I was looking at a diagram for the rhythm of missional community the other day, the old sodalic/modalic rhythm. It hit me that this was really an ontology – it was a reflection of the inner life of the Trinity.
God is a perfect community of being. And the overflow of that loving relatedness is mission. The church, reflecting the inner life of the Trinity, exists in the rhythm of inward, and outward life.
I made a small set of diagrams to represent this. And I was reflecting on the typical three circle diagram most of us have used for years. Three overlapping circles picture mission, community, and worship. But really this is still the same rhythm of mission and community, inward and outward life, and then the third circle adds the upward dimension.
Reading in Clusters, and looking over the LifeShapes material, Mike Breen and crew add a fourth circle – Of. “Of” represents the connections between communities, the wider “catholicity” without which we run into trouble. So the original two circle picture becomes four circles, or a circle overlaid with a cross – arrows moving four ways. But personally I like the original two circle rhythm and then two arrows added – Up and Of.
In “Clusters” another diagram is added. Watch this – I like it.
In/Out/Up/Of corresponds nicely to the four notae of the church. How do you know you have an authentic ecclesial expression? When it is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. When it exists in the rhythm of community and mission, worshipping the one Trinitarian God, and related to the historical expression of the Church expressed in the ancient creeds, and related to a wider network of communities that exist in these same rhythms.
And we need to also hear some cautions. LeRon Shults closes his essay, “Reforming Ecclesiology in Emerging Churches,”
“My argument in this essay has not been that the creedal “marks”ˇ of the church are wrong, but only that they are not exhaustive. When interpreted in absolute and exclusive terms, noting the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the church may in fact be misleading; these may actually mark forms of religious community that have little to do with Jesus’ way of knowing, acting and being in the world.
* Yes, followers of this way ought to work for unity in love, but this does not require the denial or denigration of the multiplicity of expressions of that love.Â The many forms of ecclesial becoming can serve together in the infinite ecumenics of divine grace.
* Yes, churches are called to become holy, but this does not require isolationist walls that protect “our”ˇ sacrality from “their” supposed profanity. Missional care in the way of Christ is embedded in the concrete, mundane concerns of oppressed others.
* Yes, Christian communities ought to be characterized by a universal embracing love, but this does not require an anxious political exclusion of others. Different polities can facilitate the service of the church while celebrating the particularity of each context.
* Yes, becoming ecclesial involves making clear our connection with the first apostles, but this does not require a blind repetition of the tradition. Followers of Jesus can be identified by their receptive hospitality to, for and with their neighbors and enemies.