Our VISION as a Jesus-community is:
“Being salt and light to all “
“You are salt for the Land. But if salt becomes tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except being thrown out for people to trample on. “You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.”– Yeshua the Messiah, Gospel of Matthew 5:13-16 (CJB)
Our MISSION as Jesus-community is:
- Providing people a community to belong to where they are valued and loved (ACCEPTANCE).
- Seeing people grow and reach their God-given potential through healthy, uplifting relationships, inspired Biblical teachings and an active online ministry (GROWTH).
- Taking care of each other, our extended whanau, and all those in need of aid through compassionate pastoral care and support. (AID).
- Interceding for each other, our community and city through corporate prayer (PRAYER).
- Being “salt and light” to everyone we know, spend time or work with, and cross paths with daily, essentially means expressing unconditional love to ALL as far as possible (EXPRESS).
Our VALUES as a Jesus-community are:
The Greek term that is often translated into the English term “hospitality” is the word φιλόξενος (philoxenia). This word is a combination of two concepts, that break down as follows:
φιλό (philo) is one of several words for “love” in Greek. Classical Greek has a few different ways to express the word “love.” In this case, the word that is used means “brotherly love” or “to love like a brother.”
The word ξενος (xenos) which makes up the second half of the word we render “hospitality” actually means “stranger” or “immigrant,” and is where we get the word xenophobia which is the fear of strangers/immigrants.
In light of these two words being combined, hospitality as expressed as both a biblical value and mandate, is actually more than simply “entertaining guests.”
The word becomes “one who loves strangers/immigrants like you would your own brother.”
However, the Biblical mandate is even more than that …
Within the semantic range and historical uses of ξενος, we find that it didn’t simply mean stranger or immigrant.
Historically, this word has a dual usage that includes “enemy” since some cultures used the same word to refer to both groups. In addition, “strangers” were often seen or assumed to be enemies, giving the word strong connotations of stranger, immigrant and enemy.
So then, in this case the word “hospitality” also becomes “one who loves strangers/immigrants AND their enemies in the same way they love their brother.“
As a messianic community (people who believe Yeshua/Jesus is the promised Messiah) we own this value and attempt to live it out as best we can. We do believe in giving people a hand up rather than a hand out, and it’s rooted in the concept of love for the stranger and helping them live healthy and positive lives.
This also largely explains why we we gather the way we do, sitting in a large circle around tables and enjoying a cuppa with snacks. Looking each other in the eyes, and engaging in friendly conversion (and discussion) breeds a sense of familiarity, connection, deeper bonds and ultimately community.
We believe that when true hospitality is expressed among people, it will eventually lead to deeper bonds and ultimately an inclusive community.
The sad reality of the 21st century is that in spite of all our ways to connect with each other, people are increasingly growing distant from one another. We are losing connection in deep and profound ways with potentially huge consequences ranging from social anxiety to mental health issues.
People need people. Real relationships. Not an app. Not Facebook friends. Not Instagram followers.
More than, however, it is only through the power of genuine, authentic community that the world around us can be impacted in a big way. In the Ancient Scriptures there are stories of how the early followers of Yeshua (Jesus) were dragged before councils (leaders of cities) because they “turned the word upside down” (Acts 17:7 CJB).
Many, if not most, Christian churches have lost that.
They are nothing more than social-spiritual clubs catering for the needs of their members or custodians of traditions that hold very little meaning or significance in today’s world. And that was never the intention of Yeshua’s mission and good news.
He announced a new Kingdom, called the “Kingdom of Heaven” (Hebr. Malkhut HaShammayim), which meant the restoration of all things in creation. He saw this Kingdom “come near” in and through Him, and it was ever-expanding in the world. He used metaphors like leaven and mustard seeds to describe what it was like. It was essentially a movement that was changing the world and would increasingly do so.
It was a Kingdom characterised by the poor, mourners, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness (justice), merciful, pure at heart, peacemakers, and persecuted being blessed. It was a Kingdom where barriers between the righteous and sinner were broken down, and where the first would be last, and the last would be first. A Kingdom where there was no more in or out (Gentile or Jew), slave or freeman, woman or man. Everyone was invited and welcome. He called all people to become part of that.
This new messianic, Yeshua-movement (love, grace, forgiveness, equality, restoration, healing, renewal) was the antithesis of the Caesars of this world (power, oppression, inequality, hate, destruction).
Consequently, a church that doesn’t say anything about poverty, homelessness, addiction, mental health, environmental destruction, abuse of power (whether governmental or organised religion), warfare, inequality in society, hate-speak, racism, sexism, ageism, is in reality actually saying nothing. In fact, a church like that is done in this new world. They just don’t know it yet. As it should be.
I like this quote:
“Churches and religious communities and organizations can claim to speak for God while at the same time actually being behind the movement of God that is continuing forward in the culture around them . . . without their participation.”
― Rob Bell,
And this one:
“If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody. And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the “un” and “non”, they work against Jesus’ teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, “God shows no favoritism.” So we don’t either.”
