Updated 11/20/14 — so much of my thinking has shifted since I began this…but I am adding to things rather than replacing things, because it is important to remember where one came from!
My most recent thinking can be found on my blog…but some day I will work here again, updating more.
This update it to include the penultimate concept that I have finally hammered out after all these years: Perichoretic cHesed! I will be uploading that document to this site now. All thanks to Baxter Kruger for his wonderful teachings that have helped my finish the shift that Wayne Jacobsen started. God is so good!
I am linking to this new site from my blog, The Virtual Abbess. I think this will be a good way to go at this…so we'll see!
I'm going to start with some of the terms I've worked out in the past…and continue to work through them…you may want to check back to see if there are any revisions from time to time!
[This is from a June 2007 post at the CovenantClusters development site…seems like the right place to start…and it will also show you some of what I have in mind at CovenantClusters!]
Definition of Terms (There will be lots more work to do here….)
As with all endeavors to restore and reform, one must come to grips with new terminology. This is necessary because the meaning of what once were commonly understood terms has changed over time. So, while is it challenging to adapt to new terms, it is basically unavoidable. We have attempted to make our terms descriptive as well as simple and memorable, and offer these definitions for your use.
Abi's Integral Terms
This concept takes precedence over most things on this site. Start here…then go to The Virtual Abbess blog to keep up with my current thinking!
Perichoresis is that wonderful dance of mutual interpenetration without loss of distinct individuality, where the Father and Son are in one another through the power of the Spirit. It is into this Great Dance that we (all of the cosmos, actually) have been drawn by the finished work of Jesus, the Father's Eternal Son. Everything is now “In Christ”—who holds all things together. This is true whether we know it or not…whether we accept it or not. It is Reality. [Thanks to C. Baxter Kruger for the sharing the basic definition.]
cHesed is the attitudes and actions of perichoresis. It is the very steps of the dance. We learn them by dancing with Father, Son and Spirit. Their attitudes toward each other and us are revealed as we partner with them, as they lead us in the dance, as we relax and follow their lead. These attitudes of cHesed are gracious loving-kindness toward one another and manifest in specific actions: deliberate affection (love that submits), unmerited favor (grace that serves), and kindness mutually owed (mercy that leads). To follow Jesus' lead and dance the steps of gracious loving-kindness with him and the Father in the Spirit is to be "Like Christ". [Thanks to the late Mont Smith for his foundational work on cHesed!]
Perichoretic cHesed is the Great Dance in its fullness…the dance of covenant keeping. It is a covenant dance where everything depends on the very nature and character of God as Father, Son and Spirit. They dance the covenant faithfully with each other — submitting, serving and leading according to the best interest of the Other—and have done so for Eternity…from before Creation. And by creating the Cosmos, they widened the scope of the dance so that we may join them. This is what it means to be "With Christ"—to know the love, grace and mercy of Father, Son and Spirit intimately and to dance the steps of submission, service and leading in step with them. When we are "With Christ", his faithful covenant keeping becomes ours. We cannot do it on our own, we do it with him. It's a gift we share, not a skill we hone. It is not about us…it is all about Jesus Christ and his relationship with the Father in the Spirit…and our amazing, miraculous inclusion in that relationship.
Perichoretic cHesed, the motivations and actions of covenant keeping, is summarized below. [Thanks to Gary Chapman for the Five Love Languages!]
Motivated by Love/Agape, or Deliberate Affection, Perichoretic cHesed
Responds with Submission: Restraining my want to meet their need
Employing all the Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation
Affirm their EQUALITY
Consistently prioritize meaningful interactions
Acts of Service
Show them how to BE like Christ: Present
Creatively supply their need for affection
Touch that warms their heart
Motivated by Grace/Charis, or Unmerited Favor, Perichoretic cHesed
Responds with Service: Working for their best interest
Employing all the Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation
Affirm their WORTH
Consistently value meaningful interactions
Acts of Service
Show them how to DO what Christ would do: Help
Creatively supply their need for attention
Touch that heals their hurts
Motivated by Mercy/Eleos, or Kindness Mutually Owed, Perichoretic cHesed
Responds with Leading: Initiative that helps them succeed
Employing all the Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation
Affirm their ABILITY
Consistently initiate meaningful interactions
Acts of Service
Show them how to OBEY like Christ did:
Do and say what you see and hear the Father doing and saying—in and through the Spirit!
