Archive for February, 2007

Spiritual Formation

The Emerging Role of Sunday School…

As I suggested in a previous post concerning small groups — a response to Kate Spire’s request for resources, I find myself wondering if we will soon see the re-emergence of Sunday School (or whatever you want to call it). Not so much in an effort to “grow” the church numerically, like Wendy McFadden suggests in the latest Messenger Editorial. But as a part of the disciple-making process.

Here’s why I am wondering about this re-emergence… the demands on our time are ever increasing and the small group model mostly expects that participants gather together a second time each week. One time being for worship and one time for small group… ofcourse this is in the more traditional church approach…not the house church approach. I believe that small groups facilitate spiritual growth and are vital for maturing Christ followers…however, I am finding that it often becomes hard to get people to give that extra time to gather together on another day/night each week. So, I am wondering if this will push us to bring back something like Sunday School in conjunction with worship. I should say here, that our church doesn’t do Sunday School but has cell groups that meet during the week. Others who have sunday school may re-visit it’s purpose and enhance it’s role in disciple-making.

Along with re-visiting Sunday School’s purpose or seeing it re-emerge as a part of the process of making disciples of Jesus, would be creating an outflow of sharing Christ’s love in the community and inviting others to join the journey of following Jesus and being his hands and feet in the world.

Any thoughts?…


Complexity vs. Simplicity

I’ve been giving lots of thought to the state of the church these days…it’s effectiveness in living out the mission it’s been given and the impact of that mission on the state of the world.

From my vantage point, I confess, that we haven’t been too effective in living out the mission and that mission has not drastically impacted the world. In other words the state of the world is getting worse instead of better. And the church has become a social club and/or service agency and not the living body of Jesus on mission to bring God’s kingdom into reality in the here and now.

And for a while now, I’ve been aware that one of the many challenges we face is that the church has become too complex. And in that complexity has become a club that you join where membership has priveledges. We are very busy in our churches. There is worship, small group, Sunday school, fellowship activities, fund-raisers, mission trips, game nights, classes, conferences, bible-studies, etc… you get the point. And all of this comes at a time in history when most of us are burning the candle at both ends and from the side too! Our busyness is part of a complexity that seems to be keeping us from fruitful mission in the world and may even hinder our personal spiritual growth. Which I think contributes to the “label” mentality that is present in USAmerica’s christian churches…ie., we are “Christian” by description, but not by way of life!

Recently, a parishoner returned from a library conference and handed me a book by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, called “Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples”. In the book they push us to return to Jesus’ conversation with the lawyer concerning eternal life and Jesus’s response about the greatest commands being loving God and loving others and then saying that “all of the law and prophets hang on these two.” Simple isn’t it?!

Then they put forth the following definition of a simple church: “A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth. The leadership and the church are clear about the process and are committed to executing it. The process flows logically and is implemented in each area of the church. The church abandons everything that is not in the process.”

I like that concept and want to work at becoming a simple church! A simple church where disciplemaking is the central mission and the fruit of that simplicity is seen in transformed lives that love God and love others and in so doing transforms the character of the community and world. But I realize that the process of becoming a simple church will not be easy and it will require CONSTANT course adjustments.

What are your thoughts?

Decline/Growth, Missional

Putting some pieces together

Who/What are “emergent Brethren”? Here’s another piece of history, with some suggestions for moving forward…

Steve Longenecker of Bridgewater College recently published “The Brethren in an Age of World War,” a source book of Brethren history, covering the years 1914-1950. He begins the book by telling the story of Raymond and Laura Cottrell, who in 1913 left the United States as mission workers in India. Both were medical doctors, and served in India until the late 1940’s. He ends the book by describing the formation of Brethren Volunteer Service, which happened about the same time the Cottrell’s returned home.

Along the way, Brother Longenecker makes the case that during this era of Brethren history, we shifted from being mission-minded to being service-minded. In the early 1900’s (and before), our members (especially our youth) were encouraged to give their lives for mission. By the mid-1900’s (and continuing to today) our members are encouraged to serve.

I believe the emergent/missional church will again pick up the mission-minded approach to discipleship—prayerfully seeking the places where God is at work in the world—and combining it with the service-minded approach to discipleship, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and even loving our enemies. We must reject the “church as club” model, which invites people into a church that doesn’t reach out to the world at all. We must also reject “service in the name of service only”, which seeks to serve other people but not tell them in whose name we serve.

The task of the emergent church will be to put these pieces together as we live our faith in the communities surrounding our churches, and in the world around us.

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