David Fitch's new book, Faithful Presence: 7 Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission, finally got off the press and available in Canada, but not before I digested Kreider's Patient Ferment of the Early Church, which I commented on a while back. These two books are very complementary -- Kreider lays the historic groundwork for Fitch's application to our current context.
Fitch has been talking about these ideas for some time -- to anybody who would listen -- and then, "but don't really run with these ideas, cause I need to get them published." And I've been waiting, patiently, cuz I think there are some very helpful thoughts and images that he uses to convey his points.
To summarize briefly, Fitch talks about 3 circles in our lives as Christians -- Christian community, home & neighbourhood, and "the world." We are called to acknowledge the presence of Jesus in our midst as Christian community (the embodiment of Jesus' continuing presence) and then to extend his presence into the increasingly outward dimension of our lives, home & neighbourhood and the world. He uses a very helpful construct of "host & guest." In the gathered community Jesus is host and we are guests; in home & neighbourhood, we are host and friends are guests; in the world, others are hosts and we are guests. These notions should help shape our posture in each space -- humility, hospitality and respect.
Then throughout the rest of the book, Fitch helps us re-imagine what we should be doing in those 3 spaces -- his 7 disciplines.
- The Lord's Table
- Proclaiming the Gospel
- Being with the least of these
- Being with children
- Fivefold gifting
- Kingdom prayer
So, I thought Fitch's ideas had such a graphic, imaginable feel to them, that I did up this animated illustration. [please let me be clear, this is my take and some of my phrasing of Fitch's stuff -- he may disagree with a point here or there, as I have represented things; so, unauthorized, but I clearly acknowledge him at the end]
Fitch helps us think through what it looks like to practice these disciplines in each of the 3 spaces. To those of us in the Wesleyan tradition 5 of these seem like no-brainers, cuz we recognize these as inner and outer disciplines of "the means of grace" -- acts of piety, acts of mercy. "Fivefold gifting" is a bit unique as a discipline, but if you have been following this whole discussion over the last decade or so, around polycentric leadership, and the recovery of apostle & evangelist etc., you can see that where he is coming from is helpful.
What really grabbed my attention, however, was "being with children" as a discipline that shapes us and our communities. YES! Something our churches are not doing well, if at all. I think that if we paid more attention to the children in our midst this would lead us to reshaping our corporate gatherings in a profound way -- more gentle, more playful, more willing to listen -- all things that "the world" is saying we have a problem with. And if we talked about the life of faith in Jesus in a way that kids can make sense of it, a lot of adults would do a lot better as well.
Fitch's disciplines can be acted upon anywhere -- they aren't culture-specific, although each of them, by being acted upon, become particular and embodied expressions in specific places and times. As we engage in mission/extension there is the potential for colonization in our particular forms -- he starts with how we act out these disciplines in our faith communities. There is something about "sentness" or apostolicity, that in mission practice, allows the receptor community - the world -- to have a feedback role in shaping what those disciplines might look like in practice, as Jesus continually becomes incarnate in new spaces. Fitch is a declared Anabaptist, and functions in the "missional" paradigm, (as do I essentially) which Bevans wants to describe as "counter-cultural" (which Goheen and others want to disagree with). Are we willing to let Galatia help us rethink the received traditions/expressions of the essential disciplines?
My thoughts. You need to read this book.