Category Archives: Community

Special visitor to Bend…

For anyone reading, I am excited to extend an invite to anyone interested… Karen Sloan will be spending an evening with us at First Presbyterian on Sunday, October 28 at 5:30pm. Karen has written a book, Flirting with Monasticism, and travels around the country speaking and connecting with various churches on areas of spiritual formation and the emerging church.

We will be having dinner together in Heritage Hall and will follow with conversation on spiritual formation and the emerging church. It will be very much a conversation, so come with questions and a desire to get to know others and be challenged. Our hope is to gather a number of groups from different churches and communities in Bend, Redmond, and Central Oregon. If you want more information, please leave a comment or contact me.

If you are a pastor or church leader, there may be opportunity for smaller group conversation on Monday. Again, contact me for more info.

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Connecting the connections

I had a conversation with a woman at the bank today, leaving me feeling like we are doing the right thing with this community growth. I am amazed that this particular teller is so good at remembering conversations that we have had over the last few months. I have told her about this new community that we are seeking to grow and mentioned our gathering on Sunday nights. She warmly and politely told me in a past conversation that church is not something that she is particularly interested in. But she wished me well. So today, she asked how things were going.

Very well, I told her. Connections were happening and we are beginning to see what this community might be about. I told her it is difficult to think of it as church because it is so different than how I, and many others, have seen church in the past. It is so decentralized and not so focused on getting people in the door. She mentioned that she had heard about some other new churches that were starting up and seemed to have some good advertising. I mentioned my friendship with those pastors but made the distinction that we really are doing something quite different.

We don’t want to get anyone anywhere. Our hope is to meet people where they are at and connect with them through relationships, groups, and other means. Our Sunday gathering is really for those who feel a desire to study the Bible, pray, and go deeper. We hope to join people with what they are already doing. In this sense, we can be connected all over the place and not specifically with one place.

It really looks like this:

network-set.jpgI guess in all actuality it still looks kind of different than that… as perhaps there is no real center that we intend to gravitate people towards. There is the Spirit running through things… the Spirit of God… and I would affirm that God is doing things in many different places as the kingdom is realized on this Earth. It is our hope to find where that is and add fertilizer to that growth. We want to meet people where they are at and give them the opportunity and option to go as deep as they want to go.

If you have heard of the relational set (or some would say “fuzzy” set) – versus the closed or bounded sets – this will be familiar to you. I feel as though what we are doing is epitomizing the relational set.

I didn’t tell my particular bank teller about these sets, or get nearly as into the details as I have here, but as I told her, there was something in her eyes that said, “This is different.” We parted with her confirmation that she indeed would be thinking about this different way of engaging with people. A connection made.

Motion to house church?

During last week’s Sunday night gathering a few of us contemplated the need for the large amount of energy expended to get things set up and taken down at First Presbyterian. We were getting tables set, moving chairs (very uncomfortable ones at that) into a circle, hauling tables (which were extremely heavy), and then taking it all down… probably an hour or more work, for a group of 5 to 10. Was there some other way to have the hospitality, the warmth, the fellowship, and the intimacy without the churchy feel?

Then certain advisers said that we really need to get out of the church building.

Seeing how I am definitely not one to say that buildings and church formalities are necessary for a connection with God, the concept of meeting in a home is an appealing one. At least now, as we are small, there may be something very good to this. I am a little reluctant as the leader of the group to have it in my own home. I just finished Neil Cole‘s book, Organic Church, which is all about house churches. His insight is that it is better to have someone else from the group host as it empowers more people. Any opinions on this?

I never thought, back at Bethel Seminary, that I would ever have anything to do with a “house church” or anything like that. I can’t say that this is exactly that as we are supported by the bigger church, and very much committed to being an “emerging church” in Bend, but hopefully Thorsten Moritz would be proud.

I suppose there will be more reflection on this in the future, but I am wondering for those who manage to stumble on this what feedback you might give. My question above also stands: should a gathering be held at a place other than the leader’s home, or does it really matter?

**Also for those who stumble on this and are from Bend, please contact me if you are interested in having a personal conversation or interested in being a part of our gatherings.

Creating our Own Kingdoms…

I am always interested in how people talk about their church. I am fascinated with how we talk about the kind of community that we say we have…

It gets me thinking about the concept of Kingdom (which is what Jesus would say we are supposed to be about)… or I suppose we could say influence instead. This is not as meaningful of a term for us Christians, but for those who aren’t, I suppose it does come down to influence. So I’ll use “kingdom” interchangeably with “influence.” So I ask myself, and I would love to ask those I talk to, but to avoid unnecessary offense, I refrain. What kind of kingdom are we trying to create?

There is the kingdom of our own church… done often in the name of community. Some pour money into weekly services, high tech media, and fancy buildings. We have the most interactive websites, the flashy publications, and streamlined programs. Everyone feels so good about being “there” and in the midst of the action. But if they aren’t bodies showing up at the program, are they really a part of it? We have great community because we share in this great church life, but is our church the kingdom we are trying to create? I have had this mentality and I still wrestle with it today…

Then there is national, or global kingdom… done in the name of politics and “peace.” We will have peace if everyone is Christian, or if we have Christians in power. Christianity must be defended and I must do my part by voting or supporting or whatever… To not vote is worse than anything else because it means I am not doing my part to promote a government with Christian values. See my previous post on this one! But why do we really believe that going to war or voting or being political is important? I don’t want to say that they are not important or should be ignored. More so, what is at the root of our need to push things? Are we seeking again to establish a “kingdom?”

What I really want to ask people is, “What kind of kingdom are you seeking to grow?” How is it getting out and into your city? How is it becoming more decentralized than centralized? (Not that many would really get what this means… I barely do..) These are the questions I ask myself. These are the things that I struggle with. For me, it is probably the individual kingdom that I am trying to grow… probably the worst kind. My own house, my own dog, a savings account, and on and on…