Thursday, March 6, 2008

Come to Our Missional, Emergent, Post Charismatic, Bible, Barbeque, Worship Center

So I have spent almost a year on the internet reading, researching and pondering what I believe and what others are saying. The people I read are varied – to say the least. I read Calvinist, Reformed, Charismatics, Emergent, Post Charismatics, Atheists, Cult survivors, and so many others. Some know exactly what the ‘Church’ is supposed to look like, some aren’t sure and others just hate the whole institution.

Husband decided last May that we were not going to do anything for a year. We were going to detox and just let things settle. And we have. But there is a shifting in our spirit somehow coming into the Spring season. May is not that far away and we realize that we are no closer to having an idea of what we will do then than when we left a year ago.

One of the first books that we read last year was ‘So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore,” by Wayne Jacobsen. In the last few nights we have revisited the book and read it again with somewhat fresh eyes. Eyes that have had the scales of the institution fallen off. We love the heart of this book but have more questions now than before.

The main question is this; seemingly, in the New Testament, the Body of Christ did intentionally meet together on what appears to be a somewhat regular basis. In these meetings, in whatever format, there was fellowship, teaching, music, encouragement, prophecy and eating together. I think you will agree that to do this, takes some intentionality. It takes someone to ‘lead’ and others to participate. I think that what Wayne puts forth in his book of really letting the Holy Spirit put these gatherings together has to have some purposeful direction from a human being also involved. I don’t think he would disagree.

But to be purposeful in trying to start something scares us to death. The minute you do decide to start something you have to decide what to start. Does that make sense? In the very act of beginning something you have to decide 1) what to begin and 2) what not to begin. Decisions have to be made to decide what to include and what not to include. You can say that you will start something that will have no true purpose other than meeting but I can’t see how that would really happen. Just in deciding to have the meeting, boundaries will naturally be erected.

So, what do you start? Do we call it missional, emergent, bible centered, just fellowship, a gathering for worship, a barbeque, a charismatic fellowship, a home group or what?

A very wise pastor wrote to us the other day. He said this. “In looking around all the church plants before we started our church here in our town, I pondered all that I had seen. It seemed that those churches that deviated from centering their congregations around anything else other than to Love God and to then in turn Love each other, in time became sidetracked and shipwrecked.”

As I thought about this it became so clear to me. To create a fellowship, say around ‘signs and wonders,’ produces either a desire for more of them or a pride in the fact that it is happening and thus became off kilter. It becomes about signs and wonders not about Him. To create a fellowship around gifting and hierarchy produced my story here at this blog. To create a fellowship around the prophetic word produced churches that became unbalanced in their chasing after the newest prophet or making everything a prophetic word and results in the disillusionment of many Christians. It again wasn’t about simply loving God and others.

And here is where I hope I don’t offend many who read here. I’m wondering if even the striving for a more missional model or a emergent type of a structure will again end up in another ditch – just off to the other side of the road. It seems in trying to distinguish ourselves from another group or distinguish ourselves even to ourselves we just build another rigid structure – just out of a different material.

What if our structure was the non structure of having a group of people who gather together to try to encourage each other to love God and love others? Could you take what is true of each of the other camps and include it when appropriate? In other words, if someone is sick then, of course you would anoint them with oil and pray for their healing – but you would not hold healing services. If someone is dealing with a demonic force in their lives, of course you would pray for the spirit to depart and for the Holy Spirit to fill the empty place – you just wouldn’t open up a deliverance tent the next week. If a need became evident of finances or help to the poor that the group could have an impact in, of course a missional model would be seen. And when a couple of guys or girls with a broken sexuality decided to be brave enough to have us love on them, we might even be seen as emergent.

But none of the above would define us. The only definition would be to Love God and Love Others. Whatever flowed in or out of the group would be an example of that statement and not the definition of our group. (One key thing would to not let our statement be rooted in pride or it would become just another structure.)

