Come and See: NieuCommunities Seattle

What if every neighborhood in Seattle had a group of people who felt compelled to live into the Kingdom story by living in intentional community, rooting themselves in a specific neighborhood, and had a commitment to pursue Jesus together? There is a movement afoot across the city of Seattle for these things. 

Whether you are interested in being trained by NieuCommunities to launch your own community, are called to apprentice with our Columbia City community (this fall), or are simply curious about what NieuCommunities folks are up to, we invite you to DREAM with us as we walk our streets, talk, and pray together.

IMG_4191

 

WHO:  Potential participants (apprentices, leaders), supportive friends, & curious. 

WHAT:  Come participate in a Columbia City neighborhood tour & prayer, a short talk on NieuCommunities’ vision and story, dinner, and our Sunday evening gathering.

WHERE: We will meet at Matt and Amy Chapman’s house.  3952 S Edmunds Street, Seattle  98118

WHEN:  Sunday, May 18th from 3:30pm-9pm

WHY:  Our hope is to give you a sense of who we are and to spark your imagination for what God might be calling you into. 

HOW:  Through food, conversation and sharing, we hope this will be a time when new friendships are formed, and old ones are strengthened and inspired.

Note:  This is not a support-raising meeting.  Dinner will be provided.  $5 suggested donation. 

Space is LIMiTED and will fill quickly….

For REGISTRATION go to our FB to secure your spot

NieuCommunities FB Page

matt@nieucommunities.org 

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Radical Invitation: Christianity a Barrier to Jesus?

Could God be in this, raising up a sub-culture of society who wants everything to do with Jesus, but doesn’t understand or use the title Christian? They read the bible, believe that their relationship with Jesus redeems them (rather than trusting in good deeds), experience a deep communion with God, and rely on Jesus as their source of life, their king, their Lord and Savior. If the Spirit of God is in this (and I think he is) there is much to celebrate. 

We can celebrate the beauty of God bringing us back to the heart of his invitation.   

jesus-at-table-with-the-12

An amazing invitation

We see in the narrative of scripture, the Kingdom is at the heart of God’s invitation.  While there is much to celebrate about Christianity, nothing can compare to the beauty of God’s Kingdom invitation through Jesus.  It’s in God’s Kingdom where things are made right; where we can commune with God like Adam and Eve did in the garden, where we experience healing, justice, peace, and love. Dallas Willard, a theologian and philosopher, defined the kingdom of God as “life as it was meant to be lived in all its wonder, life as God intended it to be experienced, and the place where what God wants to happen actually happens and where God’s ways are lived and experienced.”  This is the heart of what Jesus promoted while he was on earth, and as we participate in and invite others into this, I suspect we will be begin to recognize what pieces of our culture we have unknowingly wedded to the good news.

We can celebrate that the only barrier to God’s invitations should be the claims Jesus makes of himself. 

For our friends and neighbors who have not considered Jesus because of their view of Christianity or fear of being converted, there is hope. There is good news. The invitation that Jesus gives doesn’t require one to identify oneself as a Christian. The invitation is much more beautiful and radical than that.

What would it look like to move from celebration to participation with him in this? 

 Perhaps it would mean that instead of trying to convert people to Christianity (to a team), we could be known as the ones who help people turn to and encounter Jesus

 But, be careful… this might just change you in the process as well. 

 You might find yourself not only giving & inspiring the people who Jesus misses most, but also listening, learning, and receiving from the same people. 

 You might be challenged to risk and experiment. You might be drawn to become more involved with your neighborhood, frequent 3rd spaces, make new friends, and more deeply engage existing relationships. You might even find more time in your schedule for these things.

 You might experience a deeper communion with Jesus than ever before.

This sounds like fun to me. We as Christians can be known as the ones who connect people to the King while trusting the Spirit to help them navigate a life devoted to Jesus without the Christian label. 

Father God,

May we minister as fellow pilgrims on a journey seeking the presence and depth of your love for us.  And May your Kingdom come and your name be praised.  Amen. 

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Christianity a barrier to Jesus? Part 2

Are there people who are afraid or hesitant to follow Jesus because they think it means that they have to become a “Christian”?

