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Missional Community: The Anti-Enclave

This is the 1st installment of my weekly Missional Reflections where I quote a theologian and then reflect on how that might challenge our common understanding of being missional. The first is a quote from one of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, there work. …
“According to God’s will, the Christian church is a scattered people, scattered like seed ‘to all the kingdoms of the earth (Deut. 28:25). That is the curse and the promise. God’s people must live in distant lands among unbelievers, but they will be the seed of the kingdom of God in all the world.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 27-28).

These words come from the opening paragraphs of Dietrich Bonhoffer’s classic best-seller Life Together which casts a beautiful vision of community. I’ve read this book at least eight times, but until recently I never slowed down enough to really listen to these opening words. It’s much easier to move ahead to the call of being in life together, in sharing mutual love with each other. But when we jump ahead to community and miss these words, we miss the context where community actually happens.

God’s kind of community does not happen in an enclave or as an exclusive club. God’s kind of community happens in the midst of life, right in front of those who don’t understand why we worship and love the way we do. We are called on a mission of loving each other and God in such a way that people in our neighborhoods can actually see, feel and know what we are doing. We are called to let those who don’t know what God is like taste and see that he is good by the way we love each other.

Missional community is not a safe enclave from the world. It’s a dangerous haven in the midst of life.

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M. Scott Boren is a Teaching Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Saint Paul, MN and consultant who partners with The Missional Network (www.themissionalnetwork.com). He has written and co-written eight books, including Introducing the Missional Church, Missional Small Groups and MissioRelate. He share life with his bride, Shawna, and their four children, all under the age of eight. He can be reached at his website: www.mscottboren.com.