The ultimate aim of the Open House community is to create the space for the everyday Australian (who is generally postmodern and irreligious) to participate in a community where they can freely question, explore and live out a radical others-centredness based on the way of Jesus. These followers of the way then seek to insert themselves into neighbourhoods to live the way of Jesus and to bring the Kingdom of God to forgotten lives, places and spaces.
Our hope is to become an alternate-community who live out Jesus’ ethic of enemy-love in ever-increasing measure. This collective is based on living simply, giving generously and serving freely in the context of our faith, local and global neighbours. We are about pursuing peace, caring for creation and standing with the other. It is about taking the Anabaptist convictions and practices and helping each other to increasingly embody these traits in our individual and collective rhythms.
Our ultimate aim is not quantitative, but qualitative. We want to see humans that are increasingly embodying the way of peace. All of our practices and structures then are geared towards empowering our community to live out the way of Jesus. This is a necessarily slow and intentional process. Success for us is not measured by money, programs or numbers, but in the qualitative growth of those who call our community home.
Our vision is one of ‘being’ not conquering. We want to see our community increasingly embodying and enfleshing the teachings of Jesus, not coercing others to believe what we believe – what others do is up to them. By trying to overcome the wills of others we compromise our message. We invite and share and give of ourselves to others, but the achieving our ultimate aim is not dependent upon the response of others – that is outside of our control.
Open House has a matrix of ‘big ideas’ that defines it situates its common unity in. The ideas are the parameters in which we root our togetherness.
The Big Ideas
Religious & Irreligious
Open House is a community designed with the ‘irreligious-postmodern’ in mind. They are people who are skeptical of authority figures, need space to question, explore and converse, and see truth as largely relative and ethics as socially constructed. That’s not to say that we think Jesus is a postmodern nor that he was entirely irreligious, however lots of us have postmodern-irreligious tendencies and we feel that the way one approaches ‘God’ when starting from an ‘irreligious-postmodern’ perspective is very different than the way one would from a more ‘religious-modern’ perspective. For us this means that questions are celebrated, people’s spirituality are their own authentic and unique expressions and that compassion always trumps judgments of superiority.
The Core Convictions
Unity and Charity – “in necessariis Unitas in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas”
‘In essentials unity, in doubtful or non-essential things liberty, in all things charity’. Our essential unity is found in living the way of Jesus. This way is found in the four Gospels of the New Testament and our community is designed such that we all can take steps forward in aligning our lives with this reality. Beyond this there are a myriad of theological, philosophical and ethical questions to be explored, discussed, debated over and disagreed (or agreed) on that don’t threaten our unity, but that we explore with as much grace and charity as we can muster. These issues include things like: view of Scripture (inerrancy), pacifism, politics, Calvinism and Arminianism, gender roles, the view of hell, salvation, epistemology, ethics (asylum seekers, economic injustices, war, homosexuality, euthanasia etc.) and the list could go on, and on.
The Gospel is the profound and world shaping story, found in the Scriptures, of the life and teachings of Jesus’ which launch a new kind of human society where anyone and everyone is invited to be part of a new way of being human in community, called the Kingdom of God.
Central to the outworking and fulfilment of this meta-narrative is a community of people. It is this community where we learn from the stories of Jesus, where we practice loving and serving other humans, and where we partner with God in his remaking of the cosmos. God has chooses to outwork his Kingdom through communities of people like us and so Christian faith is not an individualistic pursuit, it is the weaving together of all of our individual lives into a rich tapestry that creates a beautiful image and picture of what the human lived reality could be. The community of faith is the expression of our faith in Jesus, the best vehicle for our discipleship and the most authentic and convincing proof for the others-centred way of Jesus.
Compassion is central to our collective identity as Jesus followers. Compassion is grounded in the unwavering conviction of equality between all people and is expressed in the deep awareness of the suffering (physical, emotional and spiritual) of others and the desire to relieve it. This compassion is in sharp contrast to the people-pleasing of the religious and the selfishness of a consumer culture. We do our best not to act out of obligation or guilt or fear or for the hope of something in return. We also do our best not to remain inactive due to our selfishness and greed. It is because of the model of Jesus who shows unconditional and unrelenting compassion towards us, that we too seek to act compassionately towards others.
