Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Here's the problem with getting rest these days: I keep picturing my little boy rolling around and around at 65 mph on I-20. Eventually, I know, this will stop. - - - - Wells and Fences Today a quote from Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch's THE SHAPING OF THINGS TO COME: "A useful illustration is to think of the difference between wells and fences. In some farming communities, the farmers might build fences around their properties to keep their livestock in and the livestock of neighboring farms out. This is a bounded set. But in rural communities where farms or ranches cover an enormous geographic area, fencing the property is out of the question. In our home of Australia, ranches (called stations) are so vast that fences are superfluous. Under these conditions a farmer has to sink a bore and create a well, a precious water supply in the Outback. It is assumed that livestock, though they will stray, will never roam too far from the well, lest they die. This is a centered set. As long as there is a supply of clean water, the livestock will remain close by. "Churches that see themselves as a centered set recognize that the gospel is so precious, so refreshing that, like a well in the Australian Outback, lovers of Christ will not stray too far from it. It is then a truly Christ-centered model. Rather than seeing people as Christian or non-Christian, as in or out, we would see people by their degree of distance from the center, Christ. In this way, the missional-incarnational church sees people as Christian and not-yet-Christian. It acknowledges the contribution of not-yet-Christians to Christian community and values the contribution of all people. Jesus' faith community was clearly a centered set, with him at the center. . . . There was a rich intersection of relationships with some nearer the center and others further away, but all invited to join in the kingdom-building enterprise. If the modern church followed this biblical model, the church would be more concerned with relationships than with numbers." I'm just starting this book, but so far it's incredible. Could those of you who've read it tell us a little more?


  • Well, I've read it twice, given away one copy, and suggested it to about 20 other people to read. Paradigm-shifting book.
    Here's a review I wrote for a class last semester:
    Imagination. Creativity. Ingenuity. Innovation. However one describes it, it’s high time the church used a little of it. For too long the church has failed to take into consideration the world around it, both in its structure and in mission, but if the body of Christ is to survive the 21st Century, it will need to use a little imagination. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch argue this point above many in their provocative book, The Shaping of Things to Come. Admitting their ideas likely will unnerve the reader, Frost and Hirsch point out the origin and shortcomings of the “Christendom-era church” (institutional church), then presenting examples of innovative mission efforts from around the world. Their material is deep and well-supported, as this book is obviously the result of many years of scratching heads and doing research in the field of missional ecclesiology in the church.
    In some ways I think the authors should have spent more time telling stories of missional churches from around the world, but they only devote a handful of pages at the beginning of the book to doing so. Much of the rest of the book is spent providing biblical and practical rationale for such innovation. If I were the author, I would have told men “stories of the sea” instead of giving them wood for ships, but I’m not the author, and this book does a fine job of moving people toward a paradigm shift. Some of the hardest-hitting material for me was in the chapter on the Missional Church, where Frost and Hirsch described some of the common traits of missional church plants in the West. They suggest providing proximity spaces where “Christians and not-yet-Christians can interact meaningfully with each other.” Another trait is shared projects, where Christians can “partner with unbelievers in useful, intrinsically valuable activities within the community.” They also suggest churches think about implementing commercial enterprise, through which the group is seen as “bringing some intrinsic value to a community” and “serving those to whom we’re sent.” Finally, Hirsch and Frost suggest that these missional outposts be indigenous faith communities, where Christians and not-yet-Christians can engage in conversations about faith.
    Back to innovation, imagination, creativity, and ingenuity. It’s hard not to think in these ways when the four traits above are implemented into a missional outpost of the Kingdom. In fact, much time can be wasted dreaming of what “I can do through a Christian coffee house that provides these four traits.” But often I must move slowly and wait on God in these “thinking way out there” moments. What if God has in mind using an existing proximity space to be indigenous faith communities and offer shared projects and commercial enterprise? Frost’s and Hirsh’s suggestions in this book are simply there to make the “attractional Christian” think seriously about how he or she can subversively move into the culture with the message of Jesus Christ.
    For me, this book has done just that. I already knew the Christendom-era churches weren’t getting the job done in the way of mission, but I can now dream big about a subversive, missional movement of churches that is out of the limelight and back into society. It’s time for Christians to stop viewing salvation dualistically, but to see the faith process in terms of where people are in relation to the one at the center, Christ. I’d rather dig wells than fences.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 2/08/2005 06:16:00 AM  

  • Mike, thanks for the quote. You've just inserted an unplanned trip to the bookstore into my schedule for today.

