\”Concepts create idols, only wonder grasps anything.\” – Gregory of Nyssa

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Further Steps Towards The Edge – Pt. #3 – Creating a Central Unity for a Culture of Rhythms in Discipling

Heart RhythmsOver the last several months Desmond Tutu’s words from his book ‘No Future Without Forgiveness’ has been resonating in my thoughts. He said, “‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ It is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.’”[1] It is a natural rhythm of breathing in and out the life presence of Jesus as we find a sort of organic communal covenant relationship with him that begins our discipling practices and says we belong both to him and to each other.

So what are the rhythms that we practice to which announce our belonging to The Edge Movement? There seems to be three spheres of discipleship that naturally form in our culture. While each may find different expressions between the tribes, The Edge focuses around the converging practices of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring the lives of its members. It is difficult to state a defining place of beginning in such a process as each sphere coexists with the other and yet each element of the three begins a radical transformation of the disciple and the community to become more entwined in the reflective life of Jesus.

Edge Discipling RhythmsThe challenge brought forth to The Edge is to recognize the interdependence we have on one another in following these rhythms. Each needs to be dynamically broadened in depth and understanding and each must be communicatively interlinked within the entire movement itself and between all the tribes. We must recognize and see them in practice through the entire network and not limited to just a limited few or solely in the leadership. How might we as collaborative leaders develop these rhythms further? How might we develop interlinking ligaments that foster stronger relationships between each tribe and between the tribal leaders?

The importance of tribal harmony is detrimental to the transmission and communicative contextualization of our discipling cultural rhythms. In Bevans and Schroeder’s words, “Like a complex fugue or polyphonic motet, God’s unity is constituted by diversity and God’s diversity is rooted in unity of will and purpose; the church is the church inasmuch as it has been included in that harmony.”[2] As leaders in The Edge, we must make the effort to not only find a listening ear to that which God is doing in our own tribe, but also find interlinking relationships with other leaders in the movement to hear the harmony in which God is creating with the surrounding tribes. If we only are listening to our individual tribal identities and practices at the exclusion of the others, we could very easily lose track of the communal rhythm and become nothing but “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”[3] in the midst of a struggling symphony. As God’s mission began in love for the other (John 3:16), so must ours, as we love those who we are a part of.

[1] Tutu, Desmond. No Future Without Forgiveness. (New York: Doubleday, 1999) Kindle Location 431.

[2] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.

[3] [3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Cor. 13:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

Further Steps Towards The Edge – Pt.#2 – A Mission Built on the Foundation of Relationship

imago Dei

“We are not so much individuals, as our Western culture in particular would have it, but, as images of God, deeply social and communal in nature. The perfect communication and self-giving that is God’s very self is the church’s deepest reality, since Christians have undergone theosis and participate in the divine nature.”[1] Stephan Bevans and Roger Schroeder articulate the deep need we have to base our existence and mission in the roots of relationship. It’s not just a passion; it’s in our very nature to want discipleship on a personal and intimate level as apposed to simply being a Sunday event. We don’t want to just know about Jesus, we want to know Jesus!

After spending years with his disciples, Jesus turned to them and asked, “Who do the people say that I am?” Speculatively they answer, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Jesus, wanting to know if they really knew him then asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, perhaps hesitant at first, states, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[2] It is an epiphany brought only through the relational presence of living life with Jesus and the revelation of God’s Word through the daily work of the Holy Spirit.

This is the nature of The Edge’s mission – Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others. It propels us from the transformational life of simple discipleship to the apostolic life of serving the other for the greater sharing of God’s glory and Kingdom. To be a part of The Edge is to embrace this identity and mission as central to the purpose of all other endeavors.

We cannot take this mission lightly however and we must be intentional about our covenant to its calling. It is not just an individual binding of independent relationship but a communal covenant shared between ourselves and the others in the movement. As Christopher Wright shares the significance to God’s act of redemption and it’s role in the believer through the model of the exodus story, “The exodus was not a movement from slavery to freedom, but from slavery to covenant. Redemption was for relationship with the redeemer, to serve his interests and his purposes in the world.” Our participation in God’s mission is not to be out of self-propitiation or communal or personal freedom, but in the giving of ourselves to the work and pursuit of fulfilling the vision communally set before us as a Kingdom citizen.

The Edge’s mission comes with the promise of great reward and benefit through supported discipleship but also with the apostolic commissioning and responsibility to invest, be involved, and inspire our fellow brothers and sisters in the greater movement. This is the challenge left not just to the greater leadership, but all who are in covenant as tribal leaders. To do otherwise is to question whether we are truly part of the movement we call The Edge or just solely part of our own smaller independent endeavors.

