Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Church of Others: Day Two: ChurchAtAThirdPlace

See below for earlier post in this series.

The second day of the workshop we went over the three part essay I wrote a year ago that was published in Small Talk. You can go to and click on newsletters and then go to volume six and download the three essays published in the fall on The Living Room Church, The Inside Out Church.

In addition, we discussed again a series of "church heresies". The Mission Has A Church not the other way around. The church exists for transformation beyond ourselves beginning with ourselves. Not being visitor-oriented. Not being worship-as-primary oriented, but worship as sustaining of the primary focus on mission.

And updates on the essays were presented, such as my new understanding that we are not so much to be looking for other places to go do what we have started in Turley as helping people in their own indigenous neighborhoods and places, such as apartment complexes, or in public spaces, etc. to learn from us, and partner with them, not trying to replicate what we have done from above but help them emerge their part of the church right where they are; and ways that we have found to focus, our 3 Rs and 7cs:

Three R’s of Spiritual Community Life
(from John Perkins and Christian Community Development Association and civil rights movement)
Seven C’s that make up our progressive understanding of Christ:

Communitas—missional relational community
Conscience—Freedom; we don't give out theological tests to any at any level of being with us.
Commitment—differences for Participants, Partners, Leaders, Planters.
Compassion---focus on the least of these, Matthew 25 sets agenda
Contemplative---balancing interior life with social action
Celebrating—at least weekly worship, plus celebrations in and of and for others in community
Creative---err on the side of chaos, be chaordic, permission-giving, trusting creation spirit

Some other background stories and information shared included:

“In our first year, we began ten new churches. In our second year, Church Multiplication Associates started 18 new churches. The next year we added 52 new starts. The momentum was beyond our expectations. In 2002, we averaged two churches a week being started and had 106 starts. The following year we saw around 200 starts in a singe year. We estimate that close to 400 churches were started in 2004 but counting the churches has become a daunting task. At the time of this writing, there have been close to 800 churches started in 32 states and 23 nations around the world in only six years.” (average 16 people each; simple format reproduces easily). Lower the bar of how church is done and raise bar of what it means to be a disciple. Organic church is simple so it is informal, relational, mobile.Smallest group in the organic church is the Life Transformation Group, two or three people (non-coed) who meet weekly to challenge one another to live an authentic spiritual life.Church Is…Living Organism (learn from farmers not CEOs). Not in buildings or mindset of buildings. More than one-hour service one day a week. Meant to be decentralized. Meant to be in and through everyone.

Where to go to form relationships? Middle class wealthy educated suburbs? Cole says you will have a hard time planting organic churches there. Good soil often found in the “fear factor zone” where you are afraid to go and be….Starting not in your own home but in the home of anotherMultiplication doesn’t mean splitting up groups intentionally. It is natural byproduct of intimacy. Multiply healthy disciples, then leaders, then churches, and finally movements. Scripture instructs to make disciples who make disciples not to make churches.

DNA = (D)ivine Truth [RR: Jesus reflects God’s loving freedom]. (N)urturing relationships [RR: Go deep together]. (A)postolic mission. [RR: Go out in teams]

Neil Cole, author of The Organic Church among others, has a new book out called "Search and Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes A Difference". You might know that he is at Church Multiplication Associates and has been for years promoting organic churches of 8 to 16 people based on groups of 2 to three people in "life transformation groups." He has a lot of wonderful stories in this latest book, based on metaphors gleaned from years of being a lifeguard, and I will try to post some in the future, but now I want to focus on the practical tips at the end of the book as resources for people seeking to start small groups of Christians or Jesus-seekers, followers, etc.
First, the summary: the groups, and they can go by various names, meet once a week for approximately an hour. Two or three only, with the fourth person coming in as the start of the next group). For him, the groups are not coed (I can see those advantages, the same as having traditional women's and men's ministries in organizational churches; but for my purposes here I don't think they have to start out that way, but as your groups multiply you can have some that are that way, and I think a lot will become that way organically, but then I'm a liberal; I do think there are advantages to trying to go with same-sex groups);

there is no curriculum, workbook or training required; there is no leader needed in the group; only three tasks are to be accomplished: sin is confessed to one another in mutual accountability, scripture is read repetitively in entire context and in community, souls are prayed for strategically, specifically and continuously.In the book he provides a series of different questions that have been asked as part of small groups from John Wesley on up to various ways people are adapting the Life Transformation Groups. Let me repeat again my belief in the generalization that liberals tend to not be comfortable confessing personal sins, and conservatives tend to not be comfortable confessing, or even knowing, about their involvement in social sins. His book again focuses too heavily on personal holiness for my taste, not because that is not important, since it is important for liberals who have ignored it often in public discourse, but because the questions don't tend to allow for the social self to be explored and while the whole point of the organic church and LTGs is to stress community over individualism, the questions as mostly prompted to be asked seem focused on the individual.

But there is one set of questions offered in the book that I really like and can use. They come from Phil Helfer, pastor of Los Altos Brethren Church in Long Beach, CA. Here are the questions to be asked each week of one another:1. How have you experienced God in your life this week?2. What is God teaching you?3. How are you responding to his prompting?4. What sin do you need to confess?5. How did you do with your reading this week?(I like these because they can easily incorporate the social self)Often there is a variation of another question focused on how you have shared God with others this week. LTGs, as Cole points out, are different in focus from accountability groups because they are designed to multiply as participants tell others about their life and its changes.In many ways these are spiritual direction questions and spiritual direction styled groups, but in a prophethood and priesthood of all believers sort of way in community rather than focused only one one individual. I think they tap into that deep longing that the rise of spiritual direction has done also.The questions he even boils down to two simple ones to encounter and share with one another week after week: 1. What is God telling you to do? What are you going to do about it?

Type rest of the post here