What do you guys think? Could it be done? Could there be humility in facilitating a group like this? Where are the pitfalls? Am I being too simple? Too naive?


Erin said...

I think you're reading my mail. Check out my latest post.

Barb said...

Erin, I'm convinced that nothing I post is truly original. It has been by reading you and all the others that I have these thoughts in the first place. In fact I'm worried that I'll plagiarize without even realizing it. In that our posts are talking about the same things does not surprise me as I love reading what you are thinking. It is funny to post almost the same thing within hours of each other ;0

glenn said...

Barb ~ This is really exciting! I know the kind of pain that you have been experiencing. I know about the aversion to all things church, yet desiring community. I know about the fears associated with something new. Now that I have been through all of this, I believe stepping out with a heart that is healing and loving, humble and dependent is the way to go. In the midst of all that has been happening, God has been at work in you, shaping this new venture. Part of healing is moving ahead. I think that you are more sane and in touch with Him than you know.

Terrence said...

Being new to your blog and this my only 3rd or 4th visit, it looks like your on the verge of something good. I have read So you Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. Very good book. It really isn't about church is it?

Seems like you and your husband have or are coming to a new place in the journey. I agree with your assessment in that we shouldn't be focusing on the various gifts/manifestions/structures but on Him. I am always trying to balance this as well. To remember it's about Him and not me. About modeling Jesus as he taught us, commands us, and constrains us with the love of the Father.

So I would say keep it simple, don't try to start anything, but intentionally on a daily basis see who he brings across your path, have fellowship, eat dinner together, pray. But somehow I believe you already know all this :)

Anonymous said...

Barb, this is possible. I am in a group that is struggling to live together in this very way. I say struggling because it is not easy to leave behind all our old ways of thinking. Some of us constantly wish to return to old ways.

Our gathering trys to meet regularly but this does not turn out to necessarily be weekly. Subsets of our gathering meet together at times during the week for lunch, etc. We do not plan anything in advance of our gatherings except for food since we almost always eat a meal together. More often than not our conversation is completely the working of the Holy Spirit not some pre-planned discussion. We have communion together. Sometimes we just enjoy being together or do something together that is just for fun or fellowship.

We generally meet in homes but we never know when we leave one gathering where the next will be or when. We have no leaders unless you think of everyone as a leader. Each person expresses the gift(s) of the Holy Spirit that they have been freely given. When we do not allow the tug of old ways succeed it is marvelous. I would encourage you to give it a try!

Fred Shope said...

I think it is possible as long as no one takes pride in the type of gathering it is - "We're the only ones doing church the New Testament way."

Anonymous said...

I like the way you ask questions. I'm going to post this anonymously only because I want to share some personal experiences and don't want to embarrass any of those I've journeyed with.

Let me start by saying this much: I think that so much that is coming forth today (missional, emergent, etc.) is in response, in reaction, to things that if we are honest are pretty much just plain wrong with large segments of the church today, whether home church, institutional church, cell church, or however else someone may meet. Whether it's because they started by focusing on the wrong thing or not, I do not know, but I think things like missional and emergent are reactions to try to correct some terrible gaps in orthopraxy as Christians.

Second, I left the organized structure a few years back. So did about a dozen other folks. We were so hopeful about having more of home church style gatherings, where it wouldn't be centered around one leader or one set of gifts, etc., just as your post states it. We envisioned it being led by Jesus as the head. Just gathering around loving him and one another. But here are just a few of the problems we ran into:

(1) A few people would always sort of "rise to the top" while others stayed silent. There was real humility there in this group, so it's not like it was a power trip. It's just that some people tended to be more outgoing or outspoken than others and it was a chore to even try to get the ones that liked to stay hidden in the background to come forth just a little bit. Pulling teeth would have been easier!

(2) After awhile a few really "needy" type people started to come. Their emotional/financial/spiritual needs almost drowned us in the process. They would really destroy almost every gathering just by their intense needs (and they were legitimate needs, but as a small group, we just could not meet all of them). Since we had no real "leader," there was no one to really address these people or the situation when they would totally take over just by their neediness.

