The mission of Mill City Church is “to love our community in the name of Jesus.”
This is a reflection of our calling to participate in God’s mission by being the church. Loving our community and serving northeast Minneapolis is the natural result of this. It all starts with listening. We listen to God, and one another, and our community so that we can know what God is already doing, what he’s “up to.” We know that God is already at work in the world- in NE Minneapolis and in all of our workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods. Our job is to discern, together, what he’s doing so that we can join in. We’re constantly asking ourselves “What is God up to?” and “How should we respond?” This “divine detective work” has led us to a few conclusions so far.
We think that God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in part because God is love, and love is something you do. So we know that because God is love in God’s self, God’s mission in the world has to do with redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of the right, loving relationships we were made for. We’re learning that God’s mission to set the world right- to restore those right relationships between humanity and God and with one another and even with creation itself- means that we most faithfully participate in that mission by doing so together.
The church is a people, not a place. So based on our size you might not expect that we would have five pastors, but we do. We’re committed to team leadership. Jesus is our leader, of course, but we can’t follow him very well if we don’t pay attention again to what he’s up to in the world and listen to one another. Our pastors then model among themselves the loving relationships and mutual discernment- the listening to God and one another- that we are all called to be a part of and to do. They don’t simply do all this good listening and loving for us, however. They do it with us as they lead and equip the rest of us to do this good listening and loving too.
A commitment to being the church together means that we sometimes make other counterintuitive decisions. As one of our pastors said:
“We meet on Sundays in a public school, like many new churches. Despite the expectation of many that we will move into a worship space we own, we have decided to stay in the school for as long as we can because of the relationship it fosters between the church community and the school. This means forfeiting the comforts of our own space for the sake of relationship.”
There’s a lot we’ll give up for the sake of relationship. We’re learning that as Leslie Newbigin and others have said, we (the church) “exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society.” There’s a lot to unpack there but we take it to mean that because God is for us, we are for one another. We’re not a social club. We’re not here for ourselves and our own betterment. We’re here for you. That’s why you can’t join Mill City Church by simply taking a class and agreeing to certain beliefs. We don’t invite you to join our institution. We invite you to join the covenant we share together. We invite you to join the life we’re having together. Again, it’s about being a people on a mission- together.
Thus, the primary way we organize ourselves and our life together is through missional communities. For us, this isn’t about hopping on the bandwagon of the latest church fad. It’s about being true to who we are. We’re the church. We’re the people God is gathering to be his hands and feet in the world as we love our community in his name. So we have missional communities that love and welcome refugees, that love and welcome Chinese students at the U of M, that love and welcome people experiencing homelessness, and that love and welcome our Latino friends and neighbors. We have a missional community that is committed to racial reconciliation and justice. Another one is committed to closing educational gaps in our city. Several are neighborhood focused. One is focused on loving and welcoming those caught up in the sex industry in our city. Another is committed to hospitality, to the act of loving and welcoming itself. The list goes on. All of them, however, are focused on responding to Jesus’ invitation to join him in his ministry of reconciliation by being reconciled to God and one another in deeply meaningful ways.
Missional communities are missional. They’re again about listening to what God is up to already and responding as best we can. And missional communities are communities. Filled with God’s love for us, we love one another, especially our local neighbors who have experienced oppression and injustice.
Robert is an avid blogger. He, his wife Kirsten, and their kids Sam and Nathan have been a part of Mill City for 3 months. They participate in Restore Community, a Mill City missional community. We are very grateful they have joined with Mill City in participating with what God is doing!