Are We What We Set Out to Be?

Last weekend I was asked to join a panel talking with traditional church leaders about how to be more missional. It was a question/answer format and I was told I didn’t need to prepare.  While that might be possible for some, it wasn’t for me!

I had to think about what we’re doing now and how we came to it with Diaspora. Actually it was kind of cool looking back and seeing where Diaspora had come from

In 2012, Bonnie and I attended The Church Planters’ Summit led by Jared Siebert. It was a significant part of our journey to Diaspora. One of the things we were helped to do there was to come up with Guiding Ideas. The thought is that church planters often come up with Core Values but those are often general Christian things like:

We love the Bible

We love Jesus

We love community.

And they don’t really say much about that church in contrast to other churches. I know we can all point fingers and say that “they” (meaning some other church) don’t really love the Bible because they don’t love it or interpret it like we do or as we think they should. Let’s not go there.

But most churches would say they love Jesus, the Bible and community. So, core values like that really don’t say anything unique. 

But if we can think of guiding ideas or  guiding principles, then we can say specific things about Diaspora. Things that may be like some churches but will also be different. Things that will both draw and repel people . Because there are lots of churches out there and different ones will be appealing for different people. And no one particular church needs to appeal to everyone.

Guiding principles also help you determine what your church will do as it follows Christ. For example, if your guiding idea is to have the most excellent weekly professional Sunday morning service than that will set you apart from those churches who are more casual or who like Diaspora do not have a weekly service.

Our guiding principles from then include:

  1. Many not big. A dispersed model of church – Diaspora is a movement of many small multiplying Disciplemaking Communities(DCs) , easily reproducible and lay led. with Jim and Bonnie as the pastors of Diaspora but each DC has lay leadership who J & B will be discipling.

-haven’t hit “many” yet as we have multiplied to two DCs so far. But we remain committed to being dispersed and multiplying. A couple of years ago, we were in a boat cruising the harbour of Newport Beach with Neil Cole who advocates a lot of what we’re doing and he pointed out that it would take longer than we thought.


2. Every disciple a disciplemaker, no pew sitters – Diaspora is a movement of communities on mission. Every person in Diaspora is a disciple of Jesus. They are just at different stages of being disciples. But it’s intrinsic in being a disciple that you are also help others grow as disciples of Jesus.

-this is going pretty well, our people have a sense of identity as disciples making disciples. Being a living process we are always striving toward this.


3. Synergistic Learning – While there might be a video or live teaching from the Pastors or others, each DC will learn together building on that teaching with what they’re heard from Holy Spirit, discussion and digging into the Bible to relate the teaching to their lives. Spirit led and collaboratively expressed.

-we do this and it’s a great part of our Diaspora life! Reliance on the Holy Spirit is never a bad idea.


4. Slow, a life on life journey – the life of Diaspora is in the daily and weekly interaction of the Disciplemaking Communities. Life is messy and takes time for transformation. Less of a program and more of an organic journey.

-sometimes we struggle with this as the busyness of our individual families can get in the way but we seek to grow and live this out always


5. Communal Worship, not platform led – Diaspora’s Disciplemaking Communities and their members will come together monthly to collaboratively bring worship to God. There will be scriptures, songs, poems, prayer activities, stories, devotional thoughts, games, artistic expressions and much much more.

-it works! The Holy Spirit orchestrates amazing times of worship and our people at various stages of the Christian life contribute. Occasionally, we have to ask for volunteers but mostly they just step up.


6. Relationship based, eating together, intergenerational, not segregated into programs – Diaspora is made up of Disciplemaking Communities made up of families and individuals where we include all ages in relationship, worship, learning and serving. We don’t split off into age or life stage groups, we are a family expression of the Christian life.

-we live this out and it works. But sometimes it’s rough. An overabundance of toddlers can make for a loud, chaotic worship or teaching time. We have taken them out to allow parents and others to focus on occasion.


7. Authentic safe community – Diaspora will be a safe place for it’s people to come as they are. We will practice belonging prior to believing for those starting to draw close to Jesus.

-love this! It definitely happens in our community.


So, although there have been many unexpected things in Diaspora so far and God has definitely adjusted our expectations we have found that our guiding principles have worked out. And they help make Diaspora the community of Church that it is.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about some specific things that didn’t happen the way we thought!

And HT to Jared Siebert, Elle Pike and the New Leaf Network for their continuing work with church planters, dreamers and wanna-be church planters. The Church Planters Summit is redubbed the New Leaf Design Shop and I can only rave about what a help it is to those planting or considering planting an expression of the Church. Check it out at www.newleafnetwork/new. They are great people who will help you to dream new dreams of the Church.



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