Thinking about leading missional communities a lot today – looking back, looking forward, and pondering.
This quote popped up in my facebook feed today and it really struck a cord:
The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, following Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time has come to gather people together and do this. — Bonhoeffer, as quoted in Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945 by Ferdinand Schlingensiepen
Eight decades later and I think it’s just about the best prescription for what ails the North American church in our time. It comes as I’ve been reading and contemplating a blog post from the same friend who happen to post the quote. This call for a new order of clergy by David Fitch speaks to me. It’s so very close to what our team at the Branch has been living out for eight years. Yet no, we’re not really there yet. We don’t truly view our lives through quite that lens yet… We are moving in that direction though. Gina and I are attempting to lead the way, to be a living example of something like this idea that Bonhoeffer seems to be suggesting. We are attempting to shape our lives according to something like David’s “new order of clergy”.
It’s time to leave normal behind. It’s time to stop “making time” for discipleship. It’s time to simply be a disciple first and everything else second. It’s time to get radical and even irresponsible if need be.
I believe the time has come to gather people together and do this.
Who will go there with us?
For the next next nine months I have the unspeakable privilege of participating in the Leadership Grand Rapids class of 2014. It’s hard to describe how I feel about this opportunity. I’m excited for the journey ahead, I’m more than a little proud to have been chosen, and at the same time I look around this town and wonder why me. One thing is certain though, I will not be the same person when I come out on the other end of this thing. It’s simply not possible while sharing this journey with such a diverse, thoughtful and challenging group of fellow travelers.
This past weekend was our opening retreat for our class where we learned each others names, hit each other with foam noodles and shared some intimate moments of personal growth together. Also woven into the retreat was our introduction to the ‘four platforms’ which the programming for LGR is based on: community connections, diversity, leadership skills, and systems thinking.
During the session on diversity, I was struck once again by how hard this can be for those of us who have inherited the virus of cultural bias. Each one of us experiences the world so differently based on any one of dozens of traits that might make us the subject of a bias against different. It’s hard work and takes a lot of intentional effort to beat this virus into remission. I work hard to fight the virus and make sure I’m aware of when a bias is influencing my thoughts and actions, but what if there was a vaccine? What if there was a way to ensure that the next generation of humans under our care had an immunity to this virus? What sort of value would you place on that immunity?
Well, I think there is a vaccine of sorts. I think growing up and going to school everyday and interacting everyday with different leads to an immunity of sorts. In a future filled with an ever increasing variety of different, I think those among us who have the inherent ability to encounter those differences and still see human, will possess a valuable gift. Just imagine if we didn’t have to spend time and resources trying to beat the disease of cultural bias and discrimination?
This is why our kids attend Grand Rapids Public Schools. Not because we don’t have a choice, because clearly we do. Not because we don’t care about my children’s education, because we certainly do. GRPS has lower overall test scores, older buildings, higher class sizes, a perception of safety concerns, and a whole host of other challenges, but none of those things matter to us as much as some other things that GRPS has in abundance. One of those things is diversity, and it’s not merely about race or ethnicity. In just about any way imaginable the families that make up our children’s school community are full of different.
My friend Erin Wilson (I feel so lucky to be able to say those four words) wrote a whole post about this very subject and words are his gift, so I encourage you to click over and give it a read. Near the end of his post he sums up our feelings on the subject so very nicely:
Maybe SAT scores are 45 points higher at a school in the suburbs, and maybe the Debate Club has its own van with air conditioning. But maybe, of all those things, and all the things you could learn at school, maybe the most important thing is what you don’t learn.
For this reason, and many more, I truly believe that we need to change the way we perceive the value of GRPS to our community. For too long it has been treated as if it is a boat anchor dragging the whole city down, when in reality I suggest it is a shiny gem quietly giving the future of our community the greatest eduction available to us. Those of you who give your lives everyday to what so many others see as a losing battle, I salute you! You make a difference in this community, and many of us are extremely grateful!
The Grand Rapids Public School system is an invaluable treasure in this community, know about it!
About a week from now, we should be looking at whole bunch of wonderfully tasty carrots grown right here in the city of Grand Rapids. Our kids sure enjoyed these ‘first fruits’ last night as we were gathering for the weekly community potluck! Keep your eye on the City Farmers market stand at the Downtown Market if you want to snag some (you’ll probably need to come early).