Building a Red Hot Centre – what’s involved?
Last week we started talking about the need for churches to become red hot centres for mission and discipleship. We need blazing bonfires that send people out ‘on-fire’ for God; loving one another and hungry to share the good news with those around them.
It’s probably worth saying more explicitly that at the heart of all this is the desire for multiplication. For leaders, this means there is a shift in the emphasis where the centre is not built around themselves as individuals running the show, but rather built on a culture of empowering others to lead. For the congregation, the shift of emphasis is away from church being somewhere that we go to, and towards it being a body of people that we are part of, contribute to and serve. It’s important that everyone gets to play, it’s not just about the ‘special’ or anointed few!
Red hot centres should become places of modeling, equipping, and releasing for missional communities to orbit in and out of on a regular basis, creating an active synergy between centre and edge, where one is fully understood and edified by the other.
Building a red-hot center requires that you change the way you understand what your whole community is supposed to be doing in this world.
First, let’s examine the community aspect.
Leaders must attend to having a “gathered expression” of church that has all three elements: Passionate Spirituality (UP), Radical Community (IN), and Missional Zeal (OUT). Scattered expressions of church—in the extended family size—should have all three as well.
This picture of gathering and scattering takes those small burning embers and, in time, ignites them into a red-hot center—a burning inferno of God’s presence and power.
Again, this is much easier said than done.
As we look at the church landscape around us, we generally see churches that are usually strong in different aspects of these three. We see this outlined in the book of Acts as well.
For example we can read about how Jerusalem was a church that did UP and IN very well: People gathered every day in the Temple courts and from house to house for prayer, teaching, the Lord’s Supper, and worship. The people shared everything they had with each other, and everyone’s needs were cared for. You can read about this at the end of Acts chapter two.
Scripture also show us the UP and OUT dynamics of the church in Antioch. By all accounts, it was a very large church, probably numbering in the thousands. Archaeologists who discovered the place where the church met seem to agree with this assertion. The church was committed to teaching, fasting, and prayer, and truly embraced the spiritual disciplines, taking UP very seriously.
In addition, Antioch was certainly a sending center for missionaries. This seemed to always be on the mind of the leaders at Antioch. This probably had a lot to do with Barnabas, whom Luke mentioned in Acts 11 and Acts 13, as someone either looking for a partner in missionary work or being sent out by the church. We know from future chapters that Antioch continued to be a sending center for missionaries and a place for them to rest between journeys.
Furthermore, the descriptions of the church in Ephesus give us a picture of UP, IN, and OUT all at work together. You can read about what this life looked like in Acts 19 and in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Why are we so committed to all three things being present? (Besides the fact that any expression of church should be patterned after these three dimensions of Jesus’ life?)
This is why: if you’re committed to passionate spirituality and radical community but not missional zeal, the danger is that you get a community that becomes insular, that increasingly looks inward, that slowly becomes obsessed with self-preservation and legacy, and that over time will die out. Literally – the people in the community pass away, and the community dies with them.
If you’re committed to passionate spirituality and missional zeal but not radical community, you miss the primary vehicle that God uses to bring his Kingdom to earth and expresses himself in human form: the Christian extended family. You can end up with a community of individualistic missional ninjas who better resemble an atomized, ill-formed monastic order. Only the radicals may enter. Turnover will be high because of the high emphasis on mission. Without a playful, vibrant community, sustaining your calling will be difficult.
If you’re committed to radical community and missional zeal but not passionate spirituality, you’re missing out on an intimate, life- giving relationship with our Father, the presence of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the only means by which our cry “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” can ever come to fruition. After all, it was Jesus who said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” And “I will send you the Holy Spirit”.
In this scenario, we often either get numbers focused or become quasi-obsessed with social justice. Both are important. More people in Heaven and fewer people in Hell is important. Changing the way the world works and standing on the side of the weak and the poor, seeing the chains of injustice loosed, is vital. But how are we supposed to do that apart from the Holy Spirit?
Neither is sustainable. Churches obsessed with converts and creating community won’t see transformation, either communally or individually, because they are missing the change agent of the Holy Spirit. Eventually, people realize they bought into something that you can’t deliver.
Churches focused with communal change and social justice without passionate spirituality lack the same change agent: the invited presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s be very clear: we will not be able to loose the chains of injustice without the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have it in us.
It must be all three, at the gathered level and the scattered level.
Where do you find yourself in these different scenarios? Is the Lord leading you to grow your emphasis on one particular dimension of this kind of community life?
There are some incredible church communities out there (we are privileged to be in relationship with many of them), pioneering this way of life and looking to become a centre that resources missional discipleship. We’d love to hear from you and hear about your experiences.