One of my guilty pleasure movies is Far and Away. Two young people (with terribly inaccurate accents) come to America in hope for freedom and land. My favorite character is the girl's father who is in constant despair as a powerful and rich landowner in Ireland. He wants freedom and adventure. He's bored with money and business compromises.
After much adventure and seemingly insurmountable circumstances, the boy and girl finally make it to the race for land in America. Along the way the girl's father and mother have come to America in search for their daughter, find her, and join in the race for land on which to live out the rest of their lives. Likely too old to win land in this race, they sneak to a beautiful piece of land in the night, which was dangerous and illegal. The man boasts to his wife with a jolly and satisfied grin on his face just before their , "We're breaking the law, Norah."
On arrival at Verge 2010 the announcements made it clear that every attender should only attend the workshop they signed up for. We were strongly urged not to attend a workshop we didn't sign up for. As a member of the social media team I had my sections chosen for me, and they didn't include the two Soma Communities workshop with Jeff Vanderstelt and Caesar Kalinowski. So I broke the law...with a grin on my face. Yeah I sat in the back on the floor, but that's closer to the outlets anyway. I'm so glad I disobeyed Verge.
During these two workshop sessions, which they admitted were only a hint at what happens at Soma School, I had about 25 brain explosions. It was very hard to keep tracking with them, distracted by every "aha" moment. I have been hoping it all would sink in since Verge, but I'm still in the learning phase of what Soma does. It's not complicated. But it is profound and challenging. It's taking a lot of work to undo these evangelical Southern Baptist knots in my brain.
All Soma has really done is to focus on local mission and community without driving everything through programs. They were telling practical stories about things they are doing that I've only scratched the surface of in my life. For me they are ideals. For Soma they are in practice and alive. Missional Communities may have no better friend than Soma. Very convincing. Let me pull out a couple of threads here, to show you how God was working on my heart at Verge. I hope to represent what they were teaching accurately.
Let me give you 2 words that are reforming my approach to community. You can also check out the notes I took during Jeff & Caesar's workshop.
We need to see everyone as family. The church, our missional community, etc.
From Soma School PDF...
Think about it in Familial terms…Do we define a family based only upon what they do? “We are a family because we sleep in the same house, eat together, do dishes, share a budget, etc…” (Defined by activity). By who they are? “We are a family because we have the same parents, the same last name, belong to one another, etc…” (Defined by being). Or because of how we came into being? “We are a family because our parents gave birth to us or adopted us” (Defined by Origin). A Healthy family would be defined in all three ways: 1) Our parents birthed us or adopted us – so we belong to them. 2) We are all related and share identity – so we belong to each other. And, 3) We do what families do together – life lived together defined by love.
Jeff and Caesar also encouraged us to think beyond the Family to the world, extending to all people. We are commanded to love our neighbors, to treat them like members of our family (even if we think of them as estranged family members).
What if we treated the older couple across the street as parents, the very old woman next door as our grandmother, the kids around the block as our kids? How life changing would it be in our neighborhoods? What if our home was open and our hospitality that relational and loving?
Speaking of hospitality, I found the discussion on using the everyday rhythms of life for mission refreshing and helpful.
Soma has identified 6 everyday rhythms...
In order to lead our people to see all of life as ministry and mission we must equip them to live out the gospel in everyday activities – everyday rhythms.
We have found some transferable patterns or rhythms of life that we see throughout The Story of God and in every culture in every part of the world. Through each of these rhythms people have the opportunity to walk by faith – walking in line with the truth of the Gospel – or walk in fear or prideful rebellion to God – walking in unbelief.
When we come to understand and believe the Gospel we realize that we are saved by faith not works AND we are being saved by faith not works. We know that the righteous live by faith and every moment is pregnant with the opportunity to walk by faith and therefore in line with the truth of the Gospel. Training up ourselves and others to walk in line with the truth of the Gospel is really all about learning to walk by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave up his life for us in every part of life.
These everyday rhythms that we have identified can be easily observed in the very beginning of The Story before the Fall of Man and through The Story we can see how they can be lived out in faith or in fear or prideful rebellion…
What everyday rhythms of life do you observe in the Garden including the Fall of Man that are also present in every culture in the world?
For more on understanding each rhythm check out the Soma School PDF starting on page 10. For now let me say that it's nice to think about life as mission rather than stopping life for mission. It's not a new idea, and it's all over the missional conversation of the past few years. But these guys are not just thinking about doing it. They are doing it and leading others to do it well.
The heart of rhythms is that we don't need to add more to our lives. Just do what you do with gospel intentionality. It's been my approach here in Woodstock for the past few years, but I'm still learning. Soma may be the "go to" guys on this stuff now. We are talking in my house about how to think about the rhythms of culture, our lives, and how to see them intersect. We are working on having our door of hospitality open a lot more and having a more "open door" sort of policy to our home. We are thinking about how to invite others to the family meals we already have together every week. We are planning to celebrate more and accept more invitations to celebrate with others. Christians should be the most celebratory people in the world! Good stuff.
This was easily the best teaching I got at Verge. I hope you will look into it more. Check out the Soma Communities website, in their 31 page PDF of Soma School Notes. You may want to look into attending a Soma School this year in May or October.