What would it look like if followers of Jesus began to live out their identity of BEING the Church instead of merely ATTENDING a church?
We began as a small group of people honestly asking that question of ourselves. As we looked at the story of God's people, we saw that they were called by him to be his own special family and then sent by him to be on his mission. We determined to live our lives as "called" and "sent" ones who express (through actions and words) the good news of God among the people and city of Tacoma. Our hope was that God would use us to bring restoration to all things and see relationships restored in this city and to God the Father.
After about a year of learning, listening and preparation we sent several of our people out to start the first 4 Missional Communities in their own neighborhoods. Along the way we continued to ask the question, "What does the good news of Jesus Christ look like to the people we live with and love?" And, "How should we live so they can also experience God's love?" This has led us to serve our community in ways that show what God is really like - to display his image and love to everyone. We began to teach people about their new identity in Jesus Christ: because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and the new life given to us by his Spirit we are God’s Family, Missionaries, Servants and Learners. We wanted to make sure our DOING comes out of our BEING, not the other way around.
We also realized that many people, rightly or wrongly motivated, also did not know how to live out the mission of the gospel in the everyday stuff of life. This led us to work out what we call the Rhythms: Storyformed, Listen, Celebrate, Bless, Eat and ReCreate. We began training people in how their new identity informs how they work out the gospel in these everyday rhythms. This led to a greater effectiveness in our Missional Communities’ ministry and mission as they continued to reach more people and multiply… 4 to 8… 8 to 16…16 to 24… 24 to 40… and to the formation of new churches with elders appointed to oversee their everyday mission.
God drew other churches to join us (Pneuma, The Sound, Harambee) and eventually we changed the name from Soma Church to Soma Communities in light of the fact that we were no longer just one expression of the church in Tacoma but One Body, Many Expressions of the church spread throughout the Greater Puget Sound. We had become one growing church with many different forms and locations.
The invitation to live out this calling is going out to many in our cities and around the world. Some are just starting to spend time with Soma in community and check out the claims and life of Jesus. Others have spent years "going to church" and enjoy spending time each week attending a "worship service." Some feel they have been-there, done-that and are looking to be a part of a new, fresher expression of the Church. In each case, we have called people to biblical faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and to live a life as called ones who have now embraced God's mission of restoration and love. By God’s grace, our family is growing as we see more and more people coming to faith in Jesus.