Friday, March 09, 2007

We make it way too hard when it is very easy which is the hard part

When I "started" my first church in 1991 (it was definitely a modern-era start hence the mechanistic metaphor of starting vs. planting, and it was a UU church), I got several dumbounded looks---from UUs that I was doing it where I was doing it, in one of the poorest counties of Oklahoma albeit a college town, and from both UUs and non-UUs that I was just doing it. Can you do that? was the question I got. Do that, they meant, without a lot of denominational funding, without the okay and oversight from "above." And it wasn't a split-off from a church fight, I should add, one of the time-honored ways of starting a new church :). And I wasn't ordained, or seminary-trained (but I was in right relationship and communication with leaders, lay and ordained, and in UU and non-UU churches, all around me). And I hadn't been a strong lay leader in a church yet, not really; too busy going to school, working, going to school again, establishing a family, a career. I had a spiritual urge and calling to start a church, for many reasons mostly healthy but probably not all, but I didn't go through boot camp, discernment, and I was just getting back into being a newbie at following Jesus in my deeper way than childhood and teen days and ways.

It was a kind of grassroots "fellowship" but consciously was trying not to be a "fellowship" in the ways that I had witnessed and heard from others about the Unitarian fellowship movement of the 50s and 60s. It was one of the best times of my life, I would do a lot of things different now because 1991 isn't 2007, but in the early days it could be a model for exploding new church and mission plants across the country.

Small is good as long as there are networks of relationships. If we get over geographic-blindness, we could start plants, call them missions or churches or whatever, just about anywhere people are at home--make campus ministries into campus churches, meet in apartment complex clubhouses and start with a video or book discussion or service projects for families, meet in bars or Panera breads or in a park, or in cyberspace. Get over worship-production values and see the value in small sharing circles and go to big church worship for the things that only it can give jump-start-wise. Get over organization. Don't worry about officers, bylaws. Just relate and let spiritual passions and gifts lead the way.

Go under the radar. Don't worry if it doesn't show up in the UUA directory or pay dues to the district, etc. All that is secondary or tertiary and will come and happen in due time, and for all the right reasons and not wrong reasons. Don't even worry about calling it a church.

We need to be casting vision for such missionaries and turning them loose and nurturing them and networking them. But who is the "we" in the previous sentence? I hope it is you.