(3) The group kept growing. Pretty soon we had over 25-30 people showing up every week. Well, there went the small group dynamic right out the window. We talked about "splitting" the group into two or three smaller groups, but that was a mess as well. No one wanted to be apart, but staying all together meant we were rapidly turning into the usual style of meetings that have larger numbers of people: More and more people had no voice and were getting "lost in the numbers."

(4) It became pretty ingrown, just focusing on ourselves.

(5) Some people really wanted to have certain things: Like "a real bible study," for example. So then we had another night for that since half the group didn't want to participate in that. It became a bit of a clique. It sounds so horrible writing all this down, but really these are great people and I think it is just part of the natural progression and evolution of a group unless some things are addressed up front (like determine right off the bat what you are going to do if a year from now you have 40 people meeting in your living room!). We went from "house to house" only soon some people's homes were soon too small for the larger numbers. It changed the dynamic of everything.

I want to be careful here because I don't want to leave the impression that it was this horrible, negative experience. It wasn't! It was glorious! It was wild and free and unrestrained and messy! I just wanted to share some of the hard things we had to face. We did end up meeting in several smaller groups eventually, but it's all still very ingrown. However, it is meeting the needs of those present, and there are some pretty extensive needs in this small group of people (medical issues, financial issues, mental health issues, marriage issues, etc.!) I chose to leave a little over a year ago. Reason why: I was so bored. That sounds terrible, but I want to be honest here. I was tired of all the self-focus, tired of hearing the same stuff over and over again, tired of being looked to as one having leadership skills that were needed to sometimes bring gentle change in direction when someone was hogging the entire time together, etc. because no one else had the courage to do it.

I still hang out with some of the folks on an individual basis and I go to the large gatherings of pot luck dinners, etc., but I just couldn't handle one more boring gathering together.

I know I sound awful, don't I? I don't want to pretty it up, though, that really is where I'm at with it. I've been mulling over where to go and what to do from here. I do share meals and life with several other Christians and for now that is enough for me, though I am really aware that this is just a temporary stage. I've no idea where I'm heading from here. I hope I find out soon….

I would say one final thing: To think there won't or can't be a leader is just about mission impossible from my experience (and I know you weren't saying no leaders, I just wanted to add that in!). The key, I think, is for there to be several people that are "leaders" who have genuine humility and only want to help move roadblocks out of the way that prevent genuine sharing and loving from taking place, not necessarily to set the "agenda" and have their own way!

I know this is ridiculously long, so feel free to delete it from your comments section with no hard feelings on my part!

Kristen Skedgell said...

Dear Barb, Thanks for visiting my blog a few weeks ago. ( Sorry I've been so slow to respond. I'm just getting the hang of this blogging thing! The "law of attraction" I think is all tied up in love. We attract what we truly "love," that is focus on, dream about, obsess about etc.

In thinking about your question, I'd just say one thing: take the risk of trusting that "still small voice" inside. Easy for me to say but in your gut you know what to do. Just love what you love and the rest will fall into place.

hope to hear from you again. Thanks for your blog - it's inspiring to witness new insights taking shape. kristen

Anonymous said...

I think it's possible, Barb...yet I know that what Anonymous wrote really hits home.
My guess is that we are being put into places of really learning how to trust Him....
I have just been reading Wayne Jacobson's other book, "He Loves Me" and he talks about some of what you are talking about.
Really good stuff...

Anonymous said...

I still think the sign in the front yard that says "Lunch" is the way to go, then it won't be "our group" ,it'll just be lunch. You know the times when the most God stuff got done was in your own home, having lunch....or dinner....or Grandma's carrot cake....or a dip in the pool......

Best Friend

Wayward Son said...

Just as a point of comparing notes...

We have been meeting as a house church for 8 years now. We meet each week on Sunday morning (a set meeting time). We have leadership. We prepare teachings and studies where there is at least a little structure. works for us.

