Building Communities of the Kingdom

$29.95

How to work with others to build great spaces and places

by: Andre Van Eymeren

Pages : 208
Publisher : Morning Star Publishing
Dimensions : 148mm x 210mm
IBSN : 9780995381513

A theology of community development that encourages churches to be involved with their local community, with stories from the field and personal reflections.

Cities and communities full of celebration; basic food, housing and belonging needs met; young and old contributing meaningfully to society; people living lives that contribute to the common good; all in a reconciled relationship with God? The prophet Isaiah believes this is not only possible, but that in fact it is God’s design for our communities. For our world to reflect this image, it needs to be transformed. To effectively engage in the work of transformation, we need to answer some fundamental questions: How can God’s Kingdom be expressed in such a way that encourages the Church to actively engage in the community? What is the internal shape of the Church necessary for effective engagement? What’s the cultural context of our communities and cities? And what are some concrete methods and connecting points we can use to engage? Starting with a snapshot of Australian society Building Communities of the Kingdom goes onto build a contextualized theology around the important task of community development. A selection of stories from the field and personal reflections set a lively tone and help to ground the theories and concepts.

Additional information

Dimensions 148 x 210 mm
Pages

208

By

Andre Van Eymeren

Publisher

Morning Star Publishing

Dimensions

148mm x 210mm

ISBN

9780995381513

About the author

Andre is an experienced community development consultant, trainer and practitioner. This has seen him and his family live and work in marginalised and hurting communities in South Australia and Victoria. For most of his married life, Andre, together with his wife Amy and son Josh, have lived in varying forms of community, many of those caring for homeless and marginalised young people.  Andre has been involved in projects across Australia, working extensively with local councils, schools, faith groups and the not-for-profit sector. These projects have seen him teaching, networking, organising and supporting people of various faiths and no faith to work together to achieve their dreams.

Contents

Introduction 1
Chapter 1. – Setting the Scene: A Snapshot of Australian Society 5
– Setting the Tone of Our Conversation 6
– Disempowered Contributions 6
– Indigenous Australia 8
– The glass is half full 8
– The murky truth 14
– The Social Environment for Young People 15
– A Conversation About Values 19
– A Response to Where We Find Ourselves 24
Chapter 2. – God’s Dream for Our Cities and Communities 29
– The Design and Purpose of God’s Kingdom 32
– Father God – The Creator 32
– Jesus the Liberator 35
– Jesus and Personal Transformation 36
– The Role of the Holy Spirit 45
Chapter 3. – A Model of God’s Kingdom that We Can Embrace 51
– Snyder’s Eight Models of the Kingdom 52
– Future Hope 53
– Inner Spiritual Connection 54
– Mystical Communion 54
– Church Equals Kingdom 55
– A Counter-System 57
– Religion and Politics 58
– A Cultural Outworking 61
– Utopias: Can they ever work? 62
– Assessing the Models 63
– Kingdom Inspired Building of A Better World 65
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer 65
– The Branken Family 66
– Jarrod McKenna 68
– Kingdom Reflections 69
Chapter 4. – The Church, Partnering with God 71
– Inclusion: it was always part of the plan 71
– Unpacking the Universal Church 72
– The Development of Christendom 76
– The Effects of Christendom 79
– Stamps of the Divine in Our Culture 81
Chapter 5. – The Shape of the Gathered Community 87
– Sacramental and Unifying Nature of the Church 90
– Buildings and Geography 92
– Prayer 95
– Scripture 100
– Authenticity 101
– Love 104
– Hospitality 107
– Communitas – Shaping for Mission 109
Chapter 6. – The Journey so Far: Understanding our Cultural Context 113
– Late Medieval Culture 114
– The Enchanted Mind 117
– Road to Disenchantment 117
– The Effect of Science and Rationalism on Western Culture 119
– The Journey Continues – Postmodern Culture 124
– The State of Western Society and the Role of the Church 128
Chapter 7. – Time to Get Practical 133
– Liberation Theology 134
– Theology in Praxis 135
– Key Themes of Liberation Theology 137
– Reflections and Connections 141
– Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) 143
– Five steps towards whole community mobilization 145
– Step One: Creating an Asset Map. 145
– Step Two: Building Relationships. 147
– Rebuilding the Relational Web – Creating Relational Proximity 150
– Step Three: Mobilizing for economic development and information sharing. 154
– Step Four: Convening the community to develop a vision and a plan. 156
– Step Five: Leveraging outside resources to support locally driven development. 158
– Is this Actually Possible? 159
Chapter 8. – Working in Local Communities 163
– Spirituality and the Missional Journey 163
– Re-capturing A Missional Imagination 167
– Basil of Caesarea 167
– Base Ecclesial Communities (BEC) 168
– Research: A Place to Start 172
– Stories from the Field 175
– Derek Bradshaw and the Now and Not Yet Community 175
– Dr David Wilson, CEO Urban Seed 176
– Neal Taylor, CEO Holy Fools and Chaplain to the Homeless in the Yarra Ranges 178
– Lee Palumbo – Co-Founder Just Planet and Manager Sunbury Community House 180
– A Debate We Need to Have 183
Conclusion 187
Bibliography 191

Extract

I haven’t always found it easy to bridge the worlds of academia and practice. For most of the past 20 years I have been involved in grassroots, coalface mission or community development, in both urban and rural settings around Australia. Working with churches, local councils, social service organizations, schools and the business community, I have been a part of helping communities transform to become spaces that we can call home. On a micro level my family and I have sought to live open lives and build community with numbers of homeless or hurting young people and others, offering a warm bed, welcoming smile and support for their journey.

