The Dream

13Jul07

A Community of Faith in Pleasant Ridge in Cincinnati, OH purposed to live out the Missio Dei as a Covenant Communitas proclaiming Christ and living as a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the Kingdom of God. 

Or, to put it more simply…

A People following Jesus cooperatively in the 45213 zip code

I believe we are standing at the edge of a revolution.  A Kingdom-sized movement of people taking back their faith and making it their own.  Gone are the days of static faith, status quo faith, beauricratic faith.  The hierarchy fell over.  The CEO has lost his groove.  There’s no going back.  We’ve taken the red pill and we’re about to see how far the rabbit hole goes.

I believe we’re about to discover that the rabbit hole goes back to the ancient days.  To the first day, in fact, when the Spirit hovered over the waters of chaos and the cosmos was birthed.  We are in a time of great tension and chaos.  The Spirit of the Living God broods over us and in us with the creative force of life.  I believe God is birthing the very Reign of God in our midst.

I believe that the Kingdom has come on earth – in Cincinnati – as it is in heaven.  And I believe that where the Kingdom breaks in a People of God will form.  Where once there was not a people God will birth a people.  This ecclesia is poised at the outbreak of a Holy Virus that is infecting Cincinnati.  The old are dreaming dreams and the young are prophesying.  Healing and resurrection are happening.

I believe a movement of small communities of faith is bubbling up in the city.  It will literally re-make the spiritual and social landscape of Cincinnati.  It is already happening.  These tiny communities of Jesus-followers love their neighbors, serve the poor, and mend the broken.  They lead from the bottom up.  They move with fluidity and flexibility.  They don’t wait for approval from the Top Dog, the Central Committee, or the Chain of Command.  Instead they wait for the Lord and they wait tables.  They bless and do not curse.  They buy houses (or rent apartments) and settle down in the forgotten places, the old neighborhoods, and the cookie-cutter suburbs.

I believe a new kind of church is forming.  A church not bound by tired categories of traditional, seeker-sensitive, contemporary, or even emerging.  We aren’t working a model, a pre-digested plan, or publisher-approved action steps.  We are improvising, experimenting, and innovating.  We’re not looking to be the biggest, the best, the most excellent or professional.  We aren’t looking to be radical for the sake of being radical.  We aren’t trying to start a movement so that we feel like we’re doing something important.  I believe that any movement that is going on is the moving of the Spirit and we get to participate in that.  I actually don’t even believe in revolution, per se.  I believe in the resurrecting power of God, the redeeming work of Christ… and I’m pretty sure it has something to do with suffering.  I do believe that when those on the outside see it they’ll want in and they’ll call it “revolutionary”.

I believe a network of small churches will change our city.  Imagine communities of faith of 150 or less, deeply and passionately following Jesus and living Kingdom lives in their neighborhoods.  These churches network together and reproduce similar communities.  Sometimes we gather for large scale worship and ministry, most of the time we’re meeting in homes, coffee shops, bars, and lunch rooms.  Some of us live together in Christian intentional communities (houses or co-housing), others live in proximity to each other in neighborhoods or apartment complexes. 

I believe its going to take a lot of work and it is going to start with a few folks who covenant together in community and mission (which is what communitas is, as I understand it).  I believe it has already begun…

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3 Responses to “The Dream”

  1. 1 Ken

    I love your winsome description of Christians living out our faith in the real world, but I “itch” as my friend D.G. sometimes puts it, when in the attempt to celebrate an effective movement of God through a given group of followers, their (your) experience has to be juxtaposed over against the established Church as if the Church that nurtured our parents, that gave place to my own prodigal return to faith, and from which great leaders like Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, Adam Hamilton (et al) somehow hasn’t been genuine or faithful.

    I see wonderful things that are happening as you described all over the place. I perceive them as a move of the Holy Spirit, built in concert with and on the foundations that the Church has provided (blue-haired old ladies and stubborn old establishment people included).

    Exciting followers on the edge of a new movement aren’t uniquely saints, nor are they exempt from sin (to include some of the same sins of the establishment Church leadership).

    I also don’t think anyone today can make any more claim of bringing in the Kingdom than St. Paul or Martin Luther or John Wesley or Billy Graham did dozens or hundreds of years ago. I affirm what is happening and the obedience and passion of the people through which it is happening and I join you in celebrating it, and I hope and pray that it is eschatalogical even!

    I’m glad that the Holy Spirit is raising up people as you’ve described who are joining the long line of people through whom God has been bringing in His Kingdom since before the foundations of the world.

    Blessings, Ken

  2. 2 Aaron

    Hum…. good comments Ken, thank you. I hope I didn’t give the impression that whatever kind of faith I’m advocating is juxtaposed against the faith of my childhood, my parents, or grandparents. I apparently I did though, for that I am grieved.

    My intent is not to be over and against, but rather building on and contextualizing in. I see myself (and any community that might form with me) as standing firmly on the shoulders of our forebearers. I do see that we are a different contextual situation than my parents. The context calls for a missionary position relative to it. That missionary position is “post-bureaucratic”. By which I mean that the systemic organizing method (ie. hierarchy, central committee) doesn’t work like it used to work. So, I’m not attempting to set “me and mine” up against a some straw-man called “institutional religion” – rather I hope that what we are doing is a missional, incarnational response to the Kingdom in our cultural situation.

    I also hope I did not give the impression that we are “bringing the Kingdom” in some kind of unique way that is better or more “right” than others. Far from it!!!! I’m not even sure I like the language of “bringing the Kingdom”. I think I see every local congregation/community of faith as uniquely called to enact the Kingdom (to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the KoG) in it’s locale. We have a responsibility here in PRidge/Cincinnati to do so (in concert, I might add, with other and existing communities of faith… which I suppose one might call “missional ecumenism”).

    I hope that clarifies or elaborates helpfully. Feel free to push back on specific things I’ve said in the post or my comments.

    Peace of Christ to you!

  3. 3 Ken

    Aaron, Please know that I both admire and join you in your celebration of exciting, effective, relevant ministry and of the obvious move of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t my intention to “rain on the parade.”

    My only concern is that like the Scripture “body” metaphor, I believe that there are countless people who serve little country churches unjaming the 15 year old copier for the 10th time every Sunday printing their 30 bulletins and ministering faithfully to a parish of people who grow families in their community. Their ministry is traditional, establishment, small, and often predictable, but out of their parish grow kids who learn the faith. Sometimes they depart for a few years around college, but often they return and become productive, effective disciples. People grow old in those communities and die with peace, because they lived in the context of a faithful parish community of believers and have gained confidence in their faith. Those little parishes pay countless dollars over the long haul to advance the cause of Christ around the world, both in missions and evangelism. They produce people of Salt and Light who influence the social fabric all around them in myriad ways.

    These people are part of the same Church. It may be old, may be governed the same as it was when Francis Asbury planted it, and may not even have a significant numerical growth potential, but those people are part of the Body.

    I hope that dynamic, culturally relevant, emerging communities of Christian faith who are developing in unique ways and in unorthodox places and who are reaching unlikely people — see themselves (at least eventually) as part of a much bigger family that includes the folks that I’ve described above. AND VICE-VERSA!

    Blessings Brother, Ken


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