“Incarnational Communities”

22 Dec

A couple guys named Hugh Halter and Matt Smay wrote a book called the Tangible Kingdom. The book is full of thoughts that I really gel with. One of them is similar to what I’ve been reading in the works of Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch as they discuss community.

There is a difference between the “community for me” vs. “me for the community”.

Community for Me: This plays out directly in the way that we talk about small groups. They are often targeted, gender and life-stage specific groups. People are urged to choose a subject that they want to learn about with a limited amount of commitment. The whole approach is that of consumer with generally one person making the sacrifice to lead the study and arrange others to bring snacks and prayer journals and other assorted stuff. I can attest first hand that great things have happened in these groups. More often than not I have found myself counting down the weeks however.

Me for the Community: Groups are formed by the organizing principle of mission. The community that you are stepping into sees themselves as a band of people who will be an expression of church on the block where they live. They will claim the local elementary school playground as theirs to repair. They see it as their duty to have block BBQ’s to invite neighbor’s to come to and eat together and share life. These are layered groups of individuals. It’s marrieds with children mingling with lifelong singles and college students. We all have something to learn from each other. I know that it can create difficulties with people being so different but we have so much in common with Christ that it is enough to hold us together.

This is how Hugh Halter describes incarnational communities. As a practitioner his words are probably more helpful than mine as a dreamer.

Hi Friends, quite a few folks ask us about our definition of “an incarnational community.” In Adullam, we make sure people know that our goal is not to pump out IC’s or to get people to do IC’s. The goal is that every person starts to grow toward being a more holistic IC, learning to integrate Inclusive Community, Meaningful Communion with God, and Pure mission to others. Some start off as bible studies, some start off from a point of mission, and other groups start as simply a group of friends. No matter where they begin, we coach them to become a fully functioning IC. Here’s just an off the top of my head list of ways you can know you’re group is maturing. Hope it helps. Feel free to add your own to my list and maybe we’ll come up with a good grid to help others with.

You know when you’re an incarnational community when:

* You have a group of friends who know they can come over, or call your cell phone without feeling like they’re bugging you.
* You look at your weekly calendar and can find at least one or two times that you’ll be seeing several of them.
* The question, “How’s it going?” is quickly followed by, “how can I help?”
* The same people you call for a movie night are the same ones you call for prayer, and the same ones that you find yourself helping others with.
* You can’t wait for your non-Christian friends to meet “your people.”
* You are as excited to throw a party together as you are about studying through the book of Romans…but you still like studying Romans.
* You watch each other’s kids and are on call for emergencies.
* You can think of a few people you’ve had to suggest they go “play church” somewhere else.
* You can’t find all your tools cuz they’ve been loaned out to people in your community.
* You find yourself taking a hike together on Sunday morning instead of just going to church.
* You meet together as a community to help serve the larger church gathering or network you’re a part of. (If by chance you don’t think you should be a part of a larger congregational structure, you’ll probably heading for myopic land and you’ll be out of community all-together in a few months.)
* Everyone’s sniffed each others stinky socks (metaphor for knowing each others hidden secrets) and there’s now a freedom to just be yourself.
*Extroverts get to be extroverts and introverts can remain introverts.

*Your children feel like they are a part of the community instead of getting thrown into the basement to watch veggie tales until the big people are done talking.

*When needs come up within the sphere of your friends, your people quickly pool resources or commit time to help.

*When your house or the house of your community runs the social calendar for the neighborhood.

*When you can take a month off from meeting and pick up right where you left off.

As I keep adding or updating I’ll let you know.

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