Sunday, October 25, 2020

What Might God Stir "Underground" in Wormtown?

What if more and more Underground People embodied Jesus' Words, Works, and Ways in Worcester (aka Wormtown), Massachusetts in 2020 and the years to come?

In the midst of Emmaus City's journey of being a people who follow Jesus together and share and show His Good News in Worcester, there have been three churches of missional communities we continue to learn from along the way. 

One is Missio Dei Communities in Phoenix, Arizona (you can find links to notes from our time in Soma School with them here), and another is East End Fellowship in Richmond, Virginia (you can learn more about East End's story here).

The other is the Underground in Tampa, Florida. The Underground pursues innovative ideas and deep servant leadership encouragement, equipping, and community. If you make the time, there is a 30+ minute documentary about their beginnings called Underground People on Vimeo. You can also read more about their story in Brian Sanders' books, Underground Church and MicrochurchesWith the Underground, their mission is to:

+ Inspire people to surrender all their lives to Jesus and His cause;
+ Connect individuals into communities who do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, each other, and their neighbors; 
+ Empower new communities to discover and obey their God-given mission; and
+ Engage every kind of evil in their towns or cities with prayerful action.

I would love to see this come alive in Worcester (maybe we would call it Wormtown Underground to honor Worcester's historic moniker) with missional communities (i.e. people who follow Jesus together going, serving, learning, sharing and showing His Good News, and loving their neighbors together in community in the nooks, crannies, and alcoves of Worcester) across denominations and parishes multiplying throughout our beloved city. 

One of the reasons I'm praying and asking that this would happen is because of the Underground's Manifesto or Values (see image above and list below) that drive how they walk by faith (for the wicked deep dive, you can check out the 18 Underground Manifesto talks, 1 video for each value). 

Below are descriptions for each of the 18 values followed by a collection of Bible verses and links related to each value. In many ways, they are an elaboration of Emmaus City Church's Values and complement the 13 Marks of a Faithful Missional Church we aim to embody from Michael Goheen's A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story. With these values held and embodied, people who follow Jesus in Worcester would grow into and take on:

+ Practical Dreamers 
+ Experimentation 
+ Unity & Diversity (Respect & Missional Priority)
+ Embodied Protest (Prophetic & Personal) 
+ Humility & Confidence (Submission) 
+ Passion & Suffering Love

I invite you to read, pray, and consider if you would affirm these values rooted in the Holy Scriptures linked to below. If the values and passages of the Bible resonate with you and you start to get excited, please reach out to me. I'd love to hear what God is stirring in you for the love of your neighbors in the Worcester County area, and ultimately, for the life of the world and the awe, obedience, worship, and love of Jesus.

Underground Manifesto or Values

| 1 | Jesus | The way of Jesus is our way. Before and in all things we value Jesus as the image of the invisible God. We long to worship Jesus by imitating his life and ministry. Both our theology and praxis is relentlessly Christological. He is our model, mentor, hero, mediator, savior, judge, king and ruler of all. All of our values flow from what we understand about His character, concerns, and the practices of His ministry (Matthew 28:19; John 1:3, 13:15, 14:6, 17:18; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:22-23; Philippians 2:5; Colossians 1:15-20, 2:9, 3:17; Hebrews 1:3, 12:2; Ephesians 5:1-2John 13:14-15; Acts 26:16; Romans 1:4; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25; Acts 4:12; Titus 3:6; Romans 2:16; John 9:39; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 1:5, 19:16; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 17:14).

