Shoulder to shoulder
So, I got up this morning to go to the 6:30 a.m. Mysore Ashtanga yoga class at the Yoga Shack. I ended up at the 6:30 a.m. meeting of a group of Christian men who were discussing a book called Tangible Kingdom, which is about forming religious communities. I’m sure this is the kind of thing that happens to everyone, so I won’t dwell on the details. Suffice it to say, Mysore Ashtanga was beyond my present skills, but discussions of forming community are right up my alley.
Eight men attended the discussion: Doug Dolan, Greg Rea, Cody Johnson, Heath Hildebrandt, Dan Dix, John Akers, Randy Siever, and Chris Barry. The dialogue centered on a workbook based on the Tangible Kingdom book. The workbook is available at www.tangiblekingdom.com/the-primer. Ostensibly, it’s an almost scientific approach to forming a congregation and finding that congregation’s place in the world.
From my point of view, the group personifies the ideals it hopes to grow in the world. It’s a small group, isolated in itself, with shared experiences and goals and stress. Believe me, for some of us, a 6:30 a.m. meeting could be considered a traumatic experience. That’s probably why they call themselves the Lab Rats.
“We have an agenda,” said one of the men, it may have been Siever, the executive director of Doable Evangelism, in whose office we met. (Forgive me, my notetaking skills are at nadir before 8 a.m.) “It’s to connect people to God. … [The Tangible Kingdom] is about living our lives, about seeing opportunities to connect people to God in a normal, spiritual growth and community outreach.”
Another of the men explained that in the recent past, churches tended to include like-minded (on a spiritual level) people who then attempted to form community by forming congregations. This new paradigm is to gather diverse types of people, some of whom may have drastically different ideas about things, and then to treat each other in godly ways, to support one another intimately, to instruct through example, and to form common purposes and experiences.
“It used to be ‘believe first, then belong.’ This is more ‘belong first,’” said Dix.
As the men spoke, I was picturing a more ancient past, in the days of the formation of Judaism, Christianity or Islam. Plainly, the community existed—think towns or tribes—before they developed spiritual identity. Or the community may have had a different spiritual identity, but disparate groups coexisted until a balance tipped.
In some communities, the balance never tips. And this is the Kingdom of God that we hear so much about. It’s not a theocracy where the spiritual leader forces church law on the subjects (subjugates the citizens) but a shared culture where the moral behavior rises out of the individual to raise the group. It’s under this umbrella that I have no difficulty seeing how many people could see the United States of America as the earthly embodiment of the Kingdom of God that is such a promise of all the great religions. But government by Commandment so often devolves into something quite ungodly.
Now, while this is an eight-week study group, and as such, a bit awkward for people to just jump into, the new combination church, Milestone-Outlook, is the instigator of this discussion on how to form a religious community, and in fact, most of the members of Lab Rats come from this congregation. The combined church will meet Sunday, Oct 11, at 11 a.m. at Billinghurst Middle School, but at 10 a.m. on Sundays to follow.MUSIC