanity in the early chapters of Genesis.

And a quote:

Do you want to make culture? Find a community, a small group who can lovingly fuel your dreams and puncture your illusions. Find friends and form a family who are willing to see grace at work in one another’s lives, who can discern together which gifts and which crosses each has been called to bear. Find people who have a holy respect for power and a holy willingness to spend their power alongside the powerless. Find some partners in the wild and wonderful world beyond church doors.

-Bryant

margaret has written! (her first post)

I’m helping our friend “Joy”, a single mom who lives in a transitional housing facility, find a place to live with her newly acquired Section 8 housing voucher. She’s actually always lived a pretty plush lifestyle but recently ran into a string of bad luck and is now officially classified as “homeless”, despite her clearly defying stereotype. We’ve been trying to find a place here in the Westside since she’s decided to go back to school here but it’s been nearly impossible finding a manager that will allow Section 8 residents. And by “Westside”, I don’t mean Beverly Hills, but more of the working-class yet slowly gentrifying areas of Palms, Mar Vista, and Culver City. Where we live.

I am no stranger to searching for Westside apartments and have helped a number of friends find a place to live. However, I have called over 60 managers and have only been treated with complete coldness, arrogance, and bigotry by most of them. Several of them have even laughed at me when I asked them if they accepted Section 8. I’ve been hung-up on many times, several of whom did it while I was mid-sentence.

We had 1 promising lead, a woman who had rented one of her units to one of Joy’s friends who also used Section 8. We went to go check out the unit, which was actually the manager’s place, and it was spilling over with Christian paraphernalia; we actually share many of the same books. But this chick was the rudest of them all. She exuded pure condescension and she talked to us as if we were children. But since it was the only opportunity we had, my friend made an appointment with her to submit an application. Later that afternoon as I was making my rounds calling listings on Craigslist, I ended up calling her (unknowingly) for the same unit that was $50 less than what she quoted us. She, of course, was much more pleasant with me until I realized that it was the same lady. She hung up on me when I asked her why she was charging us more. And when my friend went to her appointment the following day (taking inconvenient public transportation with her baby), the chick stood her up! When Joy called, she said, “I told your friend yesterday that the appointment was cancelled because you didn’t have a job”. None of which is true. My friend thinks it’s due to racism since she is black and her friend who has a unit there is white. I quickly discarded the thought…there’s no way that could be true, could it? Omigosh…is it?

Even though I’m just helping someone, it’s hard not to internalize all this rejection. What is it like to be constantly subjected to these types of unremitting micro-aggressions when you’re just trying to get back on your two feet? And to receive the harshest treatment by a fellow believer was pretty appalling. We fail to understand how critical it is to live out Jesus’ teaching in even our seemingly mundane tasks.

“Why do the poor stay poor and how can they get out of it?”- this thought pretty much dominates my mind on a daily basis. There are myriad theories out there that try to explain it, but my hunch is that it is deeply connected to how people can internalize the powerlessness and helplessness that is communicated by present systemic and structural injustices, which is then misunderstood as “laziness” (though there are lazy people out there, rich and poor). It’s probably a lot easier for me than my friend to navigate the “system” because my own sense of resilience hasn’t been battered, even though my very brief brush with it has kind of profoundly discouraged me in a way I haven’t experienced.

This is my first blog post and I think I may write from a more praxis-oriented perspective. It’s important for me to carve out the space and time to articulate my otherwise jumbled up thoughts and experiences.

-Margaret