To ‘live simply’ is the first foundational aspect of the Open House culture. It happens in the context of our beliefs and our lifestyle. In the midst of a complex world that sells us so many competing ideas of what it means to live well, to be a follower of the way means that we need to keep our beliefs simple – to love God is to our love our neighbour. This allows us to orient our lives and prioritise our choices around a simple faith that enables us to lead a simple life. Choices around lifestyle are informed by our core neighour-love ethic and things that don’t align with this, can be simplified. This simplification of lifestyle is not prescribed, but rather it is a journey that every individual and family goes on to find a sustainable and authentic rhythm that matches their context. This simple life allows us to live lives of less clutter and noise, to find rest and joy in the midst of a busy and chaotic world, so that we can have the time, resources and energy to participate in God’s restoration project of humanity and so that we don’t get caught up in endless debates that we forget what we’re here for.
From living out the principle of simplicity, we are then positioned to be able to give generously. This idea is at the very heart of the Gospel. Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:7-12 suggests that we should seek to excel in the ‘grace of giving’ by modelling ourselves on Jesus who, ‘though he was rich…became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich’ (2 Corinthians 8:7-12). It is not something that is ‘commanded’, but rather commended as an expression of love of our neighbour. It is not something that is imposed from above by guilt and obligation, but because we see that a good life is an altruistic one that seeks to meet the needs of others. It is not primarily about money, but about the giving of ourselves to others as acts of vulnerable service – whether that be in relationships, in attitude, in time, in service, in money or in a myriad other ways that generosity can be expressed. Each of us can only give according what one has. This generous give may take a variety of forms:
- Yourself: opening up yourself to be known, letting down your barriers, to be in relationships with others
- Time: giving time to serve others
- Energy: creating the room in your life so you have the energy to serve others
- Emotion: getting excited, believing in and owning a particular aspect of Tribe
- Leadership: taking the reins to help facilitate others in serving and living the Jesus life
- Responsibility: bearing the burden for something in the faith community or local community to relieve the pressure from someone else
- Meaning: by valuing someone who struggles to find meaning or acknowledging the work of others you can give meaning
- Respect: give respect by treating everyone, no matter their socio-economic or education status, as an image-bearer of God
- Money: give money in relational ways to serve people and as a way of ensuring money and material things don’t become what you worship
Jesus reminds us that God is generously giving us the ‘kingdom’. And all our material possessions pale in comparison, as they will wear out and decay, yet the heavenly treasure will never be exhausted and that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Luke 12:32-34).
To ‘serve freely’ is to give of oneself for the sake of others without expecting anything in return. It is to not act out of duty or obligation, but to freely choose and desire to serve others. This service can seek to meet spiritual, physical, social or emotional needs. Our service happens in the context of community and should always be relational. It is too easy to just write a cheque or raise some money and then think we have played our part. When Open House serves it will be in ways that foster an ongoing trust, empowering, grace and intimacy. This service will be expressed in relationship we have in our faith community, local community, and global community.
Peace is at the heart of the way of Jesus. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations. It’s not just about peace between entities, but in laying down one’s life for another, loving one’s enemy, we also seek to embody an inner peace. We seek to have the peace and presence of mind to see our way to acts of compassion marked by ‘let-go-ness’, ‘let-be-ness’, ‘let-come-ness’ and ‘thy-will-be-done-ness’. This peace results in the relinquishing of the self, accepting of God’s will for peace on earth and the clarity to see what direction this leads.
Care for Creation
As a community, we want to be people who care for the natural world. Our alignment with the way of Jesus must include a respect for God through how we interact with the Earth and the universe. To be a follower of Jesus is to respect the created order and to work towards a way of living that seeks to prevent activities that are harmful and to participate in activities that further Jesus’ work of reconciliation of all of creation to God.
Stand with the Other
The pinnacle of the way of Jesus is ‘enemy’ love. In our twenty first century context, however, one might simply claim ‘I do not have enemies – I love everyone.’ Whilst a claim like this may be genuine, it does not take long for the best of us to realise how difficult it is to spend time with those that are ‘other’ to us, let alone to become friends, to love them, to fight for their interests and to give self-sacrificially to their cause. Our society separates us into ‘like’ groups in attempt to maintain order, stability and economic progress. Yet once we begin to cross these barriers and blur these lines, to stand with those who are ‘other’ to us and to truly see all humans as equal, the way Jesus calls us to, it is then that we see the Kingdom of God in our midst. We particularly want to add our voices to those who do not have a voice and to ‘stand with the other’ in need wherever we find them.