 

Seeing Jesus for who He is

Seeing Jesus for who He is

It seemed to be a typical conversation between trusted friends at the neighborhood café.  We had spent three years taking care of each other’s kids, watching football games together, hiking together and even talking about Jesus and singing worship songs together.  The topic of our conversations would often shift towards the life of Jesus and His Kingdom. The intriguing part about this is that my friend (Michael) considers himself a Jewish agnostic. Then he said it.  He said with a smile, “I have changed my life because of Jesus, but I will never become a Christian or an evangelical.” We knew the reason why.  He had articulated it to us the past three years…Christians were the ones who had a certain political view, were narrow minded, dogmatic, were unloving towards the homosexual community, and were often stuck in their ways.  They are people who are identified by what they are against rather than what they are for.  Michael  knew we were Christians and that we represented something different than his past experiences of Christianity; yet, he would have no part of it.

In the narrative of scripture we see Jesus not coming to promote a religion of Christianity, per se, but rather to inaugurate a new way of life, a new Kingdom, and to make it known that He is in fact the King of that Kingdom.  We see that the term “Christian” was given to those who were formally called “followers of the way” by outsiders simply because they were known as the “Christ ones” (the people who looked like Jesus and believed that he was the messiah).

The problem with the word “Christian” is that it no longer means what it once meant by those outside the faith.  More and more the response to the word Christian is like that of my friend. There are a number of solutions that people offer.  There are those who say, “we have lost the meaning of the term ‘Christian’ and we need to reclaim it.”  There are others who say, “we need to abandon the name and identify ourselves as simply ‘followers of the way of Jesus’ like the early disciples.”

So what do we do?

For those who were raised in the culture and faith tradition of Christianity, maybe you don’t need to abandon the name.  It is a part of your culture and identity, isn’t it?  I would even suppose that you could help redeem the name, because you are so deeply rooted in it. That is a beautiful picture, and a glorious responsibility. And, there may be many of your neighbors who will be called into this name of Christianity with you. That is something to celebrate indeed.

But what about those who belong to a different subculture? What about those who weren’t raised in that tradition, but feel drawn to Jesus, are learning to see him as King, and want to participate in His Kingdom, without coming under the label Christian?  What if we choose to hold onto the identity we were raised with, but refrain from putting it on our friends and neighbors who want nothing of it?  Maybe, just maybe, we would find more and more of our neighbors considering Jesus….

That day in the café, talking with our friend, we chose to release him from the barrier of Christianity and free him to simply pursue Jesus, to which he responded…why don’t we talk about Jesus more often?

Stay tuned for Part three as we explore the implications of this question and more.

What if God uses our friends and neighbors to truly live into the meaning of the word Christian (those who looked like and believed in Jesus) without ever identifying with the label?  

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Christianity a barrier to Jesus? Part 1

jesus

 

Note:  This is the first of a three part series on Christianity a barrier to Jesus

 

I’m a pantheist,” the older man said with a smile. He then went on to tell me that he was an old hippy who once lived in an intentional community in San Francisco. Since then he has experimented with many different belief systems, influenced by his travels to Asia and the Middle East. I was deeply intrigued by this 72 year old’s spiritual journey. He had experienced so much and yet still seemed to be searching. I commented on how our faith community is working out what it means to follow Jesus in an unconventional way, by committing to love a neighborhood together.  His response caught me a bit by surprise. He began to explain that while he has never been interested in the religion of Christianity, recently he has been drawn to Jesus. My heart melted a bit when he told me that it was because the LOVE he feels from Jesus is more powerful and more real than anything else he has ever experienced, in all the other belief systems he has pursued.

While this is just the beginning of an amazing conversation with this new friend, and something to celebrate, I also felt a sense of grief and unrest in my spirit as I thought about how the religion of Christianity has served as a barrier to Jesus rather than an open door. This seems to ring true for many of my urban neighbors as some have even stated blatantly “I will never become an evangelical or a Christian,” while in the same breath mentioning how they want to pursue Jesus with everything inside of them. Why do they like Jesus and not Christianity?  How do I help them see and feel the love I have for the Jesus and His community of believers, even through the our mistakes?

Stay tuned for my next blog as we explore some reasons and what “good” God might be up to in all of this.

 

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From Explorer Deprivation To Experimentation….

Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark

When I (Matt) go into Starbucks, I know exactly what I want to order before I even step foot in the door.  I get the same thing every time (Grande Starbucks Double Shot with vanilla and soy) because it just works and tastes amazing. Exploring, experimenting, and discovery do not always come easy to me.  Especially as it relates to the things I know well.  Be it coffee, type of pet, menu items at Chipotle, or product for my hair.