― Rob Bell,Velvet Elvis
The church is the single, multiethnic family promised by the creator God to Abraham. It was brought into being through Israel’s Messiah, Jesus; it was energized by God’s Spirit; and it was called to bring the transformative news of God’s rescuing justice to the whole creation.
― NT Wright (NT scholar), Simply Christian
True hospitality must lead to deeper community and that community becoming intra- and extra-transformative, in other words, changing the lives of those part of it as well as those exposed to it. If not, then one or both have holes in them and we might be missing the point.
Furthermore, when a community grows in their appreciation and love for one another, that will also lead to deeper exploration, i.e. searching for more and deeper ways to exist, live, be, love, connect, worship God, follow his way, and serve.
Exploration as community is about exploring the hard questions of life.
God transforms our minds by renewing it constantly in order for us to know his will, path and ways (cf. Romans 12). And this requires time, discipline, effort, patience, faith, and openness. Closed-minded Christians are dangerous. Blind ones even more so. All-knowing ones, most of all.
I like what the late Dallas Willard, a Southern Baptist, professor of philosophy at the University of South California in Los Angeles, wrote:
“… we must apply our thinking to the Word of God. We must thoughtfully take that Word in, dwell upon it, ponder its meaning, explore its implications—especially as it relates to our own lives. We must thoughtfully set it into practice. In doing so, we will be assisted by God’s grace in ways far beyond anything we can understand on our own; and the ideas and images that governed the life of Christ through his thought life will possess us.
Perhaps we are in a time when thinking rightly is more important than ever. The prospering of God’s cause on earth depends upon his people thinking well.
Today we are apt to downplay or disregard the importance of good thinking as opposed to strong faith; and some, disastrously, regard good thinking as being opposed to faith. They do not realize that in so doing they are not honoring God. They do not realize that they are operating on the same satanic principle that produced the killing fields of Cambodia, where those with any sign of education—even the wearing of glasses—were killed on the spot or condemned to starvation and murderous labor.
Too easily we forget that it is great thinkers who have given direction to the people of Christ in their greatest moments: Paul, Augustine, Luther and Wesley to name a few. At the head of the list is Jesus Christ, who was and is the most powerful thinker the world has ever known.”
― Dallas Willard
As a Jesus-community we are committed to exploring the old ways as presented in the Ancient Scriptures, and taught to us by Yeshua (Jesus). We are his followers, strange as that language might seem in 2018, but it’s what we identify with most, however much we still fall short and miss the point at times.
We are not afraid to think and think well. We will ask questions many others are too scared to ask. It does make some uncomfortable. It does challenge. It does slaughter many sacred cows. But, we believe the truth sets free and that requires exploring it afresh and continually.
Which leads us to the last and most important value, prayer.
Prayer is the key to living out the other three values. These things cannot be done in our own strength. Not all the time anyway. We might fake it a bit, or stretch ourselves for a while, but our natural inclinations will always pull us in another direction.
So, prayer is a way to be transformed in order to become what Yeshua called us to be; followers.
For many of us in the English-speaking world, prayer is largely defined by the idea of asking in the form of a heart-felt request. However, Yeshua, who was an ancient Jewish rabbi, taught his followers to pray from a Hebrew (perspective) which we must appreciate more in order to make prayer an authentic part of our faith community in the right way.
Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, author of Jewish Insights Into Scripture, explain that,
“The Jewish concept of prayer, which comes from the Hebrew word תפילה (tefilah), reflects a different type of interaction. The primary meaning of the verb להתפלל (lehitpalel), from which we derive the noun, is a sense of self-judgement or introspection. Particularly in later Jewish Hassidic traditions, tefilah embodies an introspection that results in a bonding between the created being and the Creator, as a child would bond with his/ her father. This remains true even when requests are involved.”
― Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg
He goes on to explain that,
“Hebrew prayer consists not only of a ‘request-making session.’ Rather it reflects a communal bonding between God and His child. Therefore, the house of ‘His prayer’ represents the place where God Himself engages in introspection and sharing and in so doing bonds deeply with His people. They in turn reciprocate this action in their own prayers and bond with Him.”
Prayer is therefore transformative because it represents a place where communal bonding between God and child happens. And that connection invites introspection, connection with one another, and calls us to a higher way of being and living.
I also like with Franciscan Priest and Author, Richard Rohr, wrote about prayer, action, and being co-creators:
“Action, however, does mean a decisive commitment toward involvement and engagement in the social order. Issues will not be resolved by mere reflection, discussion, or even prayer. God “works together with” (Rom. 8:28) all those who love. To requote so many saints, “We must work as if it all depends on us and pray as if it all depends on God.”
― Richard Rohr
Prayer therefore has a central place in faith but cannot replace faith in action. They go hand in hand.
Prayer for us is means to bond with God, each other, search our hearts and minds, but then step out in a new way, always leading to transformative work, no matter how small the start.