Church of the Margins and the Dones

In 2005 I started my journey with Communitas as an “incarnational missional investigator” in the city of Santa Barbara, CA. There was radical need within the margins of an otherwise wealthy community, and for over a decade we worked with and for the marginalized, including a special focus on working within our homelessness culture and assisting survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

This work continues, and I now have a particular passion for working with “Dones”: college students who are leaving the church due to questions around the Christian narrative, issues of justice, or just an overall rejection of the current church model. My heart yearns to recapture these young people with the Gospel.

Our new house group is called Margin and includes primarily former college students who still have a passion for truth and an interest in Christ, but would honestly say they have more questions than answers during this time. The structure of Margin is a bi-weekly house meeting and a bi-weekly activity within a marginalized community. Most of these young people choose to engage with our Thursday night meal-sharing with Friends without Homes and have begun to integrate themselves within that larger story in our city.

What I have uncovered in this new journey with “Dones” is a great amount of anxiety and pain in young men and women who have experienced a church system that often seems more a business model than a place where genuine worship, lament, and even questioning can become a part of our spiritual culture. I have also discovered a truly open and transparent community where friends lay everything bare on the table, like honest discussions of racism, sex, poverty, and privilege. This happens regularly during our meetings. Our house group shares meals with people experiencing homelessness, and I see joy in our community most often when we come alongside others in our city who do  not receive the dignity they deserve from the greater population.

Honestly, I feel like a leader within the midst of a neo-Exodus.  As Christ is the “true north” within my own heart, how do I honestly and transparently help a new community move toward a sense of the “Promised Land?”  

I have always appreciated the generosity of Communitas as we start churches that love like Jesus in their neighborhoods: giving communities the freedom to figure it out while remaining rooted to the reality of the gospel. Jesus died and rose again and lives for and within his followers. The reality of the resurrection means that new life is still the promise of each of our church planting teams working around the world. And it is through these communities–and with your prayer and partnership–that we live out our vision of “transformed lives… transformed neighborhoods… and a transformed world” for Christ.

Shared by Communitas staff member Jeff Shaffer.