What are the true bounds of your community? From time to time people ask about Freedom Vineyard, inevitably they ask that hard question, “so how big is your church?” I don’t dislike this question because I think our church is small (which it is in case you are wondering), but rather because I don’t know how to measure that in a true sense. For me my church is my community. As a pastor I think of it as the people that are under my care and that is a whole lot more people than I have ever seen in our church gatherings.
Here are my options to answering that question: I could just count the folks that currently regularly attend our liturgical service (Wednesday Kinship), I could count them and the people who I regularly meet with and have some spiritual influence in their lives (even if it is just as an encourager), I could extend it to the folks who give into our ministry and read our online forums (including a message from the Roman cycle of gospel readings) each week, I could extend it to the folks in our affinity groups (gatherings of Christians and pre-Christians who gather around a shared non-spiritual interest), I could extend it to the people at my school who allow me to speak into their lives spiritually and more often just as a friend along the journey, or finally I could extend to the world that I consider to be my parish. I know that most people are more concerned with the front end of those options, but I can’t help thinking about the far reaches of my life.
Often I have pondered Freedom Vineyard’s influence on people, we’ve seen a lot come and go. Often these people have been profoundly impacted by their time with us. I sat in my car the other day with one of our folks who was almost in tears telling me how much Freedom Vineyard has meant to him. I know we’ve stretched a few too far outside their comfort zones – but really if we hadn’t done that then we would not have been as effective as we have been with the people that I really feel called to minister to. The people who are part of our natural community, the not-so-churchy folks God has graced my life with.
So maybe I’ll give you that question: what are the true bounds of your community? Who has God called you to reach? What journey mates have you met along the way? If you are like me you will have trouble answering that – and I am convinced that is a good thing.