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By, Mark Priddy


An opening prayer; Lord, help us to become a people, a community who takes seriously what it means to really love one another above ourselves, a community who looks out for each other, feeding one another, carry each other’s burdens, bandaging each other’s wounds, and celebrating the beauty of the kingdom as it invades into the lives of our families. May this not just be an in house endeavor, but rather for the sake of the world.



In plain view just outside the circle where we gathered stood a large white board. Written in bold black marker were the words of a fiery Pentecostal theologian. IT SIMPLY READ:

                                      THIS IS WHAT WE DESIRE TO BE

“A community of redeemed people among whom God can live and who in their life together will reproduce his life and character in all its unity and diversity. Everything in the life of the church is to be done allelon. We are to be members of one another, compassionate to one another, regard others above ourselves, live in harmony with one another and slaves to one another in love. God is not looking for a set of unconnected individuals, but rather a people who will bear his image and be a radical alternative to the culture.”1

So began our journey in the winter of 2002 — twenty or so travelers who took a chance and tried to navigate through the untamed river waters of what is commonly referred to as “ Missional Church .”

A new starting point
It’s over! Those words would prove to be prophetic and would set the tone for the rest of our lives—literally! Everything my wife Jeanette and I did was outside of our city. Our kid’s school, my office, the places we ate, our friends and church. In a matter of weeks we refocused our lives and moved everything into our local neighborhood and started a small community of faith.

On Saturday evenings, in an old white Baptist church, we would gather from and finish sometime before . We often sat around in a circle and dialogued about the kingdom, sang, prayed, and broke bread together. We would allow space to be honest and vulnerable, sharing our pains, hopes, fears and dreams.

I guess the process would be called deconstruction. We set ourselves on a journey— a mission to discover what it really means to be a Christian and what it means to be the church. Below is just a quick snapshot, a small reflection.

What does it mean to be a Christian?
Our challenge here was to rediscover the simply but profound story lines that scripture contains; creation, fall, redemption, and future hope—dramatic narratives that we apply to all areas of life. As Christians, we seek to let the biblical Story shape our imaginations—as actors we enter into the Christian story, excepting it as part of our own existence. Or, in the image Paul uses, we are now in the position of young architects discovering a wonderful foundation already laid by a master architect. Our role is to creatively work out what sort of building was intended and faithfully build upon that foundation.

We asked questions like, what does it really mean to be a Christian? What is the gospel? Is the gospel just about saying a prayer—giving some mental assent to one theory of the atonement—so that when you die you’ll go to heaven? Or, is the story we live in a larger all encompassing story about becoming the people of God—radical followers of Jesus—joining together in reshaping the world as his disciples. A people called to reflect the divine nature and redemptive love of our Triune God—to become humanity as God intended.

As a community we spent many hours thinking and praying through scriptural passages such as: Gen. 1&2 (the nature and purpose of God with humanity); Gen. 12:1-3 (the purpose for Israel); Is. 5 & 7 (Israel as the Light of the world); Matt. 5 (Israel as Salt and Light) John 20:21 (“As the father sent me, so I send you.”); Rev. 2:5 (the people of God in the renewed cosmos).


What does it mean to be the church?
In North America the church is typically defined as a person, place or event. Some studies suggest that as much as eighty percent of the time, money and energy of many churches go to make weekend services happen. At worse, in the words of George Hunsburger, this turns the church into a “vendor of religious services and goods,” instead of a kingdom community sent on a mission. This, of course plays right into the hands of a Western individualistic, consumer-oriented society.

Our task was to become less “event oriented” and place more emphasis on forming and shaping a loving community deeply concerned for one another’s needs—a new collaborative order of interdependence, shared responsibility, mutual instruction and commonality. For many people, however, community can become annoying. Can I see past people’s weakness and instead see them through the same shade of glasses that Jesus does? Am I willing to let others see my weaknesses? Can we really commit to allelon one another? How could we use ordinary situations to come together and celebrate the life of our community? Ordinary life can be wonderful and powerful—it brings a sense of closeness, a sense of what it means to be “family like.”