For those of us that grew up in the church (and seek to follow in the ways of Jesus), we are especially susceptible to suffer from “explorer deprivation,” especially as it relates to living out our faith.  Maybe it’s because we’ve already found something that works (even if it doesn’t work the best), or maybe it’s because we could be perceived as beginners if we try something new, or maybe the fear of a negative outcome prevents us from experimenting?

Before we made the move to the NW, I asked a wise friend if he had any encouragement for Amy and I as we begin to build a NieuCommunities site in Seattle.  He thoughtfully responded, “don’t be over-concerned with the outcome. Instead, head into this like Lewis and Clark.  Experiment, explore, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.”  There was a collision of acceptance and rejection as I processed his advice.  Amy and I have come off five years of living in intentional community and mentoring leaders towards their Kingdom contribution.  We have experienced success. “Don’t be as concerned about the outcome?  That sounds too risky.” In an innocent sort of way, I was saying that I was not a beginner.  As innocent as it was, it is precisely this type of mindset that kills the explorer mentality.

The good news is that God is patient with us.  After moving into the neighborhood, Amy and I began prayer walking in an attempt to hear what He might be saying about the place we inhabit called Columbia City.  Over and over, with a gentle constancy, the Holy Spirit began to impress upon my heart the words of my wise friend.  “Explore, experiment, discover, try new things, and don’t be as concerned about the outcome.  There was a sense that failure was okay and that a “Lewis and Clark” mentality was a key ingredient to cultivate followers of Jesus.

So, for the past few weeks we have been experimenting with simple things such as our answer to the question, “why did you move to Columbia City”? or introducing myself to people I wouldn’t normally, and more complicated things like asking people if I can pray for them, praying for revelation for strangers, and the way in which we extend Kingdom invitations. I wish I could say that we have nailed it every time.  We have not.  But what I can say is that even in our failure, it feels right to step out and take on the posture of a beginner in an area we know seemingly well.  Maybe it’s because obedience is more important than results?  Maybe its because dependence on the Holy Spirit is much more life giving than outcomes?  Maybe it’s because this is part of what it means to follow in the ways of Jesus?  What an unconventional Rabbi we follow!  He became one of us, entered into our world. And then He did crazy things like spit on the ground to make mud, rubbing it into a man’s eyes. He taught his disciples to experiment with His authority.

What does it mean for YOU to embrace a Lewis and Clark mentality in your neighborhood or in your workplace?  Maybe it means being friends with someone who doesn’t believe the same things as you.  Maybe it means praying over the sick and asking the Lord for healing.  Maybe it means quitting your job and following your dreams?

Will you fail?  Maybe.  Like Lewis and Clark, will you make great discoveries?  Absolutely.  Will you be changed?  Will you encounter God?  Is it worth it?

Make a move and discover…

PRACTICE:

Ask God the following questions and then write the answers in the form of an encouragement letter to whomever God directs.

  • Who do you want me to encourage today? Why?
  • What do you see when you look at them? Why?
  • How do you feel about them? Why?
  • What’s one reason why you are pleased with them?
  • What word of promise or Scripture verse could I share?
  • Why do you want them to know this?
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Leaving the Shire and New Beginnings

 “Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields… and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”

 (Sam– Return of the King)

 

shire

Anybody who has watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy knows that the Shire was an amazing place.  The beauty was breathtaking, the food and beer were tasty, the friendships were rich, and the wee little hobbit dwellings were heavenly.  Even with the occasional conflict, the shire was the picture perfect home for every hobbit.

Recently, Amy and I left our shire.  We left an amazing neighborhood, the beauty of being known and understood, soul friendships, the best Mexican food, ideal weather, and beautiful beaches.  We had no reason to leave.  Except for one minor detail.  We both felt God stirring in our souls to participate in the work he is doing far beyond the walls of the shire.  So, a few weeks ago my family and I moved from Golden Hill, San Diego to a neighborhood in Seattle called Columbia City.

It has been just over a month since we left.  The romance of going on an adventure is starting to fade and we are beginning to feel the weight of leaving.  There are moments of resistance (mostly in the form of fear at this point) that bring up feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and paralysis that make us recognize the hard reality that leaving the shire is not easy… AND yet it is right.  It’s right because it was what we were made for.  It’s right because we have been given much and therefore we have much to give.  It’s right because Jesus not only modeled leaving the shire but he invites us to do the same.  This gives us courage to go.

