introduction and invite

Hey party people!
(Primarily my TwinCities friends–but also you long distance mentors)

For quite some time now, I have had this intersection of ideas
amassing in my mind. I have not developed it by any means, but I have
decided to ‘externalize the problem’ [1]. And I would like to invite
you into my journey of making sense of the intersection of all these
nodes. Your involvement is entirely voluntary and does not require
anything of you. However, I would love to get your feedback via your
comments and or participation.

I cannot describe the intersection itself so let me briefly tell you
about a couple of the crossroads:

Social Networks:
The study of social networks has turned into a full-blown science [2],
applying graph theory to economics, ecology, sociology, and even
missiology. This is bigger than Friendster, Orkut, MySpace, Xanga,
Tribe.net, etc. [3], though those are prime examples of how social
networking is hitting the main stream.

Centered Sets:
One aspect of social networks that is most intriguing to me is the
idea of centered sets (vs bounded sets). Bounded sets (think of
billiard balls in the rack) are ‘hard at the edges, soft at the
center’. Centered sets (think of the population around a major city)
are ‘soft at the edges, hard at the center) [4].

Urban Tribes:
Wikipedia defines urban tribes this way:
“Urban tribes are the rapidly growing groups of never-married’s
between the ages of 25 and 39 who gather in common-interest groups and
enjoy the urban lifestyle. Urban lifestyle communities offer a viable
alternative to traditional family structures.” [5] I’m not so sure
that this phenomenon is limited to never-married persons.

Smartmobs:
Smartmobs and flashmobs are groups of people that come together for a
specific event without any advertising or RSVPs. (For example, a
pillow fight that is scheduled simply by text messages [6]).

Alone-together neo-monasticism:
Many monasteries are shrinking. There just aren’t many people who want
to go celibate and live their whole lives in monasteries. But the
number of people who are becoming ‘friends of monasteris’, people who
want to learn how to live out the rule in their daily lives, are
rapidly growing. These oblates experience solitude in different ways
than vows of silence, or hours alone in meditation… rather they
experience solitude through being alone together.

“So what does all of this mean, and why are you writing me this
ridiculously long email?”

I believe that there is a place in this culture/time/generation for a
centered-set/smart-mob/social-network church. Recently the church has
been very ‘bounded set’ focused… needing to clarify the boundaries
more than the center. I believe that a group of people who have Christ
as their center–their gravity–can be drawn together as a church. And
I believe that people who are drawn together by Christ will live their
faith out into the world more easily when they don’t feel bound to an
organization or structure.

I am inviting you to be a part of this experiment. This doesn’t mean
you leave your church–there is nothing to leave it for. I work at one
church and am helping plant another. This is an experiment in ‘being’
the church. There are several different ways to be involved, and you
can do any/all/none of these:

http://twincities.dodgeball.com is a site that lets us know about
events via text messages. By sending one text message to dodgeball,
the whole group will be notified. You can send a message for a major
upcoming event, or just to let everyone know you’re going to a bar
tonight. There aren’t going to be regular worship services (though you
can let the group know when you’re going to a church service… and a
group might show up). In fact, there won’t be ANY set/regular
gatherings. There will only be a group of people drawn to and centered
around Christ. This is how we end up together. Are you getting a feel?

http://smartmobchurch.blogspot.com is where we can talk theory and
theology. So, you
might not be interested in ever meeting up with anyone else in the
group, but I’d still love your input on the concepts. This is your
place. If you would like to contribute more than comments on other
posts, let me know, and I will make you a full-fledged posting-member.

http://groups.google.com/group/smartmobchurch is an email group/list
for just keeping in touch, or to send out invites that might need more
than a simple text message to explain them. You can sign up without
ever having to say anything (though we would love your input).

I’m going to stop for now. If you have any questions, feel unsure
about the technology, are scared of the ‘intar-web’, or want to tell
me I’m brilliant or stupid–please please give me a call at
{removed} or drop me an email at {removed}.

FINALLY, please forward this to anyone you think might be
interested… I’ve probably missed some people, and didn’t have email
address for several people. Just make sure that whoever you forward
this to won’t consider it spam.

God’s peace,
Thomas Knoll

===[FOOTNOTES]===================
I will be exploring all of these topics more, but this enough for this
introductory letter.

[1] “To help Tom get a perspective on what the problem was in his
life, we decided to look at the problem using the narrative therapy
technique of externalizing the problem. We used a simplified fourfold
approach of naming the problem, mapping the influence of the problem,
looking for unique outcomes, and planning for the future (Nixon, 2000;
White, 1995
)

[2] You can read much more about social networks on Wikipedia.

[3] (Just google them if you don’t know what they are)

[4] Len Hjalmarson explores the implications of this for the church in
Centered Sets, Bounded Sets and the Search for Ekklesia

‘Ishmael’ pokes at the concept a little bit, and gives a different
perspective in Is Everyone Set?

[5] You can read more about Urban Tribes on wikipedia or the website that goes
along with the book Urban Tribes.

[6] Pillow Fight; Smart Mobs; Flash Mobs