Creatively supply their need for support
Touch that imparts courage to move out in faith
Our primary context for understanding God and his purposes is through the concept of covenant. God has chosen to structure his relationships with humanity by making covenants, as can clearly be seen in the Old Testament. These covenants bind (cluster) all parties together with the terms and conditions God designed for relationship. These terms and conditions include both blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. Each party is responsible (accountable) to all other parties for faithfully abiding by the terms and conditions as well as providing whatever is needed to help each other remain faithful. God, as documented in the New Testament, has made a final New Covenant through the sending of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be both our covenant-making and our covenant-breaking sacrifice. His death, burial and resurrection have conquered death and given us access to Eternal Life, if we will accept God’s offer of covenant.
cHesed (updated 3/15/08)
The concept of faithful covenant-keeping is communicated through this deep and meaningful Hebrew word. The gist has to do with looking after the best interest of the other, according to the covenant. It is most frequently translated in connection with the motivating attitudes of love, grace and mercy. These attitudes of cHesed manifest themselves in the corresponding responses of submission, service and leadership. When persons fully understand cHesed as the attitudes and responses that show faithful obedience to the command to love God and love others, it transforms their ability to understand what God has revealed in his Word as well as their ability to understand what God wants them to do about it. We believe it is well worth the investment in time and effort to gain this foundational understanding. (Thanks to Mont Smith for sharing these two concepts in his book, What The Bible Says About Covenant, which is currently out of print.)
I have spent quite a lot of time processing this concept and working on ways to help communicate it's complexity and nuanced presence in the New Testament. This chart (which is PDF document you may open or download) is the latest attempt I have made, using the concepts from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. You will see that these concepts are very important to The Abbess because you will find evidence of them in all my thinking about covenant relationships.
Chris's site is very interesting to wander through. I will be adding other resources available on this page as I get around to it.
cHesed Glasses (updated 3/15/08)
I use this term as a way to encourage people to check their context when they're reading scripture. Just as 3D glasses are required to get the most out of a 3D format, we need the lenses of cHesed to make God's point jump out of scripture into our understanding. If the whole of the requirement of God is summed up in loving God and loving others (so Scot McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed, quotes Jesus as saying), and if this is the work of faithful covenant keeping, then we must have tools that help us focus properly.
Putting on cHesed glasses means that we are remembering that the left lens represents the fact that God is a covenant making God, while the right lens represents the fact that God is a faithful covenant keeper — and expects the same of us (possible only with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course). This will help us ask these questions when we look at God's Word:
- What covenant is the context for this situation?
- Is this situation one of covenant making, covenant keeping and blessings for faithfulness or covenant breaking and consequences for unfaithfulness?
- What reminder can we take from this situation to help us keep the primary question before us: How will what I am thinking or saying or doing (or not) help me be a faithful covenant partner to God and to others (or not)? How does this help me love God and love others (or not)?
Most people associate the term Hasidim with ultra-orthodox Jews, as in Hasidic Judaism. This comes from the word Chaciyd, from which come words like faithful and saint…and, of course, it is linked to the word cHesed because it is referring to those who are faithful covenant-keepers: saints.
The Christian Hasidim are basically the saints, those who make up the priesthood of the believers, those who faithfully keep covenant with God through Jesus Christ. I have been thinking about coining this term (I haven't heard anyone else use it, but that doesn't mean somebody hasn't!) for CovenantClusters folks, especially since the corruption of the term "Christian" in this post-modern, post-Christendom era. Don't want to be weird about it, but I do so like using words that actually mean what they're supposed to mean….