There was also something about the task that enabled Frodo to persevere through the resistance he encountered along the way. The task was worth the pain.  We sense the same.  Not too long ago in one of our more painful moments, my six-year-old son reminded me why we were prompted to leave. He said, “daddy, I’m glad we are going to start another community in Seattle for those that don’t have one.”  Remembering why you left makes it easier to persevere.  As we feel prompted to give others (some who have had no real home) a taste of community and kingdom life, we are reminded that the task is worth the pain.

Now this could sound like a real downer if all we felt was pain, but thank God it doesn’t stop there.  Excitement, adventure, joy, play, and silly moments are and will be present along the way.

Maybe there is something in our story that resonates with you. Maybe you find yourself scared to step into something you know God is calling you to do.  Maybe you find yourself prompted to leave your shire but fear is knocking at your door, keeping you from responding.  If that is you, I say take courage.  You have what it takes and his name is Jesus.

“Jesus has the power of God. And his power has given us everything we need to live a life devoted to God. We have these things because we know him.”  2 Peter 1:3

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A prayer for place…

 prayer for place

Not too long ago, our faith community began asking God to  show us the spiritual realities that exist in our neighborhood.  It was a time of deep listening as we spent time interviewing long time residents, local businesses, churches, and organizations. We also spent some time in our public library unpacking the history of our place.

What came out of that was a deeper awareness of “things as they are” and “things as they should be .”  We also felt more compelled to pray for the hidden realities of our place.

The following is a written prayer that all of us have framed in our homes as a way to remind us not only to pray but to participate in life the way God intended. 

 

THINGS AS THEY ARE | THINGS AS THEY SHOULD BE

Powers ruler | Justice reigns

May we have the wisdom to see inequities and the boldness to stand with the poor and marginalized.  May justice prevail on the front line of the 25th street corridor and be a golden light on the hill.  Give us the courage to suffer with those who have suffered.  Rally us to act in unison for the issues in our city that are on your heart.

Safe and secure | Shared dreams

Give us all a longing for what is truly good and worth pursuing.  Unlock the chains of complacency and mistrust that cause us to settle for security.   Fill us with dreams of life as it was meant to be lived.

Unknown neighbor, unknown stories | Each one recognized and valued

Open our eyes to see the faces of all our neighbors—those visible and hidden—and to hear their voices.  Reveal the names of our neighbors and allow us to enter into their stories.  May isolation and segregation be replaced with unity.  May those who call this neighborhood home always be at home here.

Disengaged church | Incarnated church

May the Church truly inhabit our neighborhood and be Good News.

Self-determined spirituality | Hope defined by the gospel

Help us offer a gospel that is bigger and more compelling than the answers pop culture provides.  Protect us from the resistance of powers that are threatened.

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Radically Local –Theology of Place (part 3)

 

Pictures from our neighborhood

Pictures from our neighborhood

Dallas Willard, a theologian and philosopher, defined the kingdom of God as “life as it was meant to be lived in all its wonder, life as God intended it to be experienced, and the place where what God wants to happen actually happens and where God’s ways are lived and experienced.” 

We all have a default mode. This is the mode in which we naturally gravitate toward unless otherwise inspired, reminded, or awakened toward something else. Our culture’s default mode is calibrated towards values such as individualism, consumerism, and materialism rather than Kingdom values.  I (we) all feel drawn towards the deceptive default. Yet, we were designed to participate in a realm where God’s ways are lived and experienced; a place where what God wants to happen actually happens. We were designed to be Kingdom players.

Those within NieuCommunities have experienced the Kingdom life taking form in the embodiment and living out of a radical value of place.  A radical value of place for NieuCommunities means that we….

  • Inhabit a neighborhood together. Every participant in NieuCommunities San Diego lives within the same definable (7×10 block) neighborhood.
  • Worship in our very own neighborhood. We gather every Sunday in one of our homes to share a meal, study the scriptures, and praise God together.
  • Submerge in our own unique neighborhood.  We are are present in places like our local recovery homes, youth center, recreation centers, parks, playgrounds, CDC (Community Development Center), and other organizations. We also participate in the needs of our neighborhood like single motherhood, homelessness, and isolation.
  • Play in our local parks, baseball field, and recreation center.  Many of us take our kids to the same neighborhood park on the same day and time every week, some of us play basketball and soccer when we know our neighbors will be there, and others enjoy exercising in public spaces.
  • Work as local as possible.  For those that apprentice with us, this means taking jobs in the neighborhood even though they know they might be able to make more money elsewhere. The relational gain is of more value that the financial gain.
  • Shop local when possible. We go to the local coffee shop even if the coffee isn’t as good, use our local mechanic even though he’s not the best, and buy from our local grocery store even though it’s not the cheapest. This tells our business owners we not only care for them as people but we care for their lively hood as well.  It also creates more opportunity to run into people we know.

