The Order

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : August 5, 2005

A couple days ago, I met with a man named Jim Bloom who ministers in Minneapolis with a group called "InnerChange." They plant house churches, but not in the conventional way.  Innerchange calls itself a "religious order among the poor." Lest you think they are the latest emergent-style attempt at church, I’d like to point out that they’ve been there for 10 years and they are linked with Bethlehem Baptist (John Piper’s Church), so I wouldn’t consider them "emergent" per se.  But God is doing random things in this world of ours that, when view from a far off distance, resemble a grande design.

Basically, a missional team made up of Jim, and some "novitiates" engage in mission among the poor in their neighborhood. Over time, these different relationships that have been formed begin to gather together and house churches emerge.  I really appreciate the strength of their convinctions: they don’t allow outside Christians to participate in what they are doing unless they become committed to the people in the community first.  In order to become a novitiate, you have to have a year apprenticeship (those not willing to be so committed can do a shorter internship).  After apprenticing, you begin a 2 or 3 year long novitiate period. Anyways, they have three “tracks” that people on their mission team go through in their 3 year long development process:

contemplative development,
missional development, and
prophetic (justice) development.  These disciples are equipped for misson, and they go out to make disciples slowly and in the right way.  It isn’t a program for htem.  It is about reproducing spiritual sons and daughters…being used by the SPirit to shape them into brothers and sisters in Christ. The people to whom they minister are precious and they want to remain committed to them…so much that they won’t tolerate other Christians sweeping in and out of their lives. 

Today, I ran accross a blogsite called Emergent Evangelism (I think it is by the guys who bring us Radical Congruency).  They have a recent post called Spiritual Orders: A Missional Inversion.  Here’s a sample:

In the middle ages, monastic orders were for “advanced” Christians who
took special vows and entered a rigorous way of life in pursuit of
deeper faith. In the postmodern world, I submit that we will see an
inversion of the role of monastic orders - people will commit to a way
of life in community with others before committing to the Christian
faith and publicly self-identifying as a Christian.

In the past months, I?ve been realizing we put ecclesiology before mission when
we started Missio Dei. It wasn?t intentional–but old habits die hard. I’ll share more thoughts on what I would have done differently in a couple days. 

think God is moving churches into new ways of thinking about community.
We need something more monastic, that focuses on mission…a community of
“novices” (disciples) centered around mission. In this paradigm,
community is centered around a shared committment, rahter than a shared
gathering. Instead of planting "services" we need to plant "churches." Planting a church should be more like planting a garden.  A few gardeners should move out and begin to work the soil, faithfully tending.  The idea is for disciples to move incarnationally in the missionfield, making new friends.  And as those friends draw close to one another in a newly forming relational network, a church begins to emerge.  Doesn’t that sound beautiful?

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3 Responses to “The Order”

  1. Chris on August 6th, 2005 1:10 am

    It does sound beautiful, I think we should do what you’re suggesting, and drop anything that doesn’t look like what you’re suggesting.

  2. Van S on August 6th, 2005 1:19 am

    Thanks, Chris. I’ve had some difficulty with knowing how to lead us forward in this direction in a way that is sensitive to where everyone else in Missio Dei is at. The most recent string of hurt feelings have come about because I was focused on mission so much that I wasn’t especially gracious or patient to others at Missio Dei. Any suggestions on how to move in this direction in an inclusive way? Do you understand what I’m getting at?

  3. Chris on August 6th, 2005 12:09 pm

    I do, and it’s not necessary what I meant. We drew people in because of how we meet, I wonder if we should modify that accordingly. I also think the mission needs to be better defined before we can do anything effectively.

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