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May 20, 2003

Local Focus

One of the few decisions we've made in terms of who can be a part of the Living Room is that we strongly desire all participants to live in our local area. The criteria is that people live within a bike ride of the rest of the group. (I looked on the map yesterday and we all live within 4-5kms of each other - so its not extremely localised) We've already been approached by a number of Christian people outside this area who have expressed interest in joining us who we've suggested we may not be the best community for them while they live where they do.

Our reasoning for this localised focus is twofold.

Firstly, we believe it will help build community. Journeying together is one of our three core journeys and so we desire to be involved in each others lives on a week to week and even day to day basis. Living in the same neighbourhoods should help in this.

Secondly, we hope it will help us in another of our core journey's - that of the 'outward journey' where we desire to impact our community. Its our desire to make a difference to the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne and think that that can be done best by people living there. Incarnation might be the missiological word, we just think it makes sense.

One of the dangers I have seen with other new forms of church is that they can attract alot of 'tourists' who travel in from other areas to be a part of the 'latest new thing' but who have little committment to stay for the long haul. I wonder if a more local focus will limit this?

I'm interested to hear what others think about having a localised focus? What are the advantages and disadvantages that you see in this? What is your experience of it?

Posted by Darren at May 20, 2003 09:03 AM

let me be provactive.

what's wrong with tourism? there are a number of types of tourism, from sheer voyeurism, to a desire to learn, to a desire to convert. surely if the task of the church is to serve the world, then tourists should be welcome.

secondly, city's work by car, not by bike. relationships work by car, not by bike. isn't local community going against the way city's work?


Posted by: steve at May 20, 2003 10:38 AM

Hmmmmm. I tend to echoe Steve's comments, but also to affirm the importance of local engagement/mission. I'd also want ot affirm what I read as a desire for stability - a stable, deepening community. It's a real point of tension: "tourism" / stability - with community existing somewhere in between those realities...

Posted by: Paul at May 20, 2003 02:51 PM

I could see the value in the bike-ride idea. If I understand it, you're trying to avoid the tourism of consumerism and especially in the early stage those people can frustrate what God wants to do. Of course, tourists may come from your local area as well.

Less than half of our small faith community lives within a "bike-ride." The rest are 20-40 minutes drive away. It makes spontaneous interaction a challenge and I think we really miss something because of it. On the other hand, I've often asked, "what is my greater community? What is the the world to which I'm called to journey with?" Is it the people I deal with every day through work? (Many of them live 20, 30 or even 100's of kilometres away.) Is it the other parents and teachers at my child's school? (Many of them live 20-30 minutes drive away.) Or is it the people who live close to me? (Many of them work and have social circles that extend 20-50 kms.)

Posted by: ronz at May 20, 2003 04:23 PM

I like the idea of a local community. There once was a time when everyone could walk to their church. I think it is unrealistic to expect that sort of locality these days.

But at the same time, my extra-church interactions are predominantly local - I go to the local supermarket, the local video store, the local movie theatre, the local cafe.

The only thing that I don't do locally is work. And I would prefer my church to be more a part of all of those other types of interactions than it is similar to my job.

I think that people not being local shouldn't disqualify them from being a part of a community. However, I think that it adds a great deal if they are local.

We have some church members who travel a fair way, but we have also suggested to others that our church may not be the place for them. In those cases it wasn't simple geography, but more the fact that those people retained extensive church and social networks in their own local community and in some cases were anticipating leaving a church community to come to us.

I think the important aspect for me is that the church becomes a central part of their community, rather than just an "add-on" or a weekly obligation.

Posted by: dan at May 20, 2003 04:56 PM

There's something to that phrase 'journeying together.' I also like the saying 'it takes a village.' I know I and other single parents have a need for a local 'village.' It is hard to barter and support each other with things like child care, practical around the house kind of help, just plain old support, when you live miles apart. I've had friends at church who, if it weren't for the 45 min. drive with all of it's stops and starts, would have done much, much more to support each other and share in one another's lives. I guess it all depends on the level of intimacy and commitment God is calling you to.

Posted by: Laura at May 20, 2003 11:05 PM

You're test comment. If only I had something controversial to say.

Posted by: chris at May 23, 2003 10:37 AM

One of the things that your approach can deliver is a sense of village connection. The irony of our suburban nuclear family existance is the deminishing sense of belonging to a community. This social isolation has direct impact on psychological wellbeing. The cultivation of a sense of belonging, in a physical sense, to a community is invaluable.

Posted by: chris at May 23, 2003 10:48 AM
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