Missional Wisdom and Me

ImageThis weekend I finish up a two year program with the Missional Wisdom Foundation. I have been part of the pilot group (the Texas Cohort) of the Academy for Missional Wisdom. 

The Academy offered something I was hungry for – theological discussion on the new things I experienced God doing and connections with others who were doing new things in ministry.  A Longing for Spring by Elaine Heath and Scott Kisker let me see that others were having the same yearnings I had for additional models of church, and so when Dr. Heath started the Missional Wisdom Foundation, I knew this was something I needed to exlore.

We began in October, 2011, with our Spiritual Life Retreat, which introduced us to main concepts of missional church movement.  We got to know each other and learn the online learning system we would use for each of our classes.

The classes were challenging. Each class had almost daily work with reading, video lectures by our professors and discussion among the cohorts. Each class concluded with a paper. 

Our classes covered several foci: 

“Missional Imagination” pushed us to have a bigger vision of what God is doing. 

“Reading the Scripture with Missional Eyes” gave a chance to revisit the Bible in a fresh and vibrant way. 

“Missional Ecclesiology” enabled us to ground our understanding of the missional church theologically.

“Launching a Missional Community” gave us skills to start new faith communities.  “Spiritual Leadership Development” looked at best practices for new ministries.

At the end of our first year the cohort gathered to visit new communities of faith in the Dallas area.  We spent the day visiting house churches and homes where people lived in community.  It was exciting to see what others were doing.  We also completed our online learning component at the end of the first year and began the journey of applying all we had learned.

With the start of the second year of the Academy, each member of the cohort was assigned a coach who worked with us as we started new faith communities. That support enabled me to navigate the many ups and downs of the House Church Network.  Bret Wells was not only my coach but my friend who helped me “put on my baptism”, as Jerry Moore, another member of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, often put it.

What did the Academy help me do?  Over the past two years I have learned how to lead a house church as well as how to help seven others start them and lead them.  I have helped churches start Messy Churches, with one starting this month and three in October.  I have spent time figuring out a model for discipleship that speaks to everyday people and led five Discipleship Huddles. Honestly, of the things I’ve done more haven’t worked than have been successful, but coaching has kept me focused and moving forward.

This weekend was the culmination of the two years where each person in our cohort shared her or his story. This was the highpoint of the two years!  God had been working!

Shelly began a community garden and then moved to direct The Sharing House, which is located in a community of poverty.  This month, she will be adding a simple meal and a worship gathering to care for the souls of the community.

Allison began The Foundry House, which ministers in a community of addiction and abuse.  Children’s needs are met with tutoring, friendship and food.  Check out their website to get an idea of what amazing things this community is doing:  http://foundryhouseministries.org/

Tom’s church began a new community garden and house where people will live in community (Epworth House) by pray walking around the neighborhood.   Former members of his congregation are returning to the state to help set up the Epworth House as a community living home.  It is an exciting time for this large congregation in Oklahoma.

Mira, her husband and son lived in community with another family.  Although this first attempt at community didn’t turn out as they wished, they are ready to start again with their move into a mostly hispanic community in Portland.

Pam and Susan worked in two different contexts with congregations who struggled to find new ways to be church.  Both continue to move forward.

Ryan, a college student, experimented to start new communities which included a monthly Sabbath Rest Meal.  He has moved into the role of assistant campus minister and two new community living houses will begin this fall.  Students will keep a common rule of life and worship together as they make a difference in their college community.  Ryan has also discerned a call to ordained ministry. 

What amazed me was how much God had done in two years.  All of us had gone down dead ends and experienced failures.  All of us had thoughts of giving up.

And all of us had found God in a profound ways in the midst of doing new things.

There can be no doubt that we are at a time in the Church where we need to be about doing new things, but it is common for us to wonder how we might move into this new time.  For Cal-Pac, we will be offering an abbreviated version of the two-year program.  Our program (the Institute of Missional Wisdom) will be a 10-month learning intensive with two retreats and a field trip to explore new ministries in Cal-Pac. There will be a second optional year of group and one-on-one coaching for those beginning new ministries.  We encourage both laity and clergy to apply by emailing NReilley@cal-pac.org.