I met with my good friend Matt for coffee this morning, and I told him some of the backstory behind my involvement with this thing called Missio Alliance.
And now, I’ll tell you.
Before I do, though, you should know this: today is the last day to register for the first-ever Missio Alliance national conference at the regular rate, and get decent rates on hotel rooms. Which might mean nothing to you if you have no idea what Missio Alliance is. Which is why I’m about to tell you the backstory.
Five years ago my wife and I planted a church called Dwell in Burlington, VT. We did so after about 4 years doing ministry at a local neo-reformed church with strong ties to The Gospel Coalition, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We left that church in spiritual and theological transition, seeing things that we simply couldn’t get on board with in the neo-reformed movement – things like hard complementarianism (bordering on patriarchy), a vengeful and wrathful presentation of God, antagonism toward social justice, overly authoritarian leadership, and an in-or-out understanding of gospel and salvation. As we made our way out, we felt a little bit like the wandering Abraham, always looking for a city.
Dwell emerged out of that spiritual and theological transition and, in many ways, embodied that transition. While we were initially drawn to church planting groups like Acts 29, we quickly found that we were out of line with their distinctives, too; the missional exterior of the group housed a very conservative, Reformed essence. So, we endeavored to plant a missional church that reflected a different theological emphasis – a post-conservative, neo-anabaptist emphasis. It was still distinct from the local mainline and liberal Protestant churches, but it was also distinct from the conservative and Reformed evangelical churches, including the other church plants in the area. And the latter is where we ran into some trouble.
This past August we closed the doors of this beautiful experiment called Dwell Missional Church. We did so after a season of internal tumult and conflict caused, in part, by maintaining the spiritual and theological distinction we began with. As more folks joined our church from conservative and Reformed backgrounds, they chafed against that distinction; and, as the story goes, other churches and church plants offered the perspective they were looking for (with missional language and techniques attached). The more we tried to express the importance of the distinctions we held, the more folks questioned our legitimacy as an evangelical church. The community and energy soon diminished.
Throughout the 5 years of Dwell’s existence, I began looking and chatting online with others who were swimming in the same stream, so to speak. And, I became so excited when I saw folks like Dave Fitch and Scot McKnight talking about initial meetings to form a new coalition of some kind, one that would give support, resourcing, and legitimacy to a missional evangelicalism beyond the conservative and liberal options. A new, missional, anabaptist evangelicalism. I was so happy I was not alone in my wandering.
Missio Alliance is the fruit of those initial conversations, and a response to the desperate need faced by many (like me) to find support for the kind of church, mission, and ministry God has called us to.
Dwell may be done, but I cannot wait to be inspired and resourced with fresh vision for the season ahead.
All for the inbreaking kingdom, the church of witness, and the mission of God.
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