Over the last few years I have attempted, though not always successfully to move into a more reflective space of which this book is one of the products. I wanted to take time to reflect not only on our mission and community development practice, but broader and perhaps discover an embracing methodology that could allow the church and others to more effectively take up their role as salt and light in the world. There are many working in this space and it is encouraging to see God enabling his people to push forward on a myriad of new paradigms for engagement with His world. I hope and trust that this book can be a helpful addition to what is already being done.

Our starting point for this journey is a vision of shalom portrayed by the prophet Isaiah (65:17-25). He longs for a world where communities regularly come together to celebrate and remember the good things in their midst, where stories are shared and there is laughter and hope for the future. The hallmarks of these communities are acceptance, a sense of belonging, but, deeper, a sense of a shared reality and future that opens the door for each to find their place. Unfortunately one of the hallmarks of our communities tends to be isolation and disconnection. Young people are often labelled as the problem, the elderly ignored and undervalued, anyone who is different tends to be shunned, particularly the marginalized experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, dislocation and an incredible sense of a loss of self. The community Isaiah sees is one of reconciled relationships, active involvement, genuine connection, people having not only a place to live but a place to belong and flourish.

I had the privilege of attending a two-day workshop in Melbourne, which was asking the question how do we go beyond the safe city? Melbourne is seen as being a safe city by international standards, but how do we go beyond that to create a city where people can flourish, growing to who they were meant to be and living their purpose out of that sense of being? I was heartened to hear many references to values that I saw congruent with my understanding of Scripture. I soon realized I was with people who may not acknowledge the root of these values but who you could consider people of peace, influential in their networks and open to partnerships for the greater good of the city. Over the time I’ve been involved in community development I have come across many such people and have often found them easy to engage with, full of vision and energy for new and better ways of doing community, and often more receptive than the church to pursuing these avenues.

I’m pleased to say the tide is beginning to turn. However, I have been concerned at the malaise of the church around matters of engagement at all levels of society and the equipping of the saints for works of service wherever they find themselves. In many ways the church has shown itself to be a good provider of welfare and other services. It is a well-known fact that the majority of welfare in Australia is in someway linked to the church, and for many these have become necessary and vital services. In addition the church is often opening its buildings for a range of community activities that when working well provide opportunities for those outside the church to build relationships with believers and for the church experience to be de-mystified. However, if we want to effectively work towards Isaiah’s picture of Shalom there are some fundamental paradigm shifts that need to be understood and enacted.

These new understandings relate to a paradigm of God’s Kingdom that allows for the people of God to have a robust engagement with the world. Looking at our churches, one could be forgiven for thinking that God’s concerns revolve around salvation and building the numerical numbers of the church. Whilst salvation and the fellowship of the believers are important to God, our preoccupation with these things points to a misunderstanding of God’s final intentions for the world and indeed his present activity in it. There are many biblical pictures such as Isaiah 65 that point to God’s intention to bless the city or the community. He even encourages the exiles in Babylon to work for the prosperity of their new city.

If it’s true that God cares about cities and indeed the whole of life and we are called to be salt and light within this broader picture, what shape does church need to be to most effectively engage with those around it? Shape here refers more to internal postures and attitudes of a gathered group of people than what happens on a Sunday morning. The shape then naturally affects this expression. The focus then shifts from the gathered community to the scattered people of God. Jesus says in John 13 that they will know you by the love you have for each other. If this is true it begs two questions – first, do we genuinely love each other? Second, if we do genuinely love each other, how do people get to see that love, to feel it, so it becomes tangible for them? How do we live corporate Christianity in spaces where individuality seems to reign, as is often the case in the workplace?

With workplaces and the broader community in view it is a natural jump to explore the culture we find ourselves in and its roots. The activities of the church do not happen in a vacuum; we are part of a very complicated web of historical, scientific and cultural change. With the rise of rationalism and the breakdown of the village, industrialization and the eventual collapse of Christendom our societies have evolved quite dramatically. With the commodification of technology and the dizzying pace at which it develops we can find ourselves awash in a sea of consumerism quickly losing sight of the shore of purpose and meaning, living in a hyperreal world where symbol is just as, if not more, important than actual reality.

We see the natural effects of the breakdown of the village even today. In local communities and broader, fractured relationships lead the way to dysfunctional societies where in extreme cases people die in their houses and are not discovered and, we presume, not missed for many, many months. This is also reflected in the suicide epidemic, particularly evident amongst teenagers. In the closing chapters of this book we will explore ways that the church can work with others to recreate that sense of village, to be part of restoring the relational web of support that we all need. This book draws heavily on the work I did for my Masters’ thesis of the same name, but is hopefully more readable and interesting. I have not referenced all these connections as it would be too laborious, however I believe I have been true to my original sources and so open the possibility for further reading.

My hope in writing this book is to show the links between God’s Kingdom, the role of the church and the place of community development as a valid part of the church’s missiological response to the world. I also hope it will be instrumental in the forming of partnerships with people of peace towards the common good.

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