"I used to call you servants... now I call you friends..." John 15:15
This is the glue!
When we began this intoxicating journey of church planting, we were ignorant, naive and passionate. We knew we wanted to "do life with mates". That was not a mantra or an official DNA piece. It was a passion. We were not professionals looking for a promotion or artists looking for a gig. We saw God is "three in one". The beauty, mystery and wonder of the Trinity drove us to believe that the glue of this story was our friendships ["communitas" as Alan Hirsch calls it - friendship forged under fire].
Then we looked at Jesus. The Jesus approach always seemed to be through the door of relationship. From before the beginning, through the beginning "let us make man in our image", the power of relationship was the glue that held every narrative together. When Jesus called the disciples to himself, there was not an employment arrangement with job descriptions. No this was the second person in the Godhead who was inviting 12 men onto a journey, to become friends, find 'communitas' through the depth of his tragedy as they became a true band of brothers "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers" W Shakespeare
I know the modern western church is systems driven. That is not our story. We love what the Australians call 'mateship'. We love the front door to be real and true relationships. There needs to be a God joining of hearts. This takes time to see if there is substance to this connection.
This is a journey in "mateship". It is not the Chris and Meryl road show. Dear Lord forbid! It is a group of men and women, who God has joined together, sharing a deep and growing love for each other, on mission. Some of us have been friends for over 20 years. We have labored in different vineyards together. We have walked the streets of foreign cities together. We have shared platforms together. We have planted churches together. We have dreamed together. We have cried together. We have prayed together. We have not always seen eye to eye - but have believed God has affectionately put us together in the looseness of friendships, not the claustrophobia of a system.
Others are newer friendships. Like courting, it is still sometimes a little interesting, even awkward as we take our baby steps forward. That is how these honest, real friendships work. There are days they are remarkably easy, then other days they require effort, labor, clarification, conversation. But if we are in it for the long haul, then it is worth it.
These friendships cannot be idols. Strong mateship can sometimes demand a loyalty beyond the Lord's requirements or truth honoring. I do not want to live there, nor do we want leaders we are walking with, to ever feel this subtle but deathly pressure.
Having said that, our DNA acknowledges that this relational glue takes time. If it took Jesus 3 years with 12 men and one betrayed him. We accept that those true and deep friendships will take years to form. What we desire, is deep, honest, true, real and authentic relationships that are generous, inclusive and kind.
Leaders and churches that want to journey with us cannot look for membership forms. This is not a club they are joining or a network they qualify to connect with. This is a "A Family of Churches, who share a Common Theology, Together on Mission." There is between 6 months to a year where walking together will require keen steps of coffee, meals, getting to events we are holding, training days we are hosting, getting some of us into the community and see if there is indeed a sharing of heart, a connecting of soul, going on mission together - has God joined us together!? As this happens the other cool conversations can continue - that of theology, ecclesiology, missiology to see if there is more in common than friendship.
We were not designed to do this alone, nor were we architected to live in hierarchy. We were designed to live in a world of love, honor, gift recognition and real true relationships - bringing glory to the Father, proclaiming the great gospel of the Son and doing it all in the power of the Spirit .
I want to do it with mates...