As of this past Sunday, our Missional Community, “Downtown Grace”, has adopted our first rule of life…kind of trying it on to see how it fits. We’re using Michael Frost’s B.E.L.L.S. model — Bless (3 people), Eat (with 3 people), Listen (to the voice of the Spirit and to other), Learn (about Jesus), and Sent (envision ourselves as missionaries in the world). On this blog I’ve pointed out many other, more involved (and perhaps more Wesleyan) Rules of Life. But as we start out this seemed appropriate. And for me, what was very important right now was getting some structure to our time together, a way to hold ourselves accountable. It should help shape our community, provide us with a common vision, and unite us with a common practice.
I have been told that the word “rule” comes from the Greek word for “trellis.” So, as opposed to thinking of “rule” as a law or restriction, we can think of it as guideline, a structure on which to grow. Without a trellis for support, climbing vines and branches never reach their potential. The same is true for us. This rule of life can be changed as we find what “works” in our context. But at this moment it’s something that provides some direction for growth. And, frankly, any other group that adopts the same Rule of Life is going to come up with a community that could look and act and talk and be missional in a very different way. It’s not unlike the vines or flowers that may grow on a garden trellis year in and year out. They are going to look different. The trellis just gives them the form on which to grow. And there’s a value to that.
As I’ve been reflecting about the Academy for Missional Wisdom, I’ve been thinking that it acts as a trellis as well. It’s clear from the group of clergy and laity who have been gathering together and sharing and learning that, as we start missional communities, they all look different. There’s not ONE shape to them all. And, because of this, it’s going to be hard to measure them with sort of traditional church measuring sticks: how many persons have been “saved,” what is the membership growth, are they meeting their budget, have they built a facility. They are going to grow in different ways even if growth in grace and discipleship (sanctification) happens in ways that are not obviously quantifiable.
But, underneath all of this growth, is the trellis, the framework, the structure provided by the Academy for Missional Wisdom. There’s a set of practices. There’s a language. There’s a way of reading and understanding Scripture through the Missio Dei. We’ve heard the same lectures. We’ve read some of the same books. We have been supporting and challenging each other. And all of this provides a framework on which the growth of the missional community can take place. There’s a value to the supporting role of the trellis.
For myself, the Academy is bringing together all that I’ve been reading and studying and thinking and preaching about for the last three or four years. It’s brought them all together in a way that, hopefully, will provide a foundation and shape as the seeds of this new missional community are sown.