We have spent most of these 8 years in "de-construction mode", that is, God using the experience itself to de-construct many of our mindsets about church. We actually started as a "regular" church and morphed into a house church, not to follow a trend or movement, but as a matter of following God.

I guess what I'm saying by all this is that starting something shouldn't just a matter of avoiding structure and definition for fear that it will one day implode. I think God uses the process itself to teach, instruct, and mold us.

My humble suggestion is that you do what is in your heart and don't worry about it too much--just hold it loosely and be willing to adapt for what works best for your group, and always looking for the hand of God and listening for His voice.

And however it looks--ENJOY THE JOURNEY. Too many people start things and then stress over them to the point they can't enjoy them. This thing should carry great fulfillment for you; if it doesn't, you are probably carrying a burden God doesn't intend for you. Enjoy it!

Erin said...

Wow I step away for a moment and miss this great conversation!!

I think Anon touched on something important about personality. Myself being a class A introvert, I have always struggled with being one of the silent ones. We even had a cell group for awhile (part of the megachurch we were in) and it was was all the good and none of the bad...for about 3 months. For that time it really was amazing, but even though it was only about 16 people (couples), and these women were my very very best friends, I still was the mouse in the corner.

How to integrate introverts and extroverts is a huge curiosity of mine...the extroverts often assume if the introverts don't say anything, then they are OK with things. The introverts feel they don't have a voice because they are being steamrolled by the extroverts and they begin to feel resentful.

Anyhow, our group dissolved because of the typical need to go into that here. But this subject is of interest to me.

Tracy Simmons said...

Hey, Barb, This one is for you:

Be free to risk. I say jump in with both feet and go for it! Then you can blog about it and we can all learn from you--the joys as well as the mistakes! What a journey, huh?

Barb said...

Thank you all for the comments. your encouragement and additions to the conversations are amazing.

Glen, I am longing for community. I actually watched "Rent" yesterday and loved watching the friendships evolve...even in a lost setting. thanks for the encouragement.

Brother TD, Welcome to the blog. I always need to be encouraged to keep it simple. Fortunately I have Husband and Best Friend that keep me from thinking too much.

Traveller, Do you also attend a more structured setting? Where did these friends come from and how did you first decided to get together semi-regularly? It sounds lovely.

Co-Heir, You are sooooo right. God help me from ever falling into that one. I really think we have NO idea how the NT guys really did it.

Anon, Husband read your comment and said, "This one said all the things that I wonder and fear about. I could have written the very same thing." The points you bring up are real and honest and happen to any small group over the course of time. And it is the reason why we are wondering just how do you then, meet intentionally.

And you do not sound awful. So many of the champions of the 'house church' style stuff just gloss over these very factors.

We are not ready to start anything yet. I just get impatient to see what is down the road.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

Kristen, Thanks for commenting. I loved your statement to "love what you love and the rest will fall into place." Fortunately I love to have my house full of people and feed them. Maybe it really is as simple as Best Friend below says!!

Che, You have been up front and close with a small group lately. I know it is not all as wonderful as we want it to be. Husband and I are re-reading the Jake's story from Wayne and are going to re-read "he Loves Me" again too. When I get all stirred up about this, they tend to calm me back down.

Best Friend, You are right. If we ever started anything formal, this is what it will be. Grandma's carrot cake may really be what discipleship and worship ARE all about!

Jeff, you are right. If we only started something that would not implode and would last forever - we would never take the first step. Having the perfect thing is not what we are after. I need to remember this.

Erin, I can't believe you are a class A introvert. This always bugged me in a group. There were always one or two people who did not readily give up what they were thinking. So I and other's filled in the gaps. But I know now that I missed out on so much deep thinking because these would not share. Sometimes I wonder if the blog world is just filled with the thoughts of those who I never heard in a small group. Maybe for some groups we should just pass out the laptops and have people write out what they are thinking about and then read each others.

