Thin Places by Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley
I saw the marketing table set up at the Sentralized Conference in Kansas City. I’d never heard of Jon Huckins (which is fine, I’m sure he’d never heard of me either), and I hadn’t heard of this book. But with a title like Thin Places: 6 Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community, how could I not be intrigued?
I began digging for my wallet as soon as I read the back cover…”Joining the concepts of monasticism and mission, authors Jon Huckins and Rob Yackley will walk you through the six postures of missional formation: listening, submerging, inviting, contending, imagining, and entrusting.”
Missional Monks unite!!
Yes, I confess that I was hooked by keyword marketing…but I’m not sorry. I encourage you to check out the NieuCommunities website to learn more about these folks and their ongoing task of cultivating missional disciples in monastic community. This book does an excellent job of combining clear reasoning and instruction with well told narratives of a life lived in community with others. It doesn’t cut corners to paint a utopian picture; it doesn’t hold back from the messiness and struggle involved.
The six postures the book describes are more than “keys to missional effectiveness.” They describe an intentionality in rhythm and structure that facilitates community, missional engagement, spiritual formation and growth. An excellent treatise against any who would claim that structure stifles the movement of the Spirit, this book describes how the members of NieuCommunities are more attuned to the moment precisely because of the rhythms and postures they’ve adopted.
The Six Postures
Living as a community of Jesus’s apprentices who are being formed and seeking to form others, it is imperative for us to enter the path of formation by listening to God through our communities (both intentional and local contexts) and ourselves. As a missional community seeking to engage our local contexts with the good news of Jesus, we choose to view our neighborhoods and our cities as our classrooms. (p 32)
When we give ourselves fully to God, we begin to see and experience the dynamic mystery and identity of one who is inviting us into his story. When we give ourselves to each other, we begin to realize that relationships are designed to be much more than talks about the weather or to be used for personal gain. When we submerge into our context, we see that the story we have been told to believe about our neighbors, politics, and economy is far from reality. (p 48)
Practicing the postures of listening and then submerging into our context prepares us to engage the third posture – inviting – with softer hearts and more intimate understanding. In the inviting posture, we learn to tell our stories, tell the story of God, and invite those with whom we have come into relationship into both. People are invited into our lives and faith journey by being welcomed into our homes, small groups, community meals, and worship gatherings. (p 66)
The problem [with issues of injustice in the world] is that they can be so overwhelming that we choose to simply go about our routines and ignore the areas of brokenness and injustice that surround us. However, while simply ignoring those who are in need is tempting and far too culturally acceptable, our role as God’s people is to step into these stories and contend for those who are broken, hurting, and alone. We are to be the manifestation of the good news brought about with the arrival of God’s kingdom. (p 86)
The imagining posture is not one of fairy tales and science fiction. There are no glass slippers or alternate realities. The divine imagination allows us to see things as they really are – to engage reality in the way Jesus desired when he announced a new kingdom and a new way of life…In this posture we desire to discern God’s call on our lives, to live into our role as co-creators, and to see in our mind’s eye the kind of transformational faith community God wants us to pursue. (p 115-116)
When we catch a vision of what God has for his people, we can’t help but entrust ourselves to it by stepping forward as sent ones. In this posture, we desire to entrust people to God, celebrate their new or renewed understanding of God’s call on their lives, and lean confidently into the future. Without sending, our transformation is incomplete: it is where everything falls into place, and it moves us from speaking about it to living it out. (p 132-133)
Some things stand out as one progresses through the list of postures. Firstly, “posture” is a very appropriate term. A book written from other contexts might refer to values, practices, characteristics, keys, etc.
The reason posture is so powerful is that it simultaneously conveys both reflection and action. An intentional posture allows for both giving and receiving while simultaneously conveying a sense of readiness and anticipation. And it also reminds us that our structures and practices serve our calling and mission – not the other way around.
The stories of how these postures find expression in the real, actual lives of real, actual people in a real, actual community are really what set this book apart from many others. Stories of risk, adventure, transformation are set in an astoundingly normal – and yet profoundly abnormal – landscape. Look long enough and you’ll see that the extraordinary actually resides just below the surface of the mundane…the same mundane that too often slips by unnoticed outside each of our doors.
NieuCommunities is described as a community of discipleship and disciple training. Far from the inwardly-focused approach often found in churches, people are equipped for ministry in the neighborhood, in order to serve wherever they may go – not to simply for the self-preservation of the local system. Apprentices are given a chance to experience community, cultivate spiritual disicplines and missional engagement, and receive coaching/spiritual direction along the way. Rather than trying to hoard all these gifted people in one place, NieuCommunities celebrates occasions when these apprentices are sent out by the Holy Spirit to listen and submerge into new contexts, contend with new issues, imagine and invite new possibilities and entrust themselves to God’s outcomes.
After reading the book, I sent author Jon Huckins a few questions/reactions. I’ll share these in my next post.
Have you still not picked up a copy of this book? Seriously? Click the image below and the magic of the interweb will take you to Amazon. A few clicks more and a kindly delivery person will bring it to your house…and there will much rejoicing throughout the land.
Posted on December 3, 2012, in book review, Missional and tagged attractional church, book review, church planting, Jon Huckins, missional, missional monastic, new monasticism, Thin Places. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.