| 2 | The Poor | We will remember the poor because we believe that God does. We believe that they are central to His mission in the world. It is our conviction that God is always on the side of those who have no one on their side. For that reason we believe the Church should also stand on the side of the poor, and in so doing stand in solidarity with the heart and work of God. Jesus’ own ministry is our model. We welcome all people but prioritize the poor in our ministry concern, allocation of resources and advocacy. We do this, not because the rich and middle class are less important to God, but because they already have access to resources and are able to advocate their own cause. It is our belief that the Church should therefore prioritize and remember those who have less, and access to less, so that in all things there might be equality (Deuteronomy 15:7, 11; Psalm 82:3, 140:12; Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 61:1; Jeremiah 8:21, 22:16; Matthew 11:5, 25:40; Mark 2:17; Luke 4:18, 6:20, 7:22, 14:23, 18:22; 2 Corinthians 8:9, 13; Galatians 2:10).

| 3 | The Lost | We value lost people because they are spiritually poor. We believe the Good News of the Kingdom is the most important commodity with which the Church and the people of God have been entrusted. For this reason we will engage the lost. We believe that the Church should not expect lost people to come and find them, but that we are called and sent to “seek and save that which was lost”. Again, we will emphasize the life and ministry of Jesus by prioritizing those who have not yet heard and believed the Good News. This is our first and most important task, even in our ministry to the poor and the lost (who could be considered the spiritually poor). They are our first concern (Genesis 22:17-18; Matthew 4:23, 10:7, 18:14, 28:19; Mark 13:10; Luke 15:4, 6, 19:10, 24:46-47; Acts 1:8, 10:42; Romans 10:14-15, 15:20).

| 4 | The Whole World | While we understand that our most transforming ministry will take place where we are planted and in our own city, we commit ourselves to the mission of God to reach the whole world. We believe that Jesus came as the Savior, not of one people, but of the whole world. We value the world because we believe that God is a global God. We assume responsibility for the world, not because we believe we can reach it alone, but because we accept the mandate of the great commission and the heart of God to love and sacrifice for the discipleship of the whole world. We accept this apostolic mandate to send and be sent into every part of the world and our place in partnership with the global church (Psalm 22:27, 24:1; Isaiah 41:9; Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15; John 1:29, 3:16-17, 4:42, 6:33, 51, 8:12, 12:46-47, 17:21; Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:2, 4:14; Revelation 14:6).

| 5 | Culture + Ethnicity | Similarly, we affirm that every culture and ethnicity, while imperfect, reflects the mosaic of God’s own image and together we better glorify and serve the God of creation. We value every people, language and culture in our city and in the world. We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ was meant to demonstrate the power of the Gospel through reconciliation, unity, and the beauty of a multi-ethnic community. For that reason we do not just admire multi-ethnic communities, but purpose to become one. We do not believe in being color blind. Rather, we hope to accept and include the beauty and wisdom of every culture in our city and in our communities (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 67:2-3; Isaiah 56:7; Daniel 7:13-14; Joel 2:28; Haggai 2:7; Malachi 1:11; John 17:20-22; Acts 10:34-35, 17:26-27; Romans 14:11, 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Ephesians 2:14-22; Philippians 2:10-11; Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9, 14:6).

| 6 | Contextualization | We will not trust in franchising or empire building through paradigm propagation. Rather we will value the empowerment of every microchurch community to contextualize the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel to the people they hope to reach. Our paradigm is that there is no one paradigm. We believe in contextualized structures with revolutionary content. Learning from the ministry of Jesus we will not try to bring surface transformation (to culture or structures) but rather contextualize our structures to what people can and will understand, so that the revolutionary message of the kingdom and the liberating work of the Holy Spirit will be received (John 1:14; Acts 16:3, 17:22-23; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, 9:19-23, 10:32-33Philippians 2:5-8 [the passages of the ministry of Jesus and his parables are all examples of contextualization]).

| 7 | Zeal + Contemplation | We will value the paradox of exuberance and zeal in worship, community life, and evangelism while at the same time whole heartedly pursuing the rhythm and profound importance of silence and solitude for personal contemplation and rest. We affirm seasons of zeal and charismatic expression of the greatness and majesty of God along with seasons of silence and stillness before God. We value each and both together. We hope for a fusion of the two in a life of zeal, lived ablaze and unashamed for God, and contemplation, lived in deep awareness and quiet appreciation for God (Zeal: Psalm 47:5, 98:4; Isaiah 42:13; Matthew 17:5; Romans 12:11; Titus 2:14 | Contemplation: Psalm 46:10, 48:9, 95:6; Matthew 11:28-30Mark 6:31; John 10:27; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:2; 1 Peter 1:13).

