The Missional Order of St Fiacre at Life on the Vine.

Richard Rohr, in chapter 2 of his book Simplicity, talks about the pain of seeing so many missional communities start up and then fold within two to three years of starting. He blames various societal pressures and internal character weaknesses that come with the territory of planting missional communities in North America. I too have seen many missional communities fold in the third year of their existence. I have witnessed burn-out, depression, and disillusionment among the leaders in the 3rd year (sometimes sooner but mostly by the end of the 3rd year). Part of where this comes from is that certain swimming against the stream that every missional community organizer knows. It is the everyday grind against making people happy that comes with engaging the consumerism and narcissism of the average cultural American. But then even worse, there are these expectations that come from denominations and Christian institutions that derive from a Christendom mentality of church planting. Here numbers and attraction become the measures of success and when these things are subtly communicated, the self-worth of the church planters takes a dive. Even if the institutions are supportive (which mine has certainly been), the pressures and expectations of the past age haunt the average missional church planter. It is imperative therefore to have practices that support missional community cultivation!

A missional church planter is certainly of a different order, literally. It requires a different mindset, a long-term mindset for long-term survival. It requires a place for mutual love, support, edification, speaking truth in love, encouragement and discernment. For this reason, I am proposing the Missional Order of St Fiacre, the patron saint of gardening (yes we know he is patron saint of some other things, which just added to his suitability as symbol of missional church planting). The main goal of this missional order will be to mentally and spiritually prepare teams of 8-12 people from our church to join together to go live somewhere and begin life together, plant seeds, look for the hurting, be Christ in a given geographical context. Another side goal is to create a network for mutual support of these same teams. We might hold a once a year gathering for encouragement and support. We might seek ways of putting people together for a regular phone ritual whereby regular prayer, encouragement and centering in Christ and Mission can take place.

I’m looking for feedback on the commitments for the order. Are there too many? Are they repetitive? Are we missing something from your experience of missional community planting? I’m looking for help here in crafting this. And if anyone outside Life on the Vine is interested, drop me an e-mail via the church website. We’ll refine these commitments and let you know when the first gathering will be. (June of 08)

The Rule of St Fiacre Missional Order of Pastor-Servants: Sent Out to Cultivate Christian Communities as Gardens Midst the Cities, Neighborhoods, Towns and Villages of N. America

Committed to Plant Christian Communities as Gardens, not Grocery Stores, committing to long periods (at least 5 years) of habitation, gestation in and among a chosen neighborhood, geographical place of living.

Committed to a lifestyle of simplicity, frugality and bi-ministerial/bi-vocationalism to survive financially for the long term, yet be wise and prudent so as not to find oneself in hock or otherwise financially enslaved later on in life.

Committed to put down roots, take up jobs, and live in this neighborhood, to love, live and walk with lost people in the rhythms of everyday life, to cultivate relationships and a way of life that displays a witness to Christ, that incarnates His presence as a Body in and among this neighborhood of people. To be bearers of the gospel of salvation in Word and deed, never with coercion, only as invitation into the life of God thru Christ our Lord.

Committed to ministering the gospel to those in pain, in desperation, depression, darkness and poverty. This can take shape in numerous simple ways.

Committed to foster resistance to a.) consumerist structures which exploit the oppressed, promote unhealthy eating and living, b.) materialist behavior that promotes owning things over relationship, security over generosity and c.,) secular practices which subordinate and/or decenter God in Christ to another self help transaction, another thing we do in an overall consumerist materialist lifestyle, and d.) all other practices which distance ourselves from the relationships with neighbors, the poor, and those whose labor we benefit from everyday.

Committed to, whether commissioned as ordained pastor or minister, take up life together and ministry as an everyday vocation as part of everyday life.

Committed to get to know the community contextually, to know its needs, to minister to its hurts, to fight/resist its social sins, to incarnate Christ amidst the everyday rhythms and life of your community.

Committed to seeing secular vocation, the making a living, the amount of money one makes, and career as secondary to call of God on your life for His Mission.

Committed to regular practices of spiritual formation that center one’s life in Christ and in His Mission. This includes a proposed Rule of St Fiacre, a regular time of meeting in triads (groups of three) for Scripture reading, prayer, corporate silence, mutual submission of one’s emotions to God, mutual confession of sin, repentance and reconciliation, working out one’s struggles, pains and joys as part of God’s work in you for His Mission and finally a mutual benediction being sent into the Mission. And likewise this includes being committed to a regular time of communal worship of God that includes silence, confession, submission to Christ’s Mission, affirmation of Our Story, the reading and hearing of the Word, the Lord’s Table, corporate prayer, thanksgiving and prayer, the benedictory blessing and sending forth into Mission.

Committed to banding together with no less than 8 other St Fiacre Ministers to go where God calls to inhabit space for the presence of Christ in Mission.

Committed to a living a life of hospitality, opening up our homes and lives for those who are hurting, alone, depressed, and without the gospel.

Committed to meeting together once a year every summer at designated place to foster encouragement, mutual support, and prayer. Committed to having a regular practice of connection via the telephone whereby we stay connected to two other St Fiacre members once a week for an hour, whereby we read the Scripture, share stories, encourage and pray together.

There will be a time of incubation, setting apart, discernment, further preparation, testing, and commitment before the church as prepatory for being sent out to plant these missional communities.

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