    By Blogger James, at 2/08/2005 06:20:00 AM  

  • Mike - next time you're attempting to get rest. (If possible) picture Chris rolling around at 65mph on I-20 cupped in the hand of His God, allowing him to escape a certain death.

    Just a thought. We love you brother.

    By Blogger Brian, at 2/08/2005 06:21:00 AM  

  • Wow, Steve -- I'll have to ask you for responses more often! Thanks so much, brother.

    Brian -- very good words. Thank you so much. My problem is that I want Brody to be cupped in those same hands, too. I want God's hands to be big enough to hold all eight passengers -- not just seven of them. But, alas, I don't mean to seem ungrateful to God. I'm am drawn again into his mystery.

    By Blogger Mike, at 2/08/2005 06:59:00 AM  

  • Thanks for leading us to ANOTHER obviously wonderful book. Can I request that you point us to one book about every other week? I don't know if my wallet can keep up with you! :) Just playing with you. Thanks for caring enough to share.

    Thanks even more for sharing your stuggles concerning the accident. Not all of us would be willing to make ourselves vulnerable like that. You bless us with your open heart.

    Love you,

    By Blogger David U, at 2/08/2005 08:44:00 AM  

  • Or maybe even struggles instead of "stuggles". Sorry!

    By Blogger David U, at 2/08/2005 08:45:00 AM  

  • Mike, I know how easy it is to have those terrifying thoughts fill your mind - the "what ifs" and all of that. I think we have to find something positive to replace that image (easier said than done). I would love to hear more stories about the people who stopped to help. I believe the first on the sceen was also the last on the scene. I've heard him referred to a the "yellow-toothed Angel." Please keep us updated on Chris's progress and your feelings as healing continues. It was wonderful to see you "from afar" Sunday and I look forward to looking at the back of your head next week. Victoria is struggling with health issues, again. It gives us a little insight into what you all are going through. Keep sharing with us. We need to hear from you. God bless you and keep you. Patsy

    By Blogger P Watson, at 2/08/2005 09:53:00 AM  

  • Mike, I haven't read it yet... but sounds like it'll be next on my list. I love the analogy of being "well centered"-- it really is perfect isn't it? As far as your dreams-- I can't even imagine. You're so right, the mystery of God is so vast... one day we'll understand. Until then we just have to trust. Blessings. sd

    By Blogger SkipD, at 2/08/2005 11:15:00 AM  

  • It has always been hard for me to consider my family non-christians. In my heart they have always been considered not-yet christians. It is good to hear others echoing and putting to paper the things my mind and heart have been rolling around for a while now. Being in the midst of "attractional" church ideals for most of my Christian life, it has been fresh air to be a part of a church, and a generation looking ahead to the shifts in thought and their possible impacts.. mmm... thanks for that mike..

    My heart goes out to you for the sleepless nights. They dissipate I promise, but never quite disappear. I am still haunted by my friends car accidents and drownings. But now they end with a feeling of peace that God did many good things through those deaths, in my life and in others. Hold on to that. Its worth more than gold.

    By Blogger Phyllistene, at 2/08/2005 12:42:00 PM  

  • I just re-read the passage from TSOTTC, and this verse stuck out to me:

    "It acknowledges the contribution of not-yet-Christians to Christian community..."

    Wow. How well do we do THAT in the church? Do we really, when all the dust clears, allow not-yet-Christians to BELONG to the community before they BELIEVE or even BEHAVE? In my experience, it's been the opposite that has been true. How much more meaningful would it be for not-yet-Christians to be integrated into full participation in the community of Christ, supported, loved on, and discipled before they ever make a decision to change their ways or accept Christ? What if participation in the body was salvific for those who have never known a community of believers?

    From historical documents we know it was in the first century, and in my experience, it still is today. Consider the twentysomething Abilene girl cleaning up from a dependency on drugs, thrilled to be a part of a community that asks her to lead praise at their house church meetings. Consider a rough-necked, not-yet-Christian mechanic leading a scripture time centered around Matthew 3. Risky? You bet. But these folks know they're a part of the family of God.

    Plus, who said church work wasn't messy.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 2/08/2005 12:51:00 PM  

  • Revelation may come before peace of mind.

    By Blogger David Michael, at 2/08/2005 01:28:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I haven't read the book yet, but it does sound like a good one. There is one thing that this very cursory glance at your comments, and those of Steve that do raise a question in my mind, however...

