The Common Ground Church (CGC)
equips people for a fulfilling, just life
in the manner and values of Jesus.
Our purpose is rooted in Jesus’ invitation,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, the Message)
From what does Jesus offer rest? What life can we recover? What are the unforced rhythms of grace? To whom is this invitation made?
In another translation of this passage, Jesus is inviting folks to find “rest for your souls.” The invitation is to a life of meaning and healing rooted in promise. In this sense, Jesus is for you! Does this mean Jesus is concerned with only individual salvation? What does this life Jesus offers have to do with healing the Earth and all interconnected life, e.g., soul, societies and the soil? (Hint: Everything!)
Common Ground Church is a practicing Christian community that came into being in part to answer these questions together with ordinary, everyday people. We believe that ordinary, everyday people in their ordinary, everyday lives matter to God and that a fulfilling, just life in the manner and values of Jesus is inseparable from some form of practicing community.
Points of Clarification about the Purpose Statement:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Grace…Though not explicitly stated in the purpose statement, the Gospel is good news precisely because it communicates Christ for you, for me and the whole of the interconnected life we call Earth. Everything that follows, including Common Ground’s purpose statement and contextualized sense of mission, is response to God’s continuing creative, just love for human beings and the world. Our motivation, sense of purpose, vocation, vision, values, and muddling attempts at fulfilling our calling are rooted in the reality of God’s unmerited grace for all human beings.
People…individuals or groups? Yes. People was used to hold together persons and personhood within the larger fabric of human and earthly community. This includes friendship, family, workplace, group affiliation, and local, global, national and global citizenship. Whatever messaging we’ve inherited and been conditioned to believe about Christianity and the community that promotes it, i.e., the church, it’s at its base a spirituality of persons within practicing community for the whole of human society and the Earth.
A fulfilling, just life…How do we interpret that end? It might look different for persons motivated by power over others or a monolithic human society conforming to strict religious ideas versus persons yearning for healing of past trauma and grief or valuing diverse, creative expression, right? There is a wide, even oppositional, spectrum of political and social views, along with hidden assumptions about life, existing in people self-identifying as Christian and claiming Jesus as justification for their stance on anything.
Within the constellation of human relationships exists norms, expectations, assumptions, power dynamics, hopes, myths, narratives – including powerful ideological “ism’s” – operating both consciously and subconsciously in people. As stated above, these motivating, relational energies and cognitive biases are not uniform across persons, groups and societies. Even what constitutes basic necessities for human life: clean air and water, nutritious food, secure housing, accessible healthcare and education, meaningful work, and safety, lacks consensus in society and the political sphere.
No matter what, people yearn for some kind of fulfilling life which may or may not have any connection to whether others are fulfilled in the process, i.e., justice for all. A fulfilling life within our understanding of God’s hope for the world is more expansive than just what any one of us may want or “seeking” for ourselves and our family, tribe, nation, or even species.
How might we understand a fulfilling, just life in the manner and values of Jesus? We assume that it is rooted in the manner and values of Jesus beyond the confines of our individual personal pieties, nostalgia, and ethnic identities or just when we show up in a building dedicated for Christian worship. Instead, it is life in a manner that liberates us to see Jesus in ourselves and neighbor, in our homes and our neighborhoods, the Creation and even our “enemies.” (Regarding “enemies,” check out this perspective on “us” versus “them” thinking from neuroscientist, Robert Sapolsky.)
How do we practice a fulfilling, just life? Rather than attempt to rigidly align ourselves with everything that we might consider Jesus’ manner and values, we emphasize attunement with the triune God (an embodied, communal understanding of who God is, with and for).
Focusing on attunement rather than just alignment reminds us that our spiritual means of connecting with God, the cosmos and earthly creation, including our neighbor, is, in fact, through our bodies and distributed and extended nervous systems. Our human bodies and relationships are means of grace. The Earth, our school districts, neighborhoods, homes, relationships and bodies are the contexts of our spiritual lives and are supported, structured and shaped by practicing community within the intentional faith communities we belong.
For Common Ground Church, the intentional faith community we practice is in the manner and values of Jesus everyday in our contexts not only when we gather on Sunday morning.
So, who is Common Ground Church?
Common Ground Church is ordinary, everyday people making (muddling?) a way in this world to recover a life of value and justice, and to practice a regenerative spirituality of rest and loving regard for the Earth we inhabit, with and for all people. How do we do this? The simplest answer is following Jesus. We follow Jesus via practicing community oriented by prayerful, imaginative and practical dialogical attunement with the Triune God and love of neighbor as self.
Common Ground Church assumes that church is a social-biological phenomenon in Jesus’ name belonging within the larger fabric of life on Earth, where Christ is present, too. That is, Common Ground is a creation within and for the Creation. Earthly context is inseparable to the church’s identity and vocational concern as much as Jesus’ earthly body was to his mission.
This seems so obvious but forgetting that church is fundamentally a peculiar human community made up of flesh, bones and relationships can misdirect the church’s self-understanding to assume it is the point of of its own story. This is what we call a fundamental “misapprehension of self” due to theological misattunement (versus “living and moving and having our being” in Christ.)
The misapprehension of self is an automatic, conditioned self-understanding (collective, personal) from which everything else follows including the church’s sense of purpose and place, its routines and practice. The theological misattunement (an embodied relational disconnect) with God and others is not because of misalignment with historical church doctrine so much as it is a relative condition that arises from cognitive conditioning reinforced by rhythms and routines of ordinary life. Meaning, attunement with God can oscillate between the human/congregational self at the center versus living within an ecosystem defined by love between God, neighbor and self. Getting in sync/attuned/resonate with God’s concern and hope for the Creation mitigates self-preservation bias and roots a local church’s self-understanding within God’s hopes and love for the Earth.
Here are some attunement questions we’ve been grappling with:
- Is what keeps us up at night about our church motivated by what keeps God up at night about our local community and the Earth?
- What aches in God’s heart most needed in our community?
- What does God hope for us, our community, and our world?
- How is our ministry helping people experience God’s enjoyment of us?
Our prayerful discernment over the past decade or so, led us to dissolve our historic church and divest ourselves of our building to best love and serve God and our neighbor. Common Ground Church’s values are inspired by love of God and love of neighbor as self, and the sending of everyday, ordinary people into their contexts rooted in this love:
- Curiosity (love of God)
- Compassion (love of neighbor as self)
- Courage (go, love boldly…)
Learn more about what keeps the CGC community up at night here.
So, where does Common Ground Church meet?
Besides Sunday mornings at Reach Out Lodi and Facebook Live, Common Ground meets in micro-communities (microchurches) of “two or more” in the manner and value of Jesus. We are in the initial stages of making this shift from a historic, centralized church platform to a distributed network of progressive smaller, local churches in the name of Jesus.
Why Microchurch: are we fixing a problem or living out of our passion?
On Earth as it is in Heaven for the common good, for you!
What Business is the Common Ground Church in, and what should it be? Learn more here.
The video below is of a conversation between several mission partners and our synod council Vice President.
Do not hesitate to explore more by connecting below. Cheers!
The Common Ground Church is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin (SCSW).