Missio Dei…a 2 year retrospective

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 9, 2006

Missio Dei “launched” about 2 years ago. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past two years. I know that church planters always say this, and say it with a bit of lightheartedness, but I say it with little lightheartedness. We’ve made some mistakes that now exist as cumbersome baggage. And just when I think we’ve moved on, I realize that the mistakes of the past still haunt us.

I feel like I’ve learned an incredible amount in the past two years. If I had it to do all over again, I would have gotten a part time job in the West Bank and we would have bought a house directly in the West Bank instead of a mile to the south. Even though the house would have been smaller, it would have made all the difference. This is one we hope to rectify in the near future, but we are in a much weaker financial situation now than we were a year or two ago.

If I had it to do all over again, I would never have started with a semi-conventional church service and I wouldn’t have tried to do church in a regular format at all. I would have set out to start a neomonastic community from the start. I would have visited Catholic worker houses. intentional communities, monastic communities, and neo-monastic communities and then set out to have a communal house of compassionate disciples. This is what we’re trying to do now. I didn’t know that’s what I wanted 2 years ago, but I know it now. The past two years has been a fun process of discovery, but for every new discovery, I realize we’ve made decisions that hold us back from pursuing the ideal. Sure, we’d probably end up having gatherings and whatnot, but only after establishing communal practices first.
If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have raised church planting funds from people and other churches. I would have just found people who wanted to live a radical way of life on the West Bank. I would still have raised funds for Missio Dei, but only for specific ministry projects.

So, have we done anything right? Yep. Pursuing a relationship with InterVarsity was and is the right decision. They are totally on board with my approach to ministry and together we will accomplish more to reach out to students on the West Bank than we ever would have separately. I also think that our partnership with InterVarsity will help us reach out to non-students as well, since that will be a facet of our discipleship process.

At Missio Dei, we’ve always been willing to acknowledge our mistakes and change our course. I feel foolish for how much we’ve “evolved”–it shows how little I really know about what we’re doing. But I’m glad that we’ve created a culture that allows for mistakes.

We are right in pursuing affiliation with the Mennonite Church USA. I appreciate the BGC, but I feel like they tolerate our existence rather than celebrate it. I have no desire to break ties with them, but I recognize the added connection with the Mennonite Church will provide support and encouragement that we need.
We were right in planting on the West Bank. A strong sense of calling to a particular place has made ALL the difference for Missio Dei. It gives us a sense of divine commissioning that nobody can take away.

Tomorrow I’ll share some lessons I’ve learned that are more broadly applicable. What I shared today was largely specific to Missio Dei, but I think I’ve learned some things that may be useful to some of you, my readers.

for further reading . . .

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7 Responses to “Missio Dei…a 2 year retrospective”

  1. Henrik H on November 9th, 2006 3:47 am

    thanx for the story

    its inpirering to read about your community from a far (read Denmark)

  2. b-nut on November 9th, 2006 1:54 pm

    I am interested. Wish we could talk more. probably my fault. I may have a connection for your ‘commune’ in the WB.

  3. Derek on November 9th, 2006 1:55 pm

    Yes, thanks for the story and sharing a bit of your journey over the last few years. A small group of us working with college students are beginning to ask some of the questions it looks like you’ve answered through the process you’ve gone through. One book I’ve picked up to gain wisdom from is from an order out of Australia called UNoH. One of their founders has put out a book documenting their process of origination and what is vital in an order. I’ve found it helpful. The book is called “Collective Witness: A theology and praxis for a missionary order” and can be found at their website

  4. Van S on November 9th, 2006 3:22 pm

    Thanks for the info, Derek. B-nut, let’s talk. I walk by your house all the time and long to see you emerge from it and wave at me.

  5. espiritu paz on November 9th, 2006 6:02 pm

    Thanks for taking time to put that all in a nutshell. It will be helpful for directing the interested folks that have put a burr under my tush about Missio, since the Non-traditional churchers gathering.

  6. Jan on November 9th, 2006 6:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I admire your honesty and candor. Looking forward to learning more from you.

  7. Richard Daley on November 10th, 2006 4:22 am

    Hey Mark,

    Congrats on two years. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.

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