thoughts on church, ver. 4

man, i am going to miss this community. jc is right: the aircraft carrier analogy of church really has potential--even within the context of a single body of believers. if each individual member sees themselves as "pilots" they may then take some responsibility for discipling and being discipled. it is, of course, messy and rough and jerky, but if the "captain" is willing to continue to encourage everyone to take off on their own, they will eventually get the point. case in point: this weekend b and i attempted to move our house closer to selling condition, seeing as we have no baby yet. this involves great quantities of work and with many hands, the work gets lighter. six people voluntarily showed up at our house saturday and helped us work on getting walls painted, ceilings spackled, windows washed, etc. good enough there, but these people weren't content to leave us with the cleaning up all by our little lonesomes. they pitched in to clean up as well. then they took us out for ice cream. but the real rubber met the road sunday. still sans baby, i decided to move the working to the bedroom. with the fumes involved, painting our room has become quite the controversial topic over the last view weeks. with the caveat that it be finished in one day, i was given the green light to paint. the prep work alone took me several hours and our sunday church group effectively had to start w/o me--on almost no notice. you'd think that would be a problem--and under a centralized leadership model, with one or two or a few people holding the reins weekly and the others waiting to be led through the meeting, it may have been. but Jesus has done some remolding of our hearts and minds over the last few months. with b and i unreliable or absent, two of the "core" elders/members about to transfer to jc's plant, and a third "core" elder/member already gone from leadership, the sunday group didn't skip a beat. meals were made, prayers were prayed, deep discussions were hammered through, worship was participatory. in short, God be praised--it doesn't take a masterful teacher, gifted guitar player, courageous evangelists, exacting schedulers, or any other "limelight" positions to make a church. what it does take is a group of people that are committed to being discipled and to grow disciples by: (1) hospitality--having an open house and a loose hold on material possessions; (2) decentralized, others-focused leadership that is willing to delegate, encourage others to lead through their own gifts (musically, teaching, conducting special events, etc.)--not just to reinforce the gifts of the leaders themselves; (3) focus on long-term life change through two-to-three person accountability relationships, scripture reading, study of significant christian books or books of the Bible through discussion rather than a teacher's monologue; (4) a commitment (primarily by the eldership/leadership) to live "life" together on a daily rather than weekly or monthly basis; (5) outward missional focus for the group, something other than the operation of the group itself to focus on; (6) diversity of background, theological position, etc., in the group itself; (7) intention amongst the leadership to cultivate intimate relationships with non-believers and other believers who do not belong to the group. it seems like those points are so time-intensive that an intentional person is going to have to make a choice whether to broaden relationships at the expense of depth--the course i've seen taken most often--or to limit quantity in favor of quality of relationship. if the latter course is taken, a leader will probably suffer repeated disappointment when responsibility is delegated out and the person responsible drops the ball. also, the latter course, being so time intensive, is less results-oriented and more relationship-oriented. numbers may not grow substantially and to some this is evidence of failure rather than success. but this road, the one acclaimed so infrequently post-Constantine, seems to be the one the first christians tread. whether that is significant--didactic in any way to our current situation--or a piece of quaint narrative from the Mediterranean region millennia ago remains to be seen.


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