Mission Zones 1 and 2: A Permaculture Metaphor for Mission, Pt 3

**Can the organic farming practice of Permaculture design serve as a metaphor for mission? In this blog series I am exploring how growing zones, a basic principle of Permaculture that I introduced in part 1, could impact the way we think and practice Christian mission. In part 2 I explored the concept that mission begins in our own homes through healthy self care, personal and family discipleship, and responding to Jesus' mission in our own hearts. Today, we'll look at zones 1 and 2.**

In Permaculture farming, Zone 1 is the area right around your home that you pass by and through

multiple times per day. This is the zone where you grow things like lettuces, herbs, peas and tomatoes. This is the food garden that requires the most tending and regular harvesting. Zone 2 is an area that requires less management, but that you still visit daily to tend to small animals (like poultry and rabbits) and less intense crops like fruit trees and vegetables that have a long growing season like potatoes. This area is often called the food forest. Where Zone 0 is considered the heart of the farm, the food garden and the food forest that make up Zones 1 and 2 together are the real engine of the farm.

Here's where the Permaculture metaphor might start messing with us. I think we inherently get that the stuff in Mission Zone 0 is important. We might not be very good at self care or knowing our unique contribution, but we get that it's important for long term effectiveness. We may even believe that it's the best starting point. Regrettably however, our imaginations for mission then get hijacked and we start dreaming about moving to Zone 5 (somewhere far away) to live out our call. But in permaculture farming, you'd actually be skipping right through the actual work! You wouldn't be a farmer at all because Zones 1 and 2 are where the real action is! Might I submit that when our imaginations are captured by an "over there" mentality of mission, we never actually become missionaries. Instead, we literally skip right over the mission "field" in our own communities and ignore all of the real heavy lifting. We walk right past the fruit that needs daily tending, allowing it to spoil, while we dream about the fruit we'll cultivate in some foreign land.

So, practically speaking, where do we find Mission Zones 1 and 2? Zone 1 is your street or perhaps your neighborhood. It's an area that you can probably walk in about 10 minutes or less. This is where your neighbors live. Your ACTUAL neighbors. Zone 2 is your Parish. Your Parish is certainly bigger than your block, and probably bigger than your neighborhood, but still small enough that you run into the same people regularly. In their bookThe New Parish Tim Soerens, Paul Sparks and Dwight Friesen define Parish as an area that is large enough to live your life in, but small enough to be a known character. The actual size of these two zones will vary depending on your context, but these are going to be the areas that you frequent most often. Geographically, a rural farming community Parish will be much larger than an urban city Parish, but the function and implications are the same. Zones 1 and 2 are the places and relationships that you're cultivating on a regular, daily basis. In this sacred mundane of our daily routines God invites us to listen for, contend for, proclaim and invite people to His Kingdom! Mission Zone 1 and 2 is where we get to most intimately partner with His mission in the world!

Jesus modeled Mission Zone 1 and 2 in his own ministry. You may have an image of Jesus as an itinerant evangelist, but did you know that a disproportionate number of Jesus' miracles were performed in one little town? After Jesus began his public ministry he moved into the little town of Capernaum (Matthew 4:13-16). In this little fishing village is where he lived out most of his public ministry! Capernaum was only about 200 by 300 yards! It was SMALL! But here is where he called most if not all of his disciples (Matthew 4:18-22). Here is where he healed the lame man lowered through his roof (Mark 2:1-7). Here is where Peter pulled a coin from the fish's mouth (Matthew 24:24-27). Here is where he healed Peter's mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15). Here is where he healed the Roman soldier's servant (Luke 7:1-10). In the hills surrounding Capernaum is where he preached his most famous sermon (Matthew 5-7). And this is just the beginning of all Jesus did in little, insignificant Capernaum! Whenever I consider that Jesus literally lived out Mission Zone 1 and 2 in this little town and surrounding hills I'm confronted by my own thirst for a wider influence at the expense of all that is yet to be done in my own Mission Zone 1 and 2.​

What does it look like to faithfully partner with God's mission in Zone 1 and 2? One of the ways that we like to talk about the how of living faithfully in Mission Zone 1 and 2 is what we call The Postures, or as I affectionately call it: Missional Yoga. The Postures teach us how to be people who Listen, Submerge, Contend, Invite, Imagine and Entrust. These six postures help us become people who are deeply attuned to what God is doing in us and our Mission Zones 1 and 2. They help us become deeply invested and trusted in the community while also identifying areas of need where God is at work. They challenge us to contend in many ways for the physical and spiritual well-being of our friends and neighbors. They teach us to trust God and each other. Honestly, becoming a competent Mission Zone 1 and 2 person is a lifelong discipleship journey! Here's a couple ideas to keep you going:

  1. Take a walk around your neighborhood and ask God to show you the boundaries of your Mission Zones.

  2. Get curious. Start with learning the names of your neighbors and people you see regularly in your Parish. Talk with the folks who know the history of your area and find out what's gone on before in your area. Ask people what they love or wish was different about their community.

  3. Learn more about The Postures: Pick up Thin Places by Jon Huckins and Rob Yackly or join us for our Postures of Placemaking learning labs.

  4. Throw a party for your neighbors. Create a fun environment to get to know your neighbors and start getting to know what they care about.

As you explore your own Mission Zone 1 and 2 and take new steps to engage it deeply, what are the fears or obstacles that stand in your way?

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