We have discovered that when someone commits to a place, they end up working toward the good of that place even if it’s for seemingly selfish reasons.  We end up noticing the need for a playground at our local park, so we’re doing something about it.  We started noticing the many marriages that are in crisis so we’re doing something about it. We see the same lonely people everyday so we’re doing something about it.

We don’t get this right all the time. There are days where we fail; when our actions and decisions come from our individualism, consumerism, and materialism, rather than Kingdom values. But, more and more the old default is gone and a new more holy one has begun to emerge. For those of us within NieuCommunities, it has been a theology of place that has initiated this new “Kingdom default.”

This is what it has meant for us to live radically local. This surely isn’t the only way but it’s a way that we, as a faith community, have felt Jesus calling us (and many others) to (and we LOVE it). Perhaps you are already living into a theology of place?  May this be an encouragement to you. Or maybe this is new to you but you sense it is something that resonates with your soul?  Maybe He is calling you towards a greater practice of a theology of place? If so, I can’t think of a better place to start than participating in the life of your very own neighborhood.

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Place Matters (Theology of Place) Part 2

Our neighborhood at night

You know the question.  It’s the question you often get asked at socials, your kid’s ball game, or when you meet somebody for the first time.  Some of us are even a bit uncomfortable with the question for fear of being defined or put in a box.  “What do you do”? 

This time, however, the question meant something drastically different.  This intrigued neighbor already knew that Jenna (a member of our small faith community was a nurse).  What the question really meant was… WHO are you guys, what do you ALL do?

In our early days as a faith community, questions like this would surprise us. We don’t have a building, they may have never attended our home worship gathering, and we are few in number.  How did they know to even ask the question? A few years ago we started to recognize that it’s not just our faith that intrigues them, but also that our faith would inspire us to value place in which we inhabit.

In my last blog entry I talked about how God began to reveal to Amy and I his heart for place.  He revealed it through a woman’s prayer and through scripture.  A few years later, and after lots of study on the topic, we came to find out that this idea that “our neighborhood matters” is what some theologians refer to as a “theology of place”.

Theology of place carries with it the idea that God calls people to specific geographic locations.  For example, as mentioned in the previous post, even when the Hebrew people were sent into exile in Babylonia, they were called to bless the geography of the land.  A theology of place means that we live FULLY in the location where God has placed us –even if that location is temporary, and even if it’s not our favorite location.

NieuCommunities has chosen to live into a theology of place by being (what some have labeled) radically local. What does it mean to live radically local or to practice a theology of place?  The short answer is there are many different ways and approaches to go about this and we need to celebrate that. (And while simply being “radical” is not what we should ever be seeking, sometimes obeying the unique way in which God has called you is radical).  In my next post I will give you the long answer of what this means for us, and our NieuCommunities tribe.

Stay tuned….

 

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“Place” Matters (part 1)

 

Downtown San Diego at Night

Downtown San Diego

Something in my heart resonated with her tears; although, I myself had never felt that much care for the place I inhabited. This woman couldn’t hold back her tears as she pleaded with God for his reign to come on the city she lived (New Orleans). She was longing for life as God intended it to be experienced, and for that life to spring up in her neighborhood. She prayed for the drug executions to stop, for families living without a home to have a home, for the corrupt political system to truly serve the people, for kids who had broken families to know that they were loved, and for every heart to know the person who is the source of all hope, comfort, healing, and transformation.

Sure, I had felt deep care for individuals in my city but these tears seemed to be about more than just individual people. They were tears for the actual fabric of the place in which she lived.

In the Hebrew scriptures there is a story that depicts this idea that place matters.  The story is one of heartbreak, despair, and violence.  God’s people have been captured and removed from the city in which they love and are brought to their captor’s land where they spend 70 years.  At the beginning of the 70 years God challenges His people to value place.

He says, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

As I sat there in that room watching her tears and listening to her prayer, I could sense God saying, “this is part of what it means to follow in the ways of Jesus.” Five years later, Amy and I find ourselves not only with a similar heart but also with an intentional community who shares the same value.

Stay tuned to the next few blogs to discover how we try to live into this value.

 

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