I was thrilled to recently read Neil Cole’s book, Organic Church, because it gave form (and tangible experience!) to many of the concepts that have been in my heart that I struggled to communicate clearly. This term has the ability to communicate to the 21st Century what the term New Testament Christianity communicated in the 19th and 20th Centuries. To me it represents the healthy, flexible, balanced, nourishing and reproductive Church that Christ intended, without any unnatural additives. This is a Church whose simple Gospel is far from simplistic, whose Lord is present when even two or three gather in his name, and whose members’ faithful cHesed has the power to draw the lost to Christ.
This is a term I coined for my chapter on virtual mentoring in Voices of the Virtual World. The following excerpt gets right to it:
In reverse-mentoring, students basically learn what to do by not doing what was done to them, coupled with figuring out how they should have been treated. This course of study, ironically, takes much longer than two years—sometimes two decades! It frequently results in a lot of less-than-ideal workmanship interspersed with the occasional brilliant outcome. It is very painful and sometimes produces scars and consequences that can hinder future opportunities. It also produces some great stories—through 20/20 hindsight and selective memory, of course.
Terms coming soon….
CovenantClusters Specific Vocabulary
This is the term we have chosen to identify the vision that guides, and the organization that supports, our Organic Intentional Community Planting Movement. We are clusters of New Covenant disciples dedicated to planting and nurturing intentional communities that will produce disciple-making disciples who will mature into Organic community planters themselves.
This term refers to the periodic (monthly? each 5th Sunday?) larger fellowship gathering of all the smaller clusters. These will be times of great praise as we see what God has been doing in our midst, renew our vision for being and making disciples, and embrace the wonderful diversity the Holy Spirit has brought together.
This term refers to the weekly coaching and fellowship gatherings of the CovenantClusters leadership families. These will provide essential support to our leaders and their families as they minister and lead other clusters. This will be where iron sharpens iron as well as where personal and family needs will be shared and met. (Fellowship gatherings all have components of praise, reading the Word, testimonies of God’s activities, a common meal, and group prayer.)
This term refers to the weekly fellowship gatherings in the homes of disciples who have led/are leading friends and family to the Lord. Coaches from CovenantClusters will provide support to these host/leaders that open their homes to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of their loved ones and others that are drawn to the Lord through their tangible cHesed. These gatherings may meet whenever it is most conducive to them—day and time are flexible. This simplicity and flexibility is one of the strengths of Organic models.
This term refers to the weekly gatherings of two or three same-gendered persons who desire to be mature, disciple-making disciples. They are called WordClusters because we believe that it is the continual reading of and meditating on significant passages (20-30 chapters) of the Word of God that leads to a transformed life. These simple (but definitely not simplistic) life-on-life accountability gatherings, without formally-trained leaders or special curriculum, are the front line of both discipleship and spontaneous multiplication—another strength of Organic models.
(Again, thanks to Neil Cole for giving structure and experience to my vision. His book, Cultivating a Life for God, has been very practical and helpful. His insistence that we need to primarily feed our souls on the actual Good Seed (the Word of God) and not seed-substitutes (books or talks about the Seed) was especially dynamic. Removing the “middleman” unleashes the Holy Spirit in transformed lives.)
This CovenantClusters terms refers to Christians—people who trust Christ and have joined God’s New Covenant—who are actively involved in WordClusters, FamilyClusters and CovenantCommunity. All members are Christian; not all Christians are members—but they are certainly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ!
This term refers to members who are maturing students of the Word and involved in making disciples. All disciples are members; not all members are disciples—yet! They may or may not be candidates for more intensive training as leaders. All leaders are disciples; not all disciples are trained leaders…yet. The goal is always to lead and equip toward leadership.