I recently came upon this blog post at “The Forgotten Ways Blog.” You can read the whole post here: http://www.theforgottenways.org/blog/2008/12/07/the-bible-and-communitas/
The part that caught my attention was his further explanation of communitas and liminality, concepts he develops in the book The Forgotten Ways and also addresses in his blog. A short definition of communitas is “the belonging which develops while being on a difficult mission with a community of friends.” A short definition of liminality is “working from the margins as opposed to working from within the power structures.”
This claim that communitas and liminality are normative for God’s people recently stirred up a bit of a storm in a recent speaking tour. Some people in the audience responded with real vehemence when Michael Frost and I proposed this way of understanding of Christian community. This negative response forced a deep reflection on the validity of these ideas but after much searching I have to say that I have not fundamentally changed my mind. On the contrary, this clash in conceptions in relation to the purpose of the church has forced me to conclude that for many of our critics, Christian community has become little more than a quiet and reflective soul-space (as in Alt Worship circles) or a spiritual buzz (as in Charismatic circles) for people trying to recuperate from an overly busy, consumerist, lifestyle. But is this really what the church is meant to be on about? Is this our grand purpose, to be a sort of refuge for recovering work addicts and experience junkies? A sort of spiritual hospital? I believe that the reason for the strong response in our critics is that they actually did ‘get the message’ about missional church but didn’t like it because, in this case, it called them out of a religion of quiet moments in quiet places and into liminality and engagement.
Lord, help us to take on the difficult missions into which You call us knowing that You are our strength and salvation.