Tracy, I loved that post. Actually forwarded it to a friend this morning. I want to risk but have no idea what God is calling me to risk. Sometimes in the past year I have felt that risk meant not doing anything. That, I think, right now is the biggest risk of all for me.

Anonymous said...

right on ;)

Tracy Simmons said...

Barb, I cannot believe you wrote this in your last comment: "Sometimes in the past year I have felt that risk meant not doing anything. That, I think, right now is the biggest risk of all for me."

That is EXACTLY the risk I've been taking this past year and it surprises me how scary it STILL is on some days! I think it comes from the old religious mindset that you're only worthwhile if you're DOING something. Intellectually, I know better, but on some days I still feel the guilt! It's easing over time, thank God!

kghart said...

My wife and I left a small "club" about four years ago with the idea of starting something in our home that was less structured and more relational. We've spent the last four years detoxing and have yet to do anything. I know she is waiting on me to make a move but I have had a hard time because of many of the same issues you raise.

Intentionality? Should I/we initiate something or just let it happen. Won't the Holy Spirit just create "divine appointments" for us to share the journey with others. Leadership? Because of my previous experience in "full-time pastoral ministry" I do not want folks looking to me to be the pastor or the leader. I do not mind facilitating and initiating but I do not want to be "in charge".

I have experienced the same fear of "starting something", which is why it has been 4 years and NOTHING. Personally I tend to over-think things and often fail to start any project if I am afraid I won't be able to follow through.

I was recently given the following advice from someone familiar with our angst; I think it will help to think less of forming a group to meet in perpetuity and think about doing something for the next season. What is Father asking you to do? Facilitate some fellowship? Provide an opportunity for others to be equipped? Because those will be very different. And think in terms of doing something for six weeks or three months and then seeing what God might lead beyond that. There’s lots of ways to hve intentional, regular events without it becoming a managed club with people who feel obligated to come...Of course God might ask you to do something entirely different. Only he knows the situation and what would serve his kingdom in your area. Follow you r heart about these things and learn as you go through it... Feel free to make some mistakes and make changes as need be. Just remember that it is always about the people, never about the ‘group.’ and you’ll be fine.

I'll make you a deal. You let me know how things are going on your end and I'll do the same. We can learn together.

Tyler Dawn said...

Hi Barb,

Why do we always assume that because Paul, Peter, etc.. did it a certain way that they were correct? They were coming out of a lifetime of hardcore religion, no different than us in many respects, if not worse because it was their whole life, not just a small part. Why do we read the New Testament as an instruction manual as to how to do church as if such a thing even ought to exist. Jesus set us free of sin and set up a relationship, and many people wrote opinions in letters that got placed in a book we call scripture and we are using that as a blueprint -- but should we? Does it set up an expectation that Abba does not have?

I'm not posing this question with a definite answer in mind, I'm just posing it because it started really bothering me about 18 months ago.

What if we all just lived so totally for Him that it was a natural and joyous thing to gather together, wherever and whenever (the earliest believers met everyday after all) because we were so passionate and in love with Him and with each other? Maybe that's what the "church" in Ephesus had that we think we can duplicate corporately.

Just a thought :) I like reading about this struggle, it's a hard one!!!

Barb said...

Tracy, sometimes when I write something I look at it and it is Papa's words to me. That statement was like that.

Kevin, Added you to my google reader. Will keep up. Sounds like we are on the same kind of path.

Tyler, I have been reading the NT with the same questions for years now. I am sure they did not mean it to be a blueprint. I mostly feel like a closet heritic ;)

Anonymous said...

we've done it :) we call it missional community and I will say that the challenge is to let it be what it is. At least it's a challenge for me. I struggle with my expectations and feelings about Revolution all the time but all in all, it's the only way I will "do church" anymore and it's really freeing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this honest and challenging post. As we work towards starting something new, we have come to a similar conclusion- to be a missional community is to love God and love our neighbours and doing so "in the open".