This email just came in from Nigel in the UK.
I’ve been saying something based on your ‘Jesus visits 175 towns’ thing around here and I thought I better run it by you to see if I’m using it correctly. It’s in regards to missional communities.
As you know, I get approached (as we all) about people idealising missional communities. They often like to refer to Acts 2 as this utopic society that miraculously grew because ‘everyone was just so cool to each other’. (If this isn’t explicitly said, it is implicit to the conversation.)
What I’ve been saying to people lately is that Acts 2 only was able to happen because of Luke (or the Gospels). You only get to Acts 2 AFTER you’ve had 3 years of visiting 175 towns in preparation for what happens at the end of Luke beginning of Acts.
Implication: It’s okay to think of missional communities as an outcome if you’ve taken care of mission first! (Sort of like what seems to have happened with Patrick.)
Running that by you to see if that is in-line with your thoughts?
My response to Nigel. . .
Good to hear from you.
Good point re the groundwork Jesus had laid for the later expansion in Jerusalem.
The other big contributing factor was the coming of the HS. The community/ies in Jerusalem were the creation of the dynamic Word of the gospel and the outpouring of the HS.
Signs and wonders, community, gospel spreading are all the result of a work of God, rather than the creation of Jesus' disciples who were just trying a little harder to be missional. They were swept up in something greater than themselves.
Jerusalem was turned upside down, the Word spread to the surrounding towns and into Judea. This was not a static, come to us community. There was movement and dynamism.
Jerusalem was transformed, but not into an idillic society. Jerusalem was in turmoil and was divided over this new movement.
But God was not satisfied. A shift was taking place. The model of mission in the OT was Jerusalem as a light that would draw the nations in. That's how the church in Acts began. God had other plans.
Soon the Holy Spirit is at work to scatter the believers to the ends of the earth. Come to us and see our community was replaced with we're being sent to you to share the gospel and form new communities.
Stephen was murdered and the believers were scattered and with them went the gospel. Philip down to Samaria. Some unnamed believers as far as Antioch where the gospel finally is shared with Gentiles.
God broke up the missional community in Jerusalem so that it multiplied among the Samaritans and the Gentiles. Meanwhile the apostles in Jerusalem are flat out trying to keep up with what God is doing on out on the fringes through ordinary people.
Eventually, even Peter has to be shaken up before he saw the need for an intentional mission beyond the borders of his missional community.
The Word then leaves Jerusalem behind as it spreads into new territory despite the persecution thrown at the messengers. Wherever the Word goes, new disciples are made and new communities are formed. Acts is built around six summary statements about the spread, growth and multiplication of the Word which results in new disciples and new communities.
Acts is not about one idillic community in Jerusalem. It's about the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the world. Movements move. Jesus rarely stood still and as the Risen Lord he continued to unsettle his followers.
Acts finishes with Paul in Rome preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Luke never tells us what happens to Paul. He's more concerned with the unfettered power of God's Word conquering the world and leaving new disciples and new churches in its wake.
It's God's mission, not ours. It's not about our missional community, it's about the spread of his dynamic Word which creates communities everywhere.
Hey, this feels a blog post. . ..
PS Let's jump on Skype sometime soon and talk about how you're putting the principles to work. . . When's a good time?