| 8 | Simplicity | We commit to live a life free from clutter and the allure of materialism. We affirm that every believer and every community of believers has a responsibility to renounce the sins of its own people. As North Americans we renounce the slavery and idolatry of materialism by embracing a simple lifestyle. We do not believe that money or things are in themselves evil or to be avoided, but that the love of money and things is one of the greatest perils facing western Christianity in our time. We willingly use material things and wealth for the service of the Kingdom, but not for personal fulfillment or inappropriate luxury. In so doing we again value the poor who have less, justice in living for equality and personal holiness in pursuing a whole hearted devotion to God (Ecclesiastes 5:10; Matthew 6:19, 24, 26, 10:10; Mark 4:19, 12:43; Luke 9:3, 12:15, 33; 1 Timothy 6:7, Hebrews 13:5).

| 9 | Sharing + Giving | Because we value community and simplicity, we commit ourselves to both sharing and giving. We will share because it promotes relationship and breaks the bondage of possessiveness. We believe the western doctrine of personal property is imperfect and needs to be tempered with the more biblical value of generosity and sacrifice. In sharing what we have with others we confess that God is the true owner and that we are only stewards in His vineyard. We will also give, because in giving we destroy the grip of materialism over our hearts because we release the resource, wealth, or possession completely into the control of another. For that reason we will pursue relentless generosity and the holding of all things in common. For this reason we encourage our people to give as often and as generously as they can, and to consider themselves stewards of the rest. Likewise, the collective finances of the Church and ministries should set an example in this regard (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 25:40; Luke 3:11; Acts 4:32, 20:35; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9:10-13, 8:13; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:18; 1 John 3:17).

| 10 | Each Other | We commit ourselves to each other. We believe that God calls us into his mission together, never alone. We value mission and ministry done in community. We believe that God did not intend for us to be alone, and that isolation, fear of each other, and spiritual competition are cancers in the church. We believe that moral and theological failures, controlling leadership, and many of our emotional struggles stem from a lack of community. We value free, committed and loving friendship. Whenever possible we will lead through teams and the sharing of life at every level with trusted friends who are an extension of the grace and presence of God in our lives (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; Matthew 18:20; John 15:13; Acts 2:44; Romans 12:4-8, 10, 13:8, 15:7; 1 Corinthians 10:24; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:11-13, 5:21; Philippians 2:3-4; Hebrews 3:15, 10:24-25, 6:10-11; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 3:16, 7-12; Revelation 4:10-11).

| 11 | Kingdom Mission | We will do mission because we are sent people. We believe that the Church is not the Church until she is engaged in the mission for which God has called her into His marvelous light. We crave healing, discipleship and intimacy with God. But we believe that all of these things come in large part through obedience to the mission. We believe that healing comes through offering healing to others, that discipleship does not primarily take place in a lecture but through doing. We believe that intimacy with God comes from being in His presence and through submission to His will, by doing what He is doing. Since we believe that the life of Jesus and the early Church demonstrate that God Himself is with the lost and the poor of the earth, proclaiming the Good News of His Kingdom, we also believe that when we co-labor with Him as workers in that harvest field, we not only bring the Kingdom into that place, but that we also experience the deepest and truest intimacy with God (Psalm 51:10-13; Isaiah 58:6-8; Matthew 9:35-38, 25:40, 28:18-20; Mark 1:14-15, 38; Luke 4:18-21; John 4:34-35, 6:27, 9:4, 12:26, 15:9-10, 17:18; Acts 1:8; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:17, 23; 1 John 3:18; 1 Peter 2:9).

