We aren’t really asking you to give one more night of the week to this. We aren’t asking you to give a few more hours of volunteer time to this. We are asking you to own this. We are asking that you take on this mission in your life in all of life. There is a decompartmentalization that must occur in our minds/hearts as we engage with this reality of living in community and leading in this way.

 

Come and Die

The endeavor of a Via Community is a “Come and Die” endeavor.

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Cost of Discipleship)

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran, who was born in Poland at the turn of the 20th Century. His faith fueled his social unrest and he actively opposed the Nazi regime. He was imprisoned for his activism in a German military camp and hanged in 1945.

 

Ownership vs. Agreement

I like what you are doing” is dramatically different than “I believe in what we are doing.
— Brad House (Community, p. 72, L 862)

Key Question: Do we own the mission of God for our church, or do we just agree with it?

 

Ownership Requires Money

This is not a budgeted item. This doesn’t mean that we value this less than other departments or ministries. This means that we want this to grow in proportion to the ownership of it by the entire community. We would ask you to reflect this as well in the way you lead.

Leader Tip: Don’t pay for everything yourself–require ownership in this area.

 

Ownership Requires Resources

We are asking that these communities exist off-site. By nature of the way we’ve structured this to occur, we are requiring ownership. Communities will need to think through how/when they meet and this process does not need to go through our staff. There will be a multitude of connections happening during the week that go virtually unseen by the pastors/elders of the church–and that is exciting!

Leader Tip: Don’t over-offer your stuff to be used–require ownership in this area.

 

Ownership Requires Time

You often times don’t have time for the engaging in things you ‘agree with’ but for things you own you make time. You carve out a schedule and develop rhythms of life for those things that you own.

Leader Tip: Model this for your community so they can see your ownership in this area.

 

Ownership Requires Energy

For that which you agree with, you may exert energy in specified moments, but not much outside these moments. For that which you own, you will think about and focus on outside of 

Leader Tip: Paint a picture often for yourself and for your community of why this is vitally important–don’t assume they know and don’t assume you will remember.

 

Ultimately, for that which you love and pursue, you don’t want to think much about investing money, resources, time and energy into them, because you will do this naturally for anything that drives you.

 

Gaining Ownership

How do you gain ownership of a Via Community?

Pray: Ask God to give you a passion for this community that will form. Realize that this pursuit is not about pointing to you and how great you are, but to point to how great is God.

As you live in community, you will likely step into many situations where you say, “God, this is going to fall flat without you...breathe life into this situation.”

Hear Story: Listen to those in your community and hear their story. Get to know them on a deeper level than mere acquintance. As you hear story, keep in mind God’s Story and how the pieces of their story–the longing, pain, unrest, hope, joy, peace–ultimately resonate with this grand story.

Appreciate Your Role: Appreciate the specific role you have in the life of this community. No one else has your role and has been empowered and trained to do what you are being called to do. You are Plan A for your community, seize the moments you have and make the most of every opportunity.

Also, appreciate the reality that you are not the Savior of this community. That is Jesus. You can’t solve everyone’s problems. Only Jesus can help infinitely. Don’t seek to be the hero of your community, show them Jesus, the real hero.

Envision the Outcome: Begin to utilize your imagination to try to see what the future could hold for your community. What would it look like for people to see Christ for the first time in your community? Picture those who have been a part of church for years having a place to exercise their convictions and grow in Jesus.

Focus on Mission: This arguably is the most important aspect of gaining ownership. If mission is an after-thought, your community ownership will wane. Your passion will become disillusioned as well.

In order to focus on mission, your focus must be on Jesus himself. Living ‘on mission’ is not just about doing, but rather it is about being. This type of living is about realizing who God is and what he has done through Jesus to us and for us:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
— 2 Corinthians 5:17 - 6:1

If living on mission together does not drive some people, they will not stick in this context very well. That’s okay. There are other places for involvement at Via Church.

 

Inspiring Ownership

Profit Sharing: This happens when the church is able to share in the profits of the overall mission. What are the profits for a church? What does it mean to share in the profits? How does a community that is living ‘on mission’ share in these profits together?

Program Error: Programs have a tendency to support the mentality of being served rather than serving.Programming usually exists to meet the needs of a group. It is not completely bad, but if the diet of the church is made up of programming elements only, then people will develop a mindset that thinks the church is made to serve them.

Leader Tip: Ask yourself the question “Are you a restaurant?”

This is the difference between going to a restaurant to eat and eating a meal with your family at home. Your mindset is different at a restaurant. You tend to think that the goal of the establishment is to make you happy and make sure you have a good customer experience. This causes you to view the establishment as existing for your pleasure and enjoyment. This is not what living in the context of community is about and not what the church exists to accomplish in the world. Making disciples is more like eating together as a family. One person may prepare the meal, another will set the table, another will serve the food, another will clean up once everyone is done, etc. This is the mindset that needs to exist within a Via Community. If you find yourself gravitating toward a restaurant approach, call your community back to realize that this is a family meal.

Leading From the Edge: Many of the best ideas concerning our Via Communities are yet to come. As you engage in this endeavor, you will learn immensely and our desire is that we would all gain from your experience and knowledge. None of us are islands. We ought not function that way either.

Raising Expectations: The bar for leading a Via Community is one of the highest bars we have at Via Church.

Selected

In order to lead a Via Community, you must be selected by leadership. Not anyone may lead a Via Community. They must be proven to leadership to be trustworthy, capable and favorably disposed to this type of leadership.

Surge

Next, every VC Leader must progress through Surge School, which is a 32-week training done around a Surge Table, lead by a leader.

Class: Community

Finally, a six-week training for developing an understanding of what it means to live ‘on mission’ in the context of community.

The bar is very high because we care tremendously about the fruit of these endeavors.

Groups led by leaders who do not own the mission are at best social gatherings and at worst stagnant pools of pop therapy and gossip. Even when we take the best of these possible outcomes, we have to face the reality that there are plenty of alternative sources for social interaction that are better than a poorly led group. The fact is, when we lower the expectations for the leaders, we lower the expectations for our groups.
— Brad House in Community (p. 78, L 961)

Bite-Sized Mission: When we make the mission too lofty we decrease the ability of our communities to engage in the mission or even see the mission. Be careful how aspirational you are without giving your communities the handles to grab ahold of the vision. If you can’t give them handles, you probably don’t understand your context well.

...we must learn to communicate the vision and mission in clear terms that inspire and invite the entire church into participation.
— Brad House in Community (p. 80, L 985)

Warning #1: Too Aspirational

Don’t make your missional endeavors so aspirational that no one can wrap their arms around it.

Too Aspirational: “Our Via Community is going to show God’s love to every person in our communities every week!”

Be Realistic / Think About Sustainability: “We are going to organize a block party twice per year to love on our neighborhood.”

Warning #2: Too Vague

Too Vague: “Our community is going to show God’s care for the orphan by loving orphans.”

Show Heart & Be Clear: “Our community desires to show God’s care for the orphans by serving a group home that is in our neighborhood twice per month and also by supporting the Johnsons who are going to be fostering by providing a once per week meal and making sure they get a date night once every 3 weeks.”

 

Definitions

Via Community Leader

A trained shepherd, entrusted to:

  • care for those who are in their Via Community
  • center their community’s aim on the mission.

Via Community

A family of individuals who live relatively close to one another and together are actively and continually engaged in a lifestyle where the mission of God is being accomplished in their lives and the Kingdom is put on display in their neighborhoods and communities.