Our first steps towards the future of the Edge is to explore an understanding of how we personally and communally are willing to commit and covenant to this vision as a singular movement who is Living the Life of Jesus Within the Lives of Others through Investing, Involving, and Inspiring practices. Secondarily we need to explore how this vision is then shared, expressed, and embodied, by the tribes we lead.

[1] Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger Schroeder. Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004) Pg. #298.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 16:13-20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Further Steps Towards The Edge – Pt.#1 – Theologians of the Imago Dei and a Calling Truth

At the EdgeIn a great text titled ‘Transforming Mission’, David Bosch identifies that, “The best theologian, is not the one who can give a complete logical account of his subject, but the one who ‘assembles more of Truth’s image and shadow’ and thus moves beyond the confines of ‘pure’ rationality. True rationality thus also includes experience.”[1] The Edge has truly embraced this reality as we have moved far beyond the traditional and institutional church while experiencing and taking part in a story far bigger then ourselves. Yet if The Edge is going to maintain its existence and part in the mission of God, it must find understanding in the callings placed upon it as a distinct movement itself.

The mission to which The Edge is called is understood only when we first understand the organizational existence and identity we have in reflecting the image of God over the past and present. While exploring that story in the first two series’s of posts, we have come to recognize three distinct callings placed upon our movement to further develop our growth and shape in pursuing the mission of God. In this series of posts I hope to pursue these callings further while bringing the challenge forward to radicalize our story even more in becoming God’s instruments for taking steps towards The Edge as a discipling movement.

[1] Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991) Pg. #361.

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #4 – Conclusion – The Inspiration of Common Tribal Themes and the Nature of the Missio Dei in The Edge

ChurchLike the early disciples crowded in the upper room following Jesus’ crucifixion, The Edge began in the living room of a home with the question “What is the church meant to be?” Foundationally, we hoped to explore an expression of the ecclesia that would not necessarily be new, as much as it would be of a deeper more intimate and meaningful encounter of worship, mission, and discipleship for those who journey with us. No longer would the institutional four walls of church structure hold back the gospel from permeating all the corners of our society; rather we would take the gospel and enflesh it through all of our relationships to the very edges of our lives as we live the life of Jesus within the lives of all others.

Though perhaps to different degrees between each of us, this journey has us wrestling with common themes and issues of holy discontent that shapes our view and dismissal from the traditional church. In some cases we have even experienced or found forms of oppression and persecution in our shared stories as reactionary responses from the traditional church, much like the early disciples experienced with the rise of Pharisee leadership in the Jewish tradition during the early years of the Christian movement.

Thematically The Edge also experienced the rise and fall of those in the journey with them. With the persecution of the early church, death would become a recognition of martyrdom. We have seen those in our own tribes who have passed away that were heroes to our faith, saints of a sort. Celebrating in the life they led we find inspiration to the mission we are a part of in the story of God today.

Pertinent most of all to recognizing our involvement in the missio Dei is our call in discipleship and desire to be ‘Imitating Jesus’. The great commission from our Lord to, “Go therefore and make disciples”[1] becomes a mantra to which we are a part of as we embrace the hope to be living like Jesus lived. It is to these questions that we now turn. Where is it that God is now calling us? What are the challenges he is placing upon us as his called people? How must we learn to become better disciples in the mission of God as part of The Edge movement? These are the questions we will explore in our next series of Further Steps Towards the Edge.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Mt 28:19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #3 – A Movement Towards the Edge of All Creation!

young child climbing stone steps with a lot of effort

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”[1] Paul’s words to the early church seems to speak to us even today as we step back and look at the journey The Edge has taken since its conception in 2006. As we conversed over the larger picture of our stories, we could see an almost rhythmic flow from great highs of success to the challenges of loss and the lows we experienced. Not only could we see the presence of God sustaining us through those moments, we could witness the promises he has for us in future. Even in the deepest moments of loss, God will bring others into our story as we seek his guidance and wait upon his works.

There is also the recognition of God strengthening us in the courage to move beyond the edges of our own understanding. Two years ago we would have never considered or thought we would be partnering with a house church movement in Cuba. It is a relationship that is not only supporting the incredible ministry they are doing there, but also inspiring us as leaders to take seriously the role we have in discipling and reconciling the neighborhoods around us.

Andrew Holmes said, “It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”[2] The story of The Edge is as we’ve seen from the beginning, transcendent to the nature of our current state and the relationships we have today.