| 12 | Humility | We commit to pursue humility as one of the chief virtues. We expect it in leadership, in community and relationships, in our theology, in the contextualization of our mission, in our prayer, and even in our appraisal of ourselves and others. We are convinced that humility is necessary for following Jesus as an individual and as an organization. In individuals we hope for humility in all our relationships and leadership roles. As an organization we hope to be a flexible learning organization, looking always to refine our commitments and expand our understanding and revelation of God and His call upon us. We believe in the living prophetic word of God, that it can be heard and obeyed, yet we also believe that we are flawed listeners and should always listen and follow with humility (Psalm 25:9, 51:17, 147:6, 149:4; Proverbs 11:2, 18:12, 22:4; Ecclesiastes 5:2; Isaiah 29:19, 57:15, 66:2; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:3, 11:29, 18:3-4, 20:26, 23:12; Luke 1:52, 6:20, 10:21, 14:10, 17:10, 18:13-14, 22:26-27; John 13:14; Romans 11:20, 12:3, 16; 1 Corinthians 1:28, 3:18, 10:12, 13:4; 2 Corinthians 11:30, 12:6, 10; Galatians 5:26, 6:14; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3-11; Colossians 3:12; James 1:9, 3:1, 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 3:8, 5:5-6).

| 13 | Biblical Justice | We will live for the biblical concept of justice. We have to take a prophetic stand against all kinds of evil, not only spiritual, but also societal. All sin and injustice is the enemy of the church and the kingdom of God. The search for the Kingdom of God is also a search for justice. They are the same longing. In the kingdom we find ultimate justice, and biblical justice is more than just punishment for wrongdoing and oppression, it is also the restoration of wholeness, equality, and peace between people and with God. Our value of justice is a call to seek the welfare of every person in our city and in the world that we can influence. It is to hope and work for the kingdom of God to come to bear on the place where we are. For that reason, our value of justice will mean action in the places where we have power, as well as the pursuit of justice in the proclamation of the Kingdom wherever we have voice (Psalm 9:8, 96:10; Proverbs 31:9; Isaiah 1:15-17, 56:1; Jeremiah 29:7; Ezekiel 34:16; Hosea 12:6; Amos 5:15, 24; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:6, 6:10, 33, 12:18, 18:5, 25:40; Luke 11:42, 18:7-8, 19:8-10; John 2:14-17; Acts 6:1-6; Ephesians 6:12; James 1:27; 1 John 3:17-18).

| 14 | Passion | With Jesus as our model, we want our lives to be characterized by passion. In the most surface sense it means that we should be moved by our relationship with God, and maintain a high level of dedication in all we do for Him. In a deeper sense it means that we value suffering and sacrifice. We see Jesus’ willingness to suffer for the lost and the hopeless as a model for all who would come after Him, and that we likewise are to take up our cross and to walk the way of suffering. Not seeking pain or persecution, but not shrinking back from it either. We are convinced that the clearest expression of the Gospel is love, and that love is forever re-defined by Jesus in His death for us. We value the kind of radical faith that expects every believer to be ready and willing to suffer and sacrifice for Jesus, His name and His Kingdom. We realize that this value is not mainstream, and that it contradicts the cultural current of prosperity and the idea that in all things God wants to give us personal success. We denounce this idea and affirm that the kingdom will not be built through selfish ambition, but through passionate, sacrificial love (Psalm 63:1; Matthew 10:22, 16:24-25, 26:38-39; Romans 5:3, 8:18; Luke 9:61-62, 14:27; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Ephesians 5:1-2; Philippians 2:3, 3:10; Colossians 1:24, 3:17, 23; 2 Timothy 2:3, 3:12-15; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 John 2:17, 3:16).

