There’s a movement that began in an Anglican church in England, which is spreading across the world and changing the way people do church. 3DM, started by Mike Breen, is an organisation with the vision “to change the world by putting discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people“. Instead of congregating in sacred buildings and putting on a performance to attract people in, Missional Communities of 15-80 people are gathering around a shared vision and focus, and living life side-by-side as “family on mission” as they seek to impact their neighbourhoods and world.
3DM stands for 3 Dimensional Movement, based on the pattern modelled by Jesus, who was in relationship with God (UP), with his discipleship community (IN) and with the broken world around him (OUT). The UP/IN/OUT triangle is one of 3DM’s LifeShapes, which simplify core teaching and practices of this model. A friend of mine, Kat Lockwood, blogs at Missional Mumma about her experiences as a Mum-of-two in a Missional Community which meets in a four week cycle of UP/IN/OUT/OF. I asked Kat to tell us more about their Missional Community, and their 4-week pattern of meeting. Here’s what she had to say…
How did your Missional Community and relationship with 3DM begin?
About three years ago, my husband, as an Anglican Church newly ordained curate, was given the responsibility of a planting a church in a growth corridor of Perth, Western Australia. We had heard of Mike Breen, 3DM and LifeShapes but were very hesitant about how it would work in practice – we had so many questions that eventually our mentors suggested we come to England with them to check it out. We went to Pilgrimage, where St Thomas’ in Sheffield opened up their church community and showed what the potential for a church based around Missional Communities could look like. We used every spare moment – lunch breaks and coffee breaks – to find a team member and drill them with all our questions. We were relentless, we wanted answers, we wanted to know if it could work in our context in Australia – in a place where the only people we seemed to attract were those who wanted to do nothing but passively receive from the church.
We came home with some ideas to start us off, and in February 2013 we relaunched the church plant as a Missional Community. A Missional Community needs to be built around a mission – an outward focussed goal – so that people can join in with being good news in their community whether or not they believe what we believe. At first we really struggled with finding a mission. It needs to be something people can see and participate in. The possibilities in our area are endless – we have families, prisons, schools, the poor, and the elderly. For us, we have made a decision that whatever we do as church must work well for our family, as our first disciples are our children, and there is no point to us in winning the world but forsaking our children. So we decided to start with our local Retirement Home and to do an intergenerational service based around children interacting with the elderly. We had our mission – “to build families and friendships across the generations“.
You meet in a different way each week of the month. Tell us a bit more about this.
Our four week cycle looks like this :
1st Sunday- We do a social activity that we can invite friends to (OUT and IN). A time to build community and build friendships. We are always looking for those people God might be leading us to connect with, to build relationships with. One of the greatest problems facing our Western world is loneliness and isolation. We believe that, like in times past when the church delivered the solution to the greatest problems of the time (health, education, and welfare), that today, the church as a community can be the solution to the sickness of our time. We make time for intentional connecting with others.
2nd Sunday- We are part of a wider Christian church, so on this Sunday we celebrate that and join with our parent church or another church that we are working with. (OF and UP)
3rd Sunday- We do our missional activity at the local retirement village (OUT). This involves simple activities that anyone can organise or run – a children’s Bible Story, some action songs (which in the interest of simplicity and familiarity tend to be the same songs each month), a very short message, and a craft activity or game that everyone participates in – children, parents, the elderly. This is followed by some unstructured play time/conversation time. This is our favourite week of the month – everyone goes away blessed.
4th Sunday- We do ‘family church‘ (UP and IN) – a simple church service in our home that uses a Godly Play story – a Montessorri method of storytelling that adults and children, Christians or not, can all engage with and process what God is saying at whatever point they are at. We eat together and enjoy each others’ company.
How is your experience different from the usual way of “doing church”?
We have a number of principles that guide us-
We lower the bar on what is “church” and raise the bar on discipleship. And because of that, everyone can (and does) contribute. When you come to a Missional Community, we all serve each other. We all have things to give. God speaks to each of us, not only to the ordained. Our services aren’t flashy but that means everyone can do it. Everyone brings food and everyone helps clean up. This reduces the burden on the leadership to always being a service-provider, but also allows us all to be the church together.
We redeem the time – In a time-poor society we don’t ask people to do Sunday mornings plus a number of other evenings so they can fit in Bible Study, mission, social activities… We have a 4 week cycle so we use the time people have already committed to, so that people are able to fully participate in a balanced spiritual and social life even if the only time they can give is on a Sunday morning. We always include food, fun, prayer and the Bible – but in simple ways, not the formality and structure of “regular church”.
Why do you do church in a circle, not in rows?
We do “Church in a Circle” because we believe that we are the vessels God is using on this earth and therefore, that it is our job to show the world what God is like. Anyone can belong – before they believe – and everyone can participate in God’s mission on this earth; to be good news and to make disciples. We can learn from the generations who have gone before us and learn from the ones coming up after us – everyone matters. We are also trying to kill the consumer culture that has invaded the church and rendered it apathetic and useless, instead trying to create a place where people can be empowered as Jesus’ disciples – ones who hear and obey Him themselves but also in community with others.