This week, focus your prayers on two things.
Jesus to Calm Your Fear
Think of one thing that terrifies you about living in community and ask the Holy Spirit to give you boldness, guidance and trust in Jesus to calm your fear in this area.
Jesus to Guide Your Excitement
Think of one thing that excites you about living in community and ask the Holy Spirit to give you vision, courage and confidence in Jesus to guide that which excites you, so that it can be realized in a God-glorifying way.
We must build our Via Communities on an incarnational model of ministry, rather than a "if you build it, they will come" model of ministry.
The communication of the gospel in a particular place, time, and culture, to a particular people, in a way that it can be understood without diluting its truth (Community, p. 107).
Our church at large is contextualized to a specific segment of our state. We are situated in the east valley, which has unique expressions of identity and culture within it. Our culture is a mixture of various cultures. You have influence from an array of places and types, including but not limited to: West Coast (California beach culture), Western cowboy culture, Mexican and Spanish-speaking culture, Maverick and Entrepreneurial culture, gun culture, activist culture, retirement culture, golf culture, etc. There are a host of cultural overlaps that we experience and our church is contextualized to communicate the truth of the Gospel to this types of culture.
Each community within a city represents a finer and more narrower scope of culture. Each major region of a city has a variety of differences with other regions, including but not limited to: socio-economic status, crime rates, educational systems, amenities, funding, commercial investment, etc. We must find ways to contextualize to even more narrowed cultures and nuances within our city.
In each community, you will have a number of various neighborhoods. These would be categorized as sections with a region of a city that are commonly identified. Such examples of such neighborhoods would be: Santa Rita Ranch, Augusta Ranch, Power Ranch, Morrison Ranch, etc. These neighborhoods vary in size, feel and style, but each represents a level of contextualization at a neighbor level. It is at this level that many of the Via Communities will focus their energy. This level of contextualization is greatly needed for the church to realize her place in the world.
The finest point of contextualization is the individual person. This level of contextualization occurs when the Gospel is communicated into a relationship in a way that allows the receiving party to best understand and see the clarity of Jesus.
Affinity or Proximity?
The method of arranging groups comes into question when you discuss living on mission with one another. The basic difference in approaches usually narrows into two categories:
- Affinity-based Groups: These groups are decided by the affinity of the person.
- Age based: These groups would assemble around a common age (e.g., 20 somethings group, 40+ group, Senior Adult group, etc.)
- Interest based: These groups would assemble around a common interest (e.g., archery group, knitting group, bowling group, etc.)
- Life-stage based: These groups would assemble around a common life-stage (e.g., young marrieds group, empty nesters group, etc.)
- Proximity-based Groups: These groups are decided by the location of the residence of the person.
We are opting to make our Via Communities soley Proximity-based and not Affinity-based. This approach is also called the neighborhood approach.
Vetting the Neighborhood Approach
- Is it accessible?
- Does it inspire ownership?
- Is it effective?
- Is it scalable?
A Via Community makes the mission accessible for people. It takes the big vision and scales it down to something that someone can see and experience. You will know it is accessible when you have people willingly participating and owning the mission.
A Via Community is successful if it inspires missional ownership. Many times, we inadvertently “inspire conformity rather than ownership” of our groups and functions as the American Church. This piece of the vetting process asks if the process and group structure hands people fish or teaches them to fish. There is an enormous difference between the two.
How does a community help to shape this identity?
Rooted In Jesus
The identity of the community must be rooted in Jesus.
Bring the Gospel to Bear
Leaders should help to see where someone’s identity is not in Jesus (job, position, what others think about them, family, car, clothes, etc.) and reveal this to them.
Model Gospel Transformation
Leaders should model what it looks like for someone to have their identity in Jesus. Who is the hero of your story? Does your story point to you or someone greater? How do you handle it when you mess up? Will you own up to mistakes, seek repentance and model this for your community?
A proximity-based group model is scalable, because it doesn't rely on subjective metrics to determine placement. Your location is objective and thus can be quantified and stratified.
Conversely, affinity-based groups are not easily scalable because you have to keep generating groups centered around some particularity (age based, interest based, etc.) and this will result in either inordinate amounts of time, energy and resource being poured in to keep these groups afloat, on mission and accessible for people, or the large 'menu' mindset will simply feed into the culture of consumption and consumerism that we breed in our society.