Micah 6 Community: Missiology

Over the decades much ink has been spilled and theories cast for how evangelism is best done.  It seems that everyone has a method or model that worked well in one situation that they will often prescribe for all situations.  The three of us have our favorites; favorite teachers, writers, methods, models and suggestions.  But we are also aware that any success we have will not be because we followed a model or because we were such great evangelists that people found the Gospel irresistible.  Our success will come from a posture of humility that we will hold as we are bounced around like pinballs as God leads us to opportunity.  Pontiac is a place unlike any other that we have been.  Sure there are similarities to be drawn and relative geography that we could use to make generalizations, but those will surely fall short in practice as we try to live intentionally for the community around us.

That being said, we want to reflect on some simple truths and move forward from there.

We will Be Irrelevant.
Henri J.M. Nouwen once wrote “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and stand in culture with nothing to offer but his or her vulnerable self.” [1] We hold this to be true.  Jesus was a carpenter in the Temple.  Paul was a Pharisee converting Gentiles to a different kind of Judaism.  Peter was a Jewish fisherman speaking to Cornelius and proclaiming that dietary laws were no longer in place.  The three of us are college-educated white kids moving into a struggling urban setting.  And Henri Nouwen was an ivy-league educated academic who felt Gods call to be an entry-level attendant at a home for the mentally disabled.  If there is anything that holds us all together it is the deep calling we all feel to make ourselves irrelevant because that fits in with a long tradition of Gospel spreaders.

We need to be out in the City.
None of us plan to be solely employed by our newly formed Community.  As part of the agreement to live in the house, you agree to find a job that puts you out in the city.  The danger of being employed by a group like Micah 6 Community or any faith-based community is that is has the possibility to limit your circle of friends.  This means, that over time (and it doesn’t take much time) your friends and community consist of people you know through your church community.  This can take you out of contact with people who aren’t yet Christians and may be searching.[2]

This means we will find jobs, working anywhere that we can, outside of Micah 6 Community.  For instance, Coleman already has employment working for Pier 1 Imports to help him supplement his income while working at Micah 6 Community.  He is hoping to become a substitute teacher in Pontiac Schools this fall.

We feel that this is a Biblical tradition as we see Paul working as a tentmaker so as not to be a financial burden on the church as well as to come in contact with other Gentiles whom he hopes to build relationship with.  We also have no indication that any of the plethora of converts listed in Acts quit their jobs as a result of their conversion and the urgency of the message (Pricilla the dyer of purple, Cornelius the commander, soldiers).  It is our position that a Christian must remain active and working in the world to be of any use to it.

What does the City Need?  Jesus
Pastor Mark Driscoll discusses this point in one of his sermons about church planting.  He was asked the question, “What can make Seattle better?”  His answer, “Jesus.”[3]

We agree.  When people in a city come to know Jesus, amazing things happen.  You get better parents so you don’t need as many Child and Protective Service workers.  You have more people who are interested in helping others. You have stronger families so you don’t need as many divorce courts. You don’t need as many police. If an entire city ever came to know the love, power, plan and salvation of Jesus Christ the total economy of that city would be flipped on its head.

The city needs soup kitchens, afterschool tutoring programs, groups committed to ending poverty and groups devoted to building houses for the low-income, but those groups need to be acting on a faith in Jesus.  So that when someone asks, “Why are you out here feeding people today?” they can be told, “Because Jesus wants me to be out here with you because he cares about you.”

We believe that when a city or a block or a neighborhood knows Jesus it is a better place.

Sharing Jesus:  A First Century Model
Many lessons for church planting and intentional living can be found in the first centuries.  It is the belief of Micah 6 Community that these lessons are neither outdated nor unimportant, but rather are indispensable and always in need of contextualizing.

Synagogue. One of the hot-spots through which the early Apostles found potential hearers of the Gospel was the synagogue.  These were the weekly gatherings of the faithful Jews as well as less dogmatic “God-fearers.”  These gatherings would include readings from the Jewish texts, prayer and short expository talks delivered by people in attendance.[4]  It is no small leap to suggest that the local congregation is the modern equivalent to the synagogue.

Therefore, we as a community will constantly seek to expand our circle of friends and partnerships with local congregations in order to work together for common causes as well as to find people who may be interested in a different form of church and living.  Already we have great partnerships with several congregations that are excited about the work that we are seeking to undertake with our intentional Community in Pontiac (see “Partners”).

Houses.  Another strong tradition in the early church is meeting together in houses.  Usually this happened after the Christians were kicked out of the synagogue (something we plan to avoid).  Groups would gather together for times of learning and worship in the homes of local believers.  These groups, probably no bigger than 10-20, made up the bulk of early church congregations.  This had several advantages to it: small numbers can lead to better interchange of views and discussion, no artificial isolation between a preacher and congregation, hospitality, and informality. [5]  Some church models with a more “organic” goal to them would suggest that this is still the way that church is most effective in true discipleship.[6]  While we affirm the many expressions that congregations may take on in a given city, this is the model we will attempt for the foreseeable future.

“Ancient house churches sought to grow in virgin soil, the house church of today must rediscover roots in an overworked ground.”[7]  This, as one author puts it, is the challenge of the house church: to provide a unique enough experience that it pulls some people from their casual and comfortable relationships with God to a more engaged and more mission-focused life.