How could we form a loving community, but also recognize it exists “not just for” each other, but for the sake of the world? We explored questions like, What does it mean to be a missionary? Is a missionary someone who goes to the third world? Is the PTA mom or dad who coaches soccer considered a missionary?

Many of us still viewed “missions” as an activity of the church, one of several programs—instead of seeing our vocation as ambassadors of God’s kingdom—“a sent people” who routinely embody God’s redeeming love and hope, compassion and reconciliation, harmony and justice to our neighbors and the whole of society.

As a community we de-emphasized “planned evangelism,” and instead celebrated, encourage and enthralled each other to make room for our neighbors, co-workers—those around us in our everyday lives. One person in our community captured this point with humility as he shared his experience.

Our lawn looked like a tropical jungle. Our neighbors hated us to the point of actually threatening us with a lawsuit if we didn’t “take care of our stuff.” But hey we were busy doing church. Our neighborhood is actually pretty cool. People do things together for 4th of July etc. We never participated. We waved and smiled at them and headed to another town to go to church. I was a part of the newest church evangelism program—we would drive 45 minutes each week to give away free cokes to people we didn’t even know and completely neglected the people that lived next door to us. We lived in our neighborhood for almost five years without knowing anything about our neighbors, without caring or showing love. This has changed. We now make a conscious effort to be the church—to love our neighborhood and neighbors. Not in a philosophical way only but in an actual way where we focus on our neighbors well being, not first and foremost to “evangelize” them, to sell the Gospel to them, to have them join our Church, but really more from an angle of love. We’re not perfect in this. Our lawn gets a little unruly sometimes, but we are repairing relationships with our neighbors. We now participate in the life of the community we live in. We hang out more with neighbors doing “over the fence talk.” We feed our neighbors pets when they go on vacation. We are planning this year to go to the local 4th of July celebration. Things have changed. Things keep changing and we’re excited.

I wish I could say that our time together was without problems or pain, but that would neither be accurate nor realistic. Here are some things we have learned along the way.


  • That theology does not stand outside of community. God’s desire to call into being a community shaped and nurtured by the Holy Spirit. We need to be careful that we don’t just become a discussion group.

  • To intentional guard against the propensity of becoming isolationist. Often many people want to retreat in small little groups—to tired, afraid or arrogant to establish/build new relationships. We need to be hospitable to those that visit. People want to be able to watch, listen and observe without the danger of forced intimacy or sharing. We must hold in tension a bounded set and centered set.

  • We must not become romantic about community. True community is a dangerous way to live. People will fail each other and that may bring up past hurts. We must be gracious to one another—at times giving each other space.

  • We must be careful to not fall into an “us/them” mentality. People often despise or put down the “traditional” church. There is no place for this in the kingdom.

  • The role of “authentic spirit centered leadership” is crucial. Smaller communities sometimes often see leadership as unnecessary, but it remains crucial for authentic spiritual formation.


As I reflect upon our time together, much of what we have explored has been helpful and in many cases life changing. The words on the white board are still deeply painted on the canvas of our hearts. They are a powerful and profound symbol of our journey and life together as a community. At times it seems to be the life jacket that held us a float.

My hope is that we will allow the Holy Spirit to comfort, challenge, stretch, and nourish us throughout our journey. My desire is that we would not sit upon the shoreline and say were satisfied, but rather “choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide” — boat people convinced that the danger of untamed river waters are minor compared to the regrets of never taking a risk. My prayer is that maybe, by God’s grace, we could truly be some of those people and some of those churches.

1. Gordon fee, Paul the spirit and the people of God, pg 66


about the author

Mark is the founder and Director of Allelon, a private, nonprofit foundation. The ongoing desire of Allelon is to resource, equip the whole body of Christ and to offer companionship for missional church leaders from a wide array of organizations and denominations that are working towards a missional kingdom paradigm. He and his wife, Jeanette, have six children and live in Eagle, Idaho where they lead a small missional community of faith called The Landing.