I have been participating in what’s commonly called a ‘drum circle’ for the better part of the last 4 months. People from all over the world have come to our tiny town in the middle of the Andean Cloud Forest to sit in, sometimes with the most bizarre percussion instruments, and make beats. It’s a very odd but fun community of hippies, nomads, and regular folk looking for a diversion. Many of the locals have taken the time to make their own drums and percussion instruments consisting of materials found locally. I too have made several.
Javier, the one who spent nearly 3 weeks with me in teaching to make a drum, has left our group for a time. He’s also the one that establishes the base beat or rhythm when we gather together to play. ‘Javi,’ as they call him is an consciencous man from another country who has carved out a life here. He’s a philosopher, and has much to say about the good treatment of other people.
Without Javi at our drum circle, we struggled and are struggling a bit in establish a good corporate rhythm. It’s as if he could sense the angst, or joy, or anger of the group and begin a base beat that reflected the same. Once Javi begins playing the rest of the group begins as well. In the beginning of a session, there’s a lot of synchronicity. Then comes the improvisation. While Javi maintains the base beat, people begin to experiment and explore and the sounds of the community erupt with unique rhythms, songs, and sounds that would make no sense were they to exist by themselves.
Now that Javi is gone, several have tried to establish that base beat at our circle, but it’s proved difficult. The first drummer, the one who dares to expose him or herself, really puts themselves out there. If that person’s rhythm is off or just plain bad, the rest will try to accompany, but it just because a porridge of dissonance.
I was thinking about how mission is like this. There are lots of mission, or even ‘missional’ leaders that are gifted in sensing the pulse of a local culture and establish base beats of movement. Others come along side and there’s overwhelming synchronicity. But I think we make our Javi’s into more than there are supposed to be and that synchronicity as well. We, the church, aren’t open to improvisation and the diverse rhythms of the Holy Spirit.
We call these rhythm establishers ‘leader’ or even ‘missional gurus,’ but I think many of them would cringe at the idea. Javi would never say that he leads the drum circle. But he senses, feels the tone, and strikes the skin of his drum with an uncanny discernment.
Somewhere along the missional way, we’ve lost our Javi’s or forced them to beat the same drums and repeat the same rhythms as everyone else. We’ve made then into ‘leaders,’ with all of the binding assumptions and requirements and lost our improv. I miss Javi at our circle. Now, after a few weeks, other Javi’s are emerging. Others are sensing the mood and the pulse and improv is picking up again.
The missional movement, by choice or force, has lost it’s rhythm. It’s lost its Javi. The normal reaction to those who would stick there necks out and dare to drum a different beat is theological warfare, competition for recognition, and even outright explosion from community.
They don’t want to lead, they just want to play the drum in a way that inspires others to do likewise and create environments of creativity, freedom, improvisation, and a good beat.
Has the missional movement lost its rhythm?