My dear friend Christiana’s first book, To Alter Your World, released today. I read a pre-release copy of the book, and so many times throughout I found myself nodding my head in agreement and saying “YES” out loud. I’m happy that this book exists, because now when people ask me why I’ve chosen to express my Christian faith in this way, I can hand them this book. (Okay, okay, I’ll have a conversation with them about it, too.) One of my favorite quotes from the book, and a good way to sum up what we’re trying to do is simply this:
“Our task is not to grope for cultural dominance, but to build bonds of peace and collaboration.”
I’m so thankful to be a part of this community that is humbly searching for ways to partner with God as he seeks to bring renewal and redemption to the earth. When describing my current faith community, sometimes it’s easier to frame it as a house church, although we don’t call ourselves that. Others are more familiar with the concept of a missional community.
Whatever words you use to name it, here’s what it looks like: A small group of people committed to God, each other, and our neighborhood. All the community members live within walking distance of one another. Each week we gather on Sunday nights for a more “churchy” experience, praying, learning, and sharing a meal. We also gather on Thursdays.
Depending on the season, our Thursday activities vary. Currently we do every other week girls’ night and guys’ night. We spend time connecting, sharing joy and sorrows as we grow deeper in relationship. We ask the hard questions, speak into each other’s lives, and call each other forward.
We covenant at the beginning of each year to participate in our relationship with God, with the community, and with our context. Each person takes the communal vow, but we also set personal goals for growth in these three areas. Each of us commits to spending time with God however we define that, to deepening our relationships with the other community-mates, and to serving our community in some way.
Service might look like leading Bible study at a local recovery home, playing sports with neighbors, or teaching ESL class. In this season, I try to intentionally connect with moms in the neighborhood, and I host a monthly women’s book club. I like to think of the goal as creating contexts for people to belong without requiring that they believe a certain way. As we interact with people outside of our community, the hope is that they would see the intentionality with which we live our lives and be drawn to faith through our embodied love and joy and hope.
My husband and I watched this community from afar for seven years before deciding to move in. If you know anything about our story, you know that our relationship formed around intentional community, as we met on a year-long missions trip where we lived with a team of six traveling the world.
The pull toward missional community living goes back farther for me, however. I remember reading Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution when I was a sophomore in college. I felt so drawn to the way of life that he described, that I started to think that maybe I should drop out of school and join the Simple Way. Spoiler alert: I didn’t, but there was something deeply moving for me as I read his words and saw the way that his faith deeply and tangibly affected his daily life.
Some people struggle to understand the unconventional choice that we’ve made. They read about my struggle against the church and think that I just need to find another church that fits me. I appreciate the desire to help me connect, but we’ve made this choice intentionally. This is the way that I’ve been able to not throw away the baby with the bath water.
I’m deeply grateful for this community that has kept me firmly rooted in Jesus-centered spirituality, yet has given me the freedom to truly express my doubts, fears, and misgivings about American Christianity. I am inspired constantly by the dedication of my community-mates to our way of life and service to others.
Click here to order a copy of her book, To Alter Your World: Partnering with God to Rebirth Our Communities.
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