Monday, August 11, 2008

Summer Recaps & Reflections from the SouthGate :: Community Experiments

Many are those who can identify needs, gaps and weakness, unfortunately there are significantly less who actually have the wherewithal and courage to begin moving towards change and renovation to see those needs met, gaps filled in, and weakness made strong.

Back in the spring, through a series of conversations, prayer and reflection we as a staff and core leaders identified a need for a greater sense and reality of community. During one of our monthly Core Leaders meetings where this came up, many spontaneously began brain storming how this could happen. The conversation emerged with questions like, "Why do we do what we do on Sundays?" "What if we did 'church' for the adults more like the way we're approaching it for our children?" and so forth.

All of these questions were really asking, What is Church? Do we have to do it the way we've always done it? and, Are there other ways (perhaps better ways) of doing it?

The result of these conversations was a summer of community experiments.

Community is at the core of who God is: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. We were created in His image to experience and be a part of authentic community. In part, Church is community. We concluded if community is a genuine need, as well as, a very fundamental component to what church is, then it's worth reshaping what our Sunday gatherings look like to create environment(s) more conducive for people to experience and engage in community.

The July Experiment
During our Sunday morning gathering, we engaged in a time of worship, followed by a short message on one of Jesus' parables. We then were encouraged to break up and join in one of three break-out groups, each looking at the parable from a specific perspective: Finance, Family, Future. The goal of these break-outs was one, to help us actually be able to sit across the table from others (rather than all facing forward in the pews) and engage in authentic dialogue and conversation. And, secondly, while in these conversations, to talk about how this parable could be embodied in our daily lives.

The Coolest Idea
One of the coolest ideas and applicable moments was presented week four in the Finance break-out. The parable for the day was Matthew 25/Parable of the Talents. After some talk about the parable, our talents, our money and investing in God's Kingdom, etc. A hypothetical question was proposed: What if someone gave you $100.00 for the sake of investing in God's Kingdom, helping someone, assisting a cause. What would you do? How could it be used? Ideas buzzed, as the room was filled with chatter.

After a few moments, the facilitators announced: "That scenario is no longer hypothetical..." They proceeded to pull out a hand full of one-hundred-dollar bills. There was a $100.00 bill for every person willing to take the challenge, live out the parable in their daily lives. Awesome! Simply Awesome! What a better way to actually experience, understand and begin to incarnate Scripture...

The following is a snapshot at what the break-out groups looked like.

The Feedback
Some loved it... Some hated it... Some love being able to actually talk about what's being said in church, rather than just listening... Others seem to prefer the 3 points and 6 principles that could be extracted from a given passage. Some were challenged to greater authenticity through the venue of honest conversations as they acknowledged their daily lives don't always reflect the essence of the parable, for others talking this was too much of a stretch and impeded on their levels of comfortability. For some, this was church at its best, with community interacting. For others, this is not what Sunday morning church is about.

We have many preconceived ideas about what church is, is not, should be, etc., many of which have no biblical precedence, rather have been the historical constructs over the last couple of centuries.

It would be interesting to see what church would look like with a little deeper biblical exegesis and a more comprehensive understanding of how our current order(s) of service evolved over time throughout church history...

Here's a couple of questions that begin to dig into the matter that were posted a while back on the post Cultural Byproduct or Biblical Prerequisite?
  • What elements of my Christianity are a byproduct of my culture, but not necessarily a biblical prerequisites?
  • What is essential to being someone who "follows Christ"?
  • What constitutes "having church"?
  • Does church have to be on Sunday to be a church?
  • Does there have to be an extended time of worship/music/singing to qualify as a church service?
  • Does the singing that does that worship/music/singing have to take place all at one time, during the beginning of the service?
  • Is the "real" purpose of "worship" to "prepare our hearts for the Word," as it has often been said?
  • Does there have to be a "sermon" for it to be a real service? (Does it have to happen on the back-half)

1 comment:

Hermi said...

Hi Jerrell, it's me, no longer anonymous. It's good to see that Cultural Byproduct or Biblical Prerequisite post revisited. I think I've grown some in a year.

I personally saw a lot of benefit to the experiment, but perhaps that's a result of my questions like the ones back in July of 07'.

Contrary to what you said at the beginning of this post thought, I believe that many are those who CANNOT identify true needs, gaps and weaknesses. I believe that is why some people walk out of experiments like the ones done this summer not seeing the benefit and therefore not getting involved further moving forward towards change. I don't know...

I just wonder about those of us who have the wherewithall and courage to move forward if we are just moving forward or are we helping others to move along with us. Just a question, not a statement, I don't know....recent thoughts...may mean nothing.