Archive for January, 2007

Spiritual Formation

Emergent Brethren

While we are at this emergent definition phase, what about defining “emergent brethren”.

In many ways, I think, we (The Church of the Brethren -now) were emergent from the begining! Alexander Mack and his wife Anna and the other 6 — the original 8 – the original small group… were very emergent as they rejected their state church mentality and devoted themselves to studying the bible and devoted themselves to following Jesus first and foremost! The definitely stood at odds with the state church culture of the day…

I’ve been saying for some time now, that we need to get back to that emergent posture that rejects the USAmerican Christian model of church that is more of a social club and corporation than a mission arm of Jesus in the world. And in some ways for the Church of the Brethren it is a BIG jump and in other ways that counter culture force is one of the gifts we have to offer the world and the church, especially in USAmerica. For instance in serving the poor and marginalized… being peacemakers…living in the blessing (and curse) of community… working for justice for all God’s children. It is these very “core” values of the Church of the Brethren that make us emergent, I think. What about you? What do you think?


What is Emergent?

I think as we begin this blog….getting it off the ground, it would be helpful to work at a definition of “Emergent” churches. So, what is emergent?

For me, emergent is about being non-traditional in our approach to ministry. It is about being missional — (That might need definition!) about the mission of Jesus. It’s about engaging our full self in the mission of the church, not just a place to go for an hour or two each week, but being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. Being the heart of Jesus in the world…and by world, I mean wherever we are! Emergent is about being incarnational. It’s about an ever deepening connection with God and with other people. It’s about moving boundaries, removing walls, exposing others to the mission, love, peace, and grace of Jesus.

That’s enough to get us started…what do you think? What does emergent mean to you?

Missional, Spiritual Formation, Understanding Context

The risks of grace

Last Sunday evening, our church (Central Church of the Brethren, in downtown Roanoke, VA) was broken into. This is the second time in 3 weeks. To date, the most signifcant loss is my old laptop, which had been given to the music department. It might work for another year, it might conk out tomorrow. The list of what is missing is minor, even somewhat amusing, but that’s another story…

Our congregation is discerning a transition to a “small group-missional church” model, where we intentionally reach out to the community around the church. We currently have three primary involvements that a “missional small group” could easily expand: a partnership with the local elementary school; the beginnings of a relationship with a “social-service” type ministry that reaches out to uninsured children; a willingness to allow the homeless are welcome to join us for our Wednesday evening meal (we generally have 2 or 3).

The recent break-ins have caused me to wonder what other ways our missional congregation will be broken into?

1. Will we continue to experience those who “break in and steal”? Probably. Will we let this be a motivation to retreat within our own walls (or retreat to the suburbs)? Knowing our congregation, I doubt it. But what of those pesky attitudes and stereotypes? Will we allow God to break into our own lives to redeem us from classism and racism? Pray that it would be so.

2. Will we allow God to “break into” our theology, learning to see how God is interested in all people—even preferentially interested in the poor, the widows, the aliens, all those on the “flip side” of global economics and political power. What do we need to learn from those whom affluence has passed by?

3. Will we allow God to “break into” the mentality that church is for “us”? Will our walls form the boundaries of a barrier between the church and the world? Or will the walls of the church provide the structure for authentic fellowship, for sharing our faith, for engaging our community, and for an opportunity for all people to experience the transforming grace of God?

It’s a risky venture, to be sure. But these are some of the risks of grace.

Missional, Third Places

Third Places….

I am very interested in hearing from others who have successfully launched a Third Place… Our leadership team is exploring doing just that as a way to connect with our community, provide an employment option for our youth and others, and as a way to fund ministry.

A third place is neutral ground, inclusive and promotes social equality, conversation is the central activity, it is frequented by regulars who welcome newcomers, it is a non-pretentious, homey place that fosters a playful mood. Like Starbucks! Home is a first place, Work is a second place and Starbucks or other cafe’s or places like Barnes and Nobel are third places.

I am interested in feeback from any who have done this successfully. But also offer a quote from Len Sweet’s new book “The Gospel According to Starbucks” for your interaction….

“Church used to be a third place of choice, a meeting house, a sacred place where the community gathered for governing, for mourning, for celebrating, for relationship building. But churches increasingly became not relational space but propositional place. Instead of going there to connect with God and with others in meaningful relationship, people started going to church to be convinced of transcendent truth, or , if they already numbered among the convinced, to have their beliefs and religious convictions confirmed from the pulpit. The church lost credibility as a place for sacred relationship when it chose to specialize in formulating and advancing a better spiritual argument. The result is that people who came to the meeting house got connected with ideas and formulas more than they did with God and with other people.” p 132

What do you think? I think sweet is right on and that is one of several reasons why we are pursuing the idea of opening a third place in our community to do again what the church used to do. And then out of those relationships we hope to make a connection with our new friends to our congregation’s life and ministry. It seems to me that emerging churches must consider options like these that get us out into the community making authentic connections and relationships with people who will not come inside our churches…. Thoughts???

Missional, Third Places

Interactivity a must for ministry and worship gatherings

I’m reading an excellent book just off the press by Len Sweet called “The Gospel According to Starbucks.” I’m reading it because our leadership team is interested in opening a third place business in our community. More on that in a later post when I can get it to be the topic….

But here is something Len says that I think we emerging church folks need to think about as we plan ministries and worship gatherings… “Only two things are keeping professional sports going for postmoderns: Fantasy sports and video games. ” The reason this is so, is the HUGE desire to interact with the sport, not just sit and soak! Think of the implications of that in worship and ministry. Getting people involved. Making room for personal connection — personalization is huge. One of the reasons that I like prayer stations and like them centered around the theme of the day and after the sermon sets the stage is the time for folks to personally interact with God in the context of community.


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