    What about the Bible using words such as "unbeliever" or "pagans" to describe those who do not follow Christ? Doesn't that sound very similar to the term "non-Christian" that this book seems to be suggesting is a bad thing?

    Forgive me for being skeptical. I just wonder. I guess I need to read the book for myself.


    By Blogger Brian Burkett, at 2/08/2005 02:05:00 PM  

  • I know the Off-the-Map folks like to use the term "missing persons" or "lost" (always in italics!), but the closest I've come to a word I'm comfortable with is "unreached." I'm still not crazy about it. It sounds like they've been reached, but somehow un-did it.

    I sorta like the term "not-yet-Christians." It may be a little unrealistic, given the narrowness of the road - but it's optimistic!

    Definitely a book I need to look into.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 2/08/2005 02:46:00 PM  

  • The very reason Frost and Hirsch use the term "not-yet-Christians" is because Christian dualism is a huge theme for them. They react very harshly to the traditional stance Christians have taken with the "lost," the creation of an "us and them" mentality. The metaphor of the fence represents a church that has traditionally set up a barrier between those who are "in" and those who are "out." We do it with our buildings, attitudes, words, songs, media, you name it. You are right, Keith, in your assertion that scripture reveals a very real sense of either being a Christian or a non-Christian, and we should never downplay the conscious decision each person must make to follow the Son; but for the church's purposes today, that mentality has been rather destructive to our relationships with the lost.

    We all have a ways to go in our emulation of Christ. If we think of Christianity as trying to get closer to the center, Christ (rather than crossing over the line into the "safety zone"), we can continually invite those who are far from the center to join us as we move toward our Savior together.

    Definitely read the book, Keith. It'll re-center your view of the church and also peak your imagination for creative ways of reaching the not-yet-Christians in your life.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 2/08/2005 03:04:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I agree with the others. . . . Thanks for another great recommendation.

    About the fences versus wells: I just hope these guys aren't throwing out one for the other. It's gotta be a both/and. One I'll be preachin' pretty soon (using their analogy, I mean). On the inclusive side, I just noticed and appreciated Luke's use of "disciples" in Acts 19:1. He had to have been grinning when he wrote that one. Or maybe that's just me.

    By Blogger Frank Bellizzi, at 2/08/2005 05:29:00 PM  

  • As someone with at least one foot firmly planted in the ranching business, I am tempted to point out that the other purpose for a fence is to keep the bull out but that could start a whole new line of discussion. Instead, I like what Frost and Hirsch came up with much better.

    Also, I firmly believe that the positive memories you have and will have of Chris will, after time, once again overwhelm those which are negative with only occasional lapses. Until then, please let me know if any of us can spell you and your bride for a night with Chris. Also, let me know if you all would like a fairly close, yet secluded getaway. That offer still stands and I would be more than glad to hook you up.

    By Blogger Val, at 2/08/2005 06:42:00 PM  

  • The prayer I prayed the most after my 2-year-old accidentally ingested some of my mother's pills was for my God to take the images of my baby on the way to the hospital out of my head. God is so good...By the way, she recovered 100% within 3 hours..

    By Blogger MDM, at 2/08/2005 07:30:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 2/09/2005 12:23:00 PM  

  • As I said before, I know that I should probably reserve judgment and read the book for myself, but there is something in the review of this book that raises a question from Scripture in my mind:

    "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. (sounds like "non-Christians" to me) For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a BELIEVER have in common with an UNBELIEVER? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idos? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.'

    'Therefore COME OUT from them and be SEPARATE, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will recieve you.' 'I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.'"
    (2 Cor. 6:14-18)

    Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying don't reach out to people that don't know Jesus, and I'm not saying don't build some kind of relationship with them. And trust me, the whole "emergent" thing really does resonate with my heart, but in this new movement we must be careful to remain true to God's Word.

    It would seem to me that everything we do should be done with spiritual eyes guiding us. When we see someone that does not know Jesus, our eyes should be leading us to try to show God's love to them. Does this involve relationship? Absolutely! But, it must be a relationship with a view to conversion, at least I think. I do not see it profitable, or even obedient to join myself in my spirit to someone who does not follow or profess Christ as Lord.

    I'm open. If my interpretation of the Word is off in some way, then please, someone set me straight, for I want to honor God.

    Humbly seeking God's will,

    By Blogger Brian Burkett, at 2/09/2005 02:10:00 PM  

  • Anybody care to tackle this one? By the way, I really like this new comment feature!


    By Blogger Brian Burkett, at 2/11/2005 12:09:00 PM  

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