Meals. I am proud to be part of a faith that loves food.  Meals and food have been a way that God has shown his love for us (Manna from heaven, Communion bread and wine) as well as a way Christ-followers spend time together (Feeding 5,000, Agape Feasts).  This being the case, we need to be a community that is about sharing meals together and with our friends and neighbors.[8]

Our Community will have a night of the week that is set aside as for just the three house-mates.  This will serve as time for us to be together and bond at the dinner table.  Additionally, we will have two nights of the week set aside for inviting friends to join us.  The other four nights of the week will be open for any of us to invite people over to spend time together in other ways: movie nights, game nights, prayer nights.  All of these, we believe, will take on the same spirit of common-meals, but will be more open and informal.

Sharing Jesus: Saint Patrick
The great missiologist and story teller George Hunter III lays out the historically important mission work undertaken in Ireland during the Middle Ages.  This was achieved by establishing communities near urban areas that offered services and resources to the unchurched though deeply spiritual people in that city.  Through daily encounters, teaching about Jesus began which led to more disciples and missionaries being sent back into Europe to spread the gospel over the entire continent.  Similarly, our goal through various projects will be to serve people, which will lead to meaningful conversations that lead to Christ-followers, disciples and missionaries.[9]

Sharing Jesus: Honduras
George Patterson, who was for many years the president of Honduras Extension Bible Institute, urges passionately a teach-through-action method that will train a disciple for a specific goal and context.  He warns against what he calls “institutional mindsets” where someone is taught passively for extended periods of time and eventually develop an institutional mentality.  Instead, he says, education should be complimented by action.  Neil Cole also warns about this sort of institutional mindset which creates a priest-congregation separation.

For instance, if you craft a lesson about serving the poor that should be complimented with actual service to the poor.  The inverse is true as well.  If someone in your discipleship program is reading a book, have them teach on that topic so that it may be discussed in the group and acted upon.

This method has proven useful to him in the context of Honduras, a third world country with many similarities to the demographics in Pontiac, Michigan.  Additionally, Patterson places heavy emphasis on the work of discipleship which is a one-on-one relationship in action.  These are models that we believe are useful in Honduras as well as Pontiac.  This is another under-pinning and driving idea behind much of the social work we will do in Pontiac.[10]

Intentional Community
Since the 5th century, men and women have been leaving society to create communities of believers separate from the world.  These communities, usually called monasteries, have had a great history of missing the point.  Christ did not come to urge us to leave the world and create a Christian huddle in the mountains or the suburbs.  No, he left us to create communities that were interested in his work on earth: feeding the poor, healing, advocating and teaching.

Micah 6 Community is taking many of its cues from other groups who consider themselves “New Monastics.”  These would include groups like The Simple Way in Philadelphia, PA.[11]  In his book, Shane Claiborne lists twelve values of New Monastics that we hold as important as well:

  1. Relocate to the abandoned places of empire.
  2. Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.
  3. Hospitality to strangers.
  4. Lament for radical divisions within the church and our communities, combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.
  5. Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.
  6. Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community, along the lines of old novitiate.
  7. Nurturing common life among members of an intentional community.
  8. Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.
  9. Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.
  10. Care for the plot of God’s earth give to us along with support of our local economics.
  11. Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthey 18:15-20.
  12. Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.[12]

The model that we see through the New Testament is one of discipleship.  Paul took Timothy under his wing until he felt that Timothy was able enough to work on his own.  Barnabas took John Mark with him on his missionary journeys and Peter apprenticed young Mark as well.  These teachers, when they would come together were also accountable to each other, and all were accountable to Jesus.

Discipleship is never something that stops.  You never graduate from learner to teacher, moving from a place of accountability to others to a place where you are the final say.  Church leadership books do not talk about it enough, but there often times develops a shield around the pastor(s) or minister(s) where no one knows anything about their personal lives.  They become separate from their congregations.  This should never be so.

Members of Micah 6 Community will be in accountability and mentor relationships with people outside of the immediate community.  This will allow for greater depth of spiritual growth as well as keep us away from dangerous life-styles where we have no one to critique our motives, actions or spiritual lives.

[1] Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. (New York: Crossroad Books, 1989), 30.

[2] Neil Cole, Organic Leadership, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 35.

[3] Mark Driscoll, “Church Planting in Corinth” Part 1 of 6.  Sermon given January 8, 2006 at Mars Hill Church Seattle, WA.

[4] Michael Green, Evangelism In the Early Church, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 300.

[5] Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church, 318.

[6] See Organic Church and Organic Leadership by Neil Cole.

 [7] Donald Allen, Barefoot in the Church,(Richmond, VA: Knox Press, 1972) 25.

 [8] Geoff and Sherry Maddock, “An Ever-Renewed Adventure of Faith:  Notes From A Community,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 86.

 [9] George Hunter III, The Celtic Way of Evangelism, (Abingdon Press, 2000)

[10] George Patterson, “Obedience-Oriented Education,” Essay copyright 1976.

[11] The Simple Way, http://www.thesimpleway.org/

[12] Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 363.

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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: coleyoakum@gmail.com Flickr: flickr.com/photos/coleyoakum/

One response to “Micah 6 Community: Missiology”

  1. Krista Bajoka says :

    Home » Little Brothers of Jesus

    Brothers and friends
    We do not aim at helping through organized institutions such as schools and hospitals, essential as these are, but we wish to live at a ‘grass—roots’ level, sharing in the lives of ordinary people, in their joys and sorrows. This means for us always trying to live and to relate as “brothers”, and so to see and appreciate the ‘other’ as a brother or sister. It means trying to be genuine “friends”, and so being actively concerned for one’s neighbour as for oneself. It means seeing each person as a “child of God”, of the one God and Father, and being deeply concerned for their personal and social life and destiny. It means, essentially, trying to be a ‘presence’ of Jesus, sharing in his ‘work’ of redemption.

    Love your blog and so glad you have started this community – reminds me of the work of Charles de Foucauld and the little brothers and sisters of Jesus.

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