| 15 | Prayer + Dependence on God | We commit ourselves to live a life of prayer because we believe that only God can accomplish what He calls us to do and that God should receive the glory. For this reason, we believe the Church should be committed to night and day pray for the world, the coming of the Kingdom and a deeper revelation of God. Without prayer and dependence on God for all things we are destined to either fail or become conceited in our success. We value constant prayer because we desire to know God, to deepen our understanding and revelation of his love for us and the world. We value prayer because we believe we are all called to the ministry of intercession and we want to see His Kingdom come. We believe that can only happen if we ask the Lord of the harvest to send us and other laborers in to the harvest field (2 Chronicles 7:14; Ezra 8:23; Psalm 17:6, 91:1-2; Isaiah 26:9; Jeremiah 29:12; Matthew 6:9-13, 6:33, 9:38; Mark 1:35; Luke 11:9-13, 18:1-7; Acts 2:42, 6:4; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; I Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Hebrews 5:7; James 5:13-16; 1 Peter 4:7; Jude 20).

| 16 | Microchurches (Missional Communities or City Groups) | We affirm microchurch as the most basic expression of the Church and therefore, our ecclesiology is simple. When believers work together in sincere worship, and genuine community to accomplish a part of the mission of God, they are the Church. Worship, community and mission then are the ecclesial minimum. We encourage biblically appointed leadership, sacramental worship, the pursuit of the gifts of the Spirit and giving, but these are desired and not required to be considered a microchurch (missional community or City Group). We believe that these churches also need the larger network, leadership and resources of the city-wide Church to strengthen, empower and help direct the microchurch expression. We gather for worship, training, and as leadership primarily to strengthen and supply the microchurches in their labor to obey Jesus and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to their mission field. We believe the larger Church expression exists to serve the smaller and not the other way around (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 10:1; John 4:23; Acts 2:42-47, 4:24, 31, 6:3-4, 6, 14:23, 16:4-5, 20:20; Romans 15:5-6, 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 1 Corinthians 14:26, 16:19; Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 3:16, 4:15; 1 Timothy 3:2-7; Hebrews 6:10-11, 10:24-25; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6).

| 17 | The Bible | We trust the authority, reliability and truth of all Scripture. In humility, we acknowledge we do not fully understand God and the world He made. For that reason we rely on the Bible to be the rule of our faith, teaching us what we do not know, challenging and leading us away from our misconceptions, self deceptions, and convenient ideas about life and God. We don’t choose the parts of the Bible we prefer or want to believe, obey or understand; instead we submit to all of Scripture believing it reveals the Truth that is beyond us. We believe that Jesus is the Word of God and for that reason we don’t just obey Scripture, we love it. Because, like a mirror it shows us who we really are, and like a window it opens our lives to the beauty, wonder, and love of the God we long to know (Deuteronomy 4:10; 2 Samuel 7:28, 22:31; Psalm 18:30; Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 4:4, 22:29; Luke 8:21, 11:28, 24:32; John 1:1-17, 5:24, 39, 8:51; Acts 8:35, 18:11; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 3:16; Colossians 1:25, 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Peter 3:15-16; 1 John 2:5; Revelation 3:8, 19:9).

| 18 | Empowerment | We affirm the priesthood of all believers. We affirm that each person who has given their life in surrender to Jesus and His cause has a unique calling from Jesus to fulfill in mission and in the Church. We believe that this is only possible by the Spirit of God living in and working through each and every believer. It is the Spirit of God that empowers. Therefore we work towards empowering each and every believer to hear and fulfill the calling of Jesus on their life. This value of empowerment is expressed in all spiritual gifts and callings for all people regardless of race, gender or age for the sake of Jesus’ mission and for the equipping of all believers towards their maturity (Matthew 4:18-20, 10:1-15; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 4:18-19, 6:12-16, 11:13; John 14:26-27, 15:1-4, 26-27, 20:22; Acts 2:1-4, 4:29-31, 6:3; Romans 8:9-11, 15-17, 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 9-16, 12, 14:1, 16:19; Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 4:11-13, 10; 1 Timothy 1:18-19; 2 Timothy 1:7, 4:19; James 4:10; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Jude 20-21; Revelation 1:5-6).

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan 

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