Dan White Jr has a new book out called Subterranean: Why the future of the Church is Rootedness and I’m thrilled to be a part of his “Blog Tour” for the book. I’m focusing on Chapter 8 which looks at being “Rooted in Locality”.
Most of us have realised by now that things have changed for Christians in the West today.
Not only have they changed, but many aspects of what the church has always believed and practiced are being questioned to the point of being turned inside out by our culture today. As a result we are feeling a bit disoriented and many are desperately trying to find ways to go back to the way things were when the Church was at the centre of society. We felt a lot more in control back then. We knew how to “do” church back then. We understood our identity.
Today the church is in the middle of a serious identity crisis and Dan points this out in his book. We have become bloated from feasting on a culture of Christendom for so long and what is showing up as a result in our church life is not pretty. Our egos have grown large in a celebrity culture. We hunger for more information, more productivity and success in a world which shows little restraint. We gravitate towards transience and hyperactivity in a society obsessed with “the next thing” which will bring us fame and glory.
Dan says that these manifestations are “deteriorating our incarnational nervous system as a church”.
But Dan isn’t a prophet of doom.
“The Christendom complex is crumbling and rather than bailing on the church, some are reconstituting their commitment to the first seedlings of what made the church peculiar and powerful. This is not a project that worships nostalgia. Instead, it is a sobered reach back into history for guidance and forward application. There is a primal recognition that we are to be placed firmly with each other, with a long-term mission, with a passion for where we live.”
He offers some suggestions and practices for a quiet revolution around how we be and do church today.
One suggestion he makes which I found pertinent and inspiring, was that we must be a people who practice being grounded or rooted in a local community. This is something that God has been pressing into me for some time now as I take steps to move into the inner city to hopefully plant a church. What does it mean to be grounded in a local place within a culture which thrives on transience today? Am I willing to accept the cost of dying to my love for constant change in order to practise faithfulness to a community? Can I love deeply this community that I will live in, warts and all?
Dan offers us some encouragment here if we are wavering in our steps towards rootedness saying;
“The kingdom of God invites us to faithfully submerge into a place. In this work we do not lose our life, we gain it. Rooting in locality has changed me and turned me inside out.”
I’m glad I can read the experience of a church planter who has gone before me on this. Dan helps us to understand that God is already at work in our neighbourhood and all we have to do is open our eyes to see that. Instead of using language which is war-like to describe our interaction with our local place, we must see it as a context bubbling with the activity of the Spirit as he coaxes us to be on his mission for the restoration of our world.
“God has not been waiting on pins and needles for our arrival. The relational ecosystem in our neighborhoods already has a hearty amount of the material needed for the creation of something beautiful for the kingdom of God. Abundance is already in the arteries of our neighborhoods. There is a labyrinth of life and culture that must be recognized and respected. We must resist the urge to treat our city like a campaign of war and rather see it as a garden of stories to sit with and tend to”.
Asking simple questions can lead us on an Abraham-like journey where we step out not knowing where we are going but trusting that God has gone before us and is recreating our world.
Who are our neighbours? Who is in our city?
What is beauty and brokennes in our place?
Who is already doing good work in this garden?
How are we cultivating disciples?
How are we clearing out space on our church calendars for this work?
Instead of basing our life in Christ on events, we get into daily rhythms of listening, discerning, asking questions and boldly taking steps when the Spirit beckons us towards adventure in our very neighbourhoods. In that way we ground ourselves in our localities and get our hands dirty in the ordinary day to day stuff of life where we find, surprisingly maybe, that God is most at work.
I really enjoyed the simplicity, the challenge and the joy that sits within this book and I will be using it in the classes that I teach and with the team that I serve alongside of as we embody loving our community.
You can get a copy of the book today
This blog tour is offering a unique 40% off discount code that expires Oct 23rd if purchased at the address below. The code to lock in is: ROOTED