Throughout our existence God has been preparing others outside of our scope, which he has intended to bring into our narrative. In essence, as Abraham was blessed with a child to be a blessing to the nations, Israel became a blessing to the gentiles, and The Edge too has been blessed through the witness of embracing tribes such as those in Vancouver, Vernon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Cuba with the promise of being sent to those who we also unconditionally embrace at the margins of our communities. Francis Bacon gives us the encouragement that, “It’s not what we eat but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; and not what we profess but what we practice that gives us integrity.”[3]

The future is filled with the questions of whom and where are we sent to go, and yet we can hold to the promise that God is with us and through the foundation of the relationships he builds around us, we will grow as His church for the purpose of glorifying his mission and calling. To ask who we are as a church, don’t look inside to the existing body of today, look towards the edges of tomorrow!!

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (2 Co 4:8–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] Cole, Neil. Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2009) Pg. #184.

[3] Cole, Neil. Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2009) Pg. #113.

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #2 – In the Beginning: The Birth of a Movement

House ChurchThe Edge family of Home Churches and intentional communities didn’t start with the concept of Home Church at all. It began with a desire for more. More of what Jesus taught. More of what the disciples seen and heard and couldn’t stop talking about. More relationship and less corporation. More exploration and less risk management. More experience and less talk. More power and less excuses. In short, I guess we just wanted more of what Jesus promised and modeled for us.

We began as “East Edge”, one of the regional ministries of Centre Street Church. We would have started on our own, but the Lord opened the door to work together with an established church, and we interpreted it as the Lords will, and his provision for a strong start. We dreamed and discerned and prayed for a number of months, and officially began in September of 2006.

This was a time of great excitement, as four small tribes of about 15 people each began gathering in homes in the communities of Rundle, Marlborough Park, Taradale, and Harvest Hills around the city of Calgary. Living rooms came alive, and tables were often brimming with fantastic potlucks and conversations. Joy and a strong sense of family were experienced in these gatherings as people congregated, lifting their voices in worship over the music of many instruments, and deeply felt led by the Spirit in the movement they were beginning. During the journey, the Lord used authors such as Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, and Hugh Halter to guide and inspire us.

In the years that followed, East Edge would experience several challenges with the experience of loss due to those moving away, death, and various emotional challenges. However, the movement was also growing, and spreading. The “East” in the name had to be dropped because “The Edge” was moving out. New Home Churches were started, but existing Home Churches and communities were also embraced and adopted, such as Expressions in the SE of Calgary in 2012. In 2013, the first Home Church outside of Calgary was started in Medicine Hat by original “East Edgers”, Dave and Angie Noelle, and a major thrust was initiated into the South Asian community led by David Benjamin. In the last couple of years, The Edge has found partnership with House Churches in Vancouver, Vernon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and a movement of HC’s in Cuba.

Throughout the movement we felt a sense of spiritual growth and expression. There has always been a feeling of continuity as we gathered in our leadership retreats, which is where a lot of the inspiration and vision has been developed. The Edge has really begun to embrace a culture of discipleship and investing in people. With our own publishing of ‘Imitating Jesus’, we are beginning to embrace the rhythms of Investing, Involving, and Inspiring those we are connected with. The Edge has always desired to be a community built on the foundation of loving God, loving people, and making disciples – by simply living Jesus’ life within the lives of others. This has been our dream and vision from the beginning.

Journeying in the Story of the Edge – Pt. #1 – Here is the Church, Here is the Steeple

Upside Down ChurchAs a boy I remember being taught a nursery rhyme with hand motions that would go, “Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the doors, and there is all the people!” Perhaps you remember it also. I was thinking of it as I considered how so often we still get wrapped up in the belief that the church is found in a building; more particularly, a building with specific structures such as the steeple, doors, and the walls that closed in all the people. I knew that the church was meant to be the people themselves and yet the message was always there, unspoken but never the less communicated, the church was closed into the building structure. I longed for something more; I longed to go beyond the edge!

Leaders SupperSeveral months ago, a group of leaders in the Edge got together for our monthly supper to share stories of God’s work in our tribes, the struggles we have faced over our history, and the amazing successes and impacts we have experienced in being a part of God’s mission. Listening to the stories of my fellow Edge leaders and knowing the hearts and minds of those that could not be there that evening, I realized that I was not alone in this longing to go beyond the edge of the institutional church. Each of us desired something more from being a part of the church and as we told our stories, as my brother Rod would point out later, we found a bigger narrative to which we were a part; one that showed The Edge as sojourning in “relationships, brought about by compassion and trust, and inspired by our Lord.”

Over the next series of posts we will explore some of those stories, seek what it might reveal about God, learn what it says about The Edge, and finally ask what historical, theological, and missiological themes we might find in them. I look forward to the conversations these thoughts might inspire!

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