Steve Ring's Corner

The Mark of Submission

About a month and a half ago, I gave the reflection in the church service. I promised several people who weren’t able to be there that I would post it online afterwards. However, I ran into a little problem (besides being busy). I never wrote the actual reflection down, and the parts that I did write down resemble the well-organized scribblings of a three-year old. So, with much fear and trepidation, I will attempt to interpret my artwork. I think it will work best if I break it up into several blog posts.

My reflection was part of a series we’ve been going through this fall that covered the twelve marks of New Monasticism. The idea comes the book School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism which was put together by an intentional community in Durham, North Carolina called The Rutba House. These marks are basic practices which intentional communities follow in order to stay spiritually healthy and vibrant. I chose to speak on the mark of submission.

Now, if you grew up in a conservative church like I did, the word “submission” immediately calls to mind scripture passages like Ephesians 5 (husbands obey your wives, children eat your vegetables, etc.), but that’s not what this word refers to in the case of intentional communities. In this context, “submission” is synonymous with listening for God’s voice speaking to us through other groups of believers, both past and present.

This is a crucial practice for intentional communities (Vineyard Central) because it allows us to avoid the twin dangers of pride and individualism. Pride shows up when a group of Christians first begin meeting together in a community setting. God is present and working among us. Thank goodness we’re not like those normal superficial mega-churches. Certainly, it’s theoretically possible for God to speak in a normal church, but that’s nothing compared to what He’s trying to say through us. Individualism follows close on the heels of pride. We’re so unique in this community situation that no other Christians have ever faced the same problems. A normal church just wouldn’t understand. What could they possibly say that would apply to us? After all, we’re the first group of Christians ever to meet in a building that’s falling apart in a poor neighborhood.  And so we lose the wisdom of countless other situations in which God has guided a group of believers through difficult times.

Pride and individualism also prevent us from speaking prophetically to the church at large, which is the flip side of submission. When God calls a group of people together, He usually has something to say through them – something unique and special which the rest of the world needs to hear. But if we’re so absorbed with how unique and special we are, we stop paying attention to the God who brought us together in the first place, so our words lose their effectiveness.

Here at Vineyard Central, one of the things that God is trying to say looks something like this: we want to hear God speaking in and through our lives, and we believe one of the best ways to do that is to have deep conversations with each other. We try to foster these kinds of conversations by living  in close proximity to one another – so close, in fact, that we drive each other nuts. But that’s okay, because it allows us to learn about other aspects of the Christian life, such as forgiveness and patience and sacrifice. Our message to the rest of the Church would then be, come sit with us for a while and share where you see God working. How is He challenging you to grow? How is He meeting your needs?

Ivan Kauffman, the author of this chapter (whose ideas I’ve blatantly plagiarized), used the Amish community as his example. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to shoe-horn these thoughts into the historical situation behind the book of Habakkuk. But first, I believe I have a lot of turkey to eat. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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