Close Encounters of the Third (Kingdom) Kind: A Reflection on the Missio Alliance Conference
What an incredible gathering we had last week! It was invigorating, informative and fun! What stands out most to me was the family-feel of the conference. Like most of you, I have usually felt a bit alien when attending Christian conferences throughout the years. Not this one. You could sense the shared kingdom ethos in the atmosphere. You could sense the Spirit. You could feel the love and shared vision. With every one of the more-than-fifty people I met for the first time, it felt more appropriate to give a hug than a handshake. I simply loved it.
In the opening address that I was honored to give, I talked about my awakening to the kingdom movement that is rising up around the world today. Along with many others, I believe we are on the cusp of a theological and ecclesial revolution that is going to fundamentally change the face of what is identified as “Christianity.” I feel lucky to be alive as we enter this “Kairos” moment. Unlike reformations in the past, and in keeping with the kingdom theology this present revolution embodies, this rising movement is not rallying around any single person or group. This movement is rather rallying around the Jesus-looking God who is raising up a Jesus-looking people. It is a beautiful, Spirit-lead, grassroots movement, which is why it is still off the radar of most old guard watchdogs.
In fact, I have found that the majority of those who have caught this vision don’t even realize they’re part of a global movement. They just were gripped by this vision and consequently began to feel alienated from “normal” church. Some remain in their church, not knowing what else to do. Others have left and have begun to form house churches or other sorts of kingdom communities. And still others are just floating out there in an isolated no-mans-land. But all are wondering where this is going. And all are looking for their “tribe.”
It reminds me of the 1977 Spielberg movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Random people who had brief encounters with aliens began to have obsessive thoughts about a certain mountain they longed to visit. They didn’t understand why, but they felt the need to express it in every possible way – drawing it, making clay figures of it, forming it with their mashed potatoes, etc. Some were fortunate enough to learn the location of this mountain and were able to make their way there. It turned out this mountain was the rendezvous point for these aliens to begin communicating with humans.
This is something like what is happening to all who have been gripped by the kingdom vision, and this is why the Missio-Alliance conference was so important. I believe it is time for us to become very intentional about allowing the Spirit to transform our kingdom vision into the reality of an identifiable kingdom movement. It’s time to make our way to the mountain, and I believe this means it’s time for us to be very intentional about networking together. It’s time for individuals and groups both inside and outside the traditional Anabaptist streams to begin dialoguing with each other to learn from each other and explore ways of working together. (BTW, there were about a dozen different Anabaptist denominations represented at this conference, and several informed leaders of these denominations told me this had never happened before.) Of course, some have already been doing this – the “Mennonerds” comes to mind. But I believe it is time for all to begin to make our way to the mountain.
None of us knows what the actual kingdom mountain is going to look like, but it doesn’t matter. The only important point is that we all simply submit to the Spirit who is leading us there. I believe some individuals, churches and organizations like ReKnew will be led to work together to plan future networking events. Others will be led to seek out and collaborate with other kingdom-minded individuals and fellowships to further the kingdom movement. And, as I have personally felt lead to do over the last several years, I believe some leaders will be lead to form mentoring relationships with potential future leaders within this movement.
If you’ve had a close encounter of the kingdom kind, you already have a vision and an impulse in you that is leading you in the direction of this mountain. I encourage you to have the courage to give yourself fully to it. For the mountain is nothing less than the beautiful community and movement of those who are gripped by the vision of a Jesus-looking God raising up a Jesus-looking people.
Viva la Revolution!