Taking Our Next Steps

For the past few months I’ve been part of a worship discernment group called “Next Steps”.  We had been given the task of discerning what God is calling our worship gathering to in regards to, well, worship.  But it’s become so much more than that (typical of God, eh?  Not one to stick to the agenda).

Initially I felt hesitant to join.  But Aj, you babble on and on about worship stuff all the time:  why not dive in?  Because worship is so much more than a Sunday morning gathering, and I feared that the group would be focusing solely on that activity — and then I’d get antsy and cranky – never a pretty thing.  However, as folks listened intentionally – to each other, to God, to God through each other – the focus started to shift.  We shared stories, dreams, woundings, longings.  Folks felt like we should be a think tank *and* an action group (hallelujah!):  if we feel that there needs to be an atmosphere of hospitality, then we should engage in that practice ourselves!; if we sense that God wants us to be present more in the day-to-day aspects of our community, including on Sundays, then we need to look around and respond!; if we wonder how much our body truly knows about worship – elements, meaning, reasonings behind – then we should explore and educate!  Ah, a breathe of fresh air.

NFC had a quarterly business meeting Sunday in which our recommendations were presented to the body.  Even though I was a bit loopy, having rushed back into town from a weekend with the NFC women at the coast (and my clinging yet squirming appendage, I mean, son), I felt a strong desire to be present – to hear folks’ thoughts – to share, if need be, my experience and longing – to continue to participate in this journey with the larger gathering.

It was good.

People had some concerns:  any recommendation for change creates discomfort; how we respond makes a *world* of difference.  Folks actually voiced thanks for the “hard” work that we did.  I know it sounds contrived, but it really did not feel like work – it was simply so engaging and energizing!  Some worried about the lack of Sunday School for the children during the pastoral-proposed six-week fast, to which others shared their deep longing to have a church where children were more incorporated into the corporate worship gathering.

The closing response meant so much to me:  a Next Stepper shared his experience in this process, stating he previously felt no longing or need for change, but through much patience and intentional listening has come to be able to hear and see this call.  He cautioned the folks of his generation to listen patiently and react lovingly, and he reminded us that we will be having this conversation in a few years because the nature of culture is so consistent in changing.  I hadn’t thought about the fact that the words some of us shared might be hard for others to hear;  his testimony is a gentle check for me to offer the same respect and graciousness to others when the do not see things as I do, whether they voice that or not.

Here is a link to Sunday morning’s message (which I have yet to listen to) in which a six-week fast is proposed:  look for March 9th.

And here is the recommendations that the Next Steps committee offered to the congregation:  next-steps-recommendation.pdf

Any thoughts?  Does anything look exciting?  Or scary?  Or need to be checked?  Have you experienced this before?  Does it resonate with you?

6 thoughts on “Taking Our Next Steps

  1. Michelle

    I really want to respond to this in a deep, meaningful way. But I find myself so filled with conflicting thoughts and emotions that it’s hard for me to discern just what God wants me to share and what things are really of value only to myself. I’m definitely more of an action oriented person. Too much thought on anything without taking action or at least having a plan for taking practical logistical steps makes me as you say, “antsy and cranky.” But in a process such as this, I have to agree that there is no simple “fix” and to just say, ok, now we’ll have 2 services and potluck each Sunday and things will be “all better” is just ridiculous. I love the idea of the six week fast. I can’t wait to have children joining us in service-for so many reasons (I’ll have to blog about this later). I think NFC is an extremely loving, faithful, searching, patient, joyful, friendly, welcoming body of believers. But I have to realize that I’m looking through the eyes of someone who has been here for 9 years and has made an effort to involve myself in the various ministries this church has to offer. What does our church look like to a first time Sunday morning worshipper? What does it feel like to those who aren’t able-bodied or introverted? How do I reach out and really share myself with these people? One other thought-trust me I got lots more… is that as I think about having a large church membership constantly trying to engage in community by Sunday School classes, small groups, WBF, etc… I also worry about us breaking into little sub-groups that have very little to do with us as a cohesive larger group. I don’t even know about groups like Agape or Children of the Light-and yet I’m deeply entrenched in WBF culture. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I hear God calling us to be ONE body- and sometimes I worry that our desire to be known or to participate in so many different ministries actually pulls us apart into little sub-groups rather that one group known as NFC.

  2. Abbie

    Ish. I’m TOTALLY going to have to sit on this one before I respond. I have too many mumbly jumbly things going on inside my head, and not sure how I should respond. I promise, I’ll be back to give my little ‘ol me input. 🙂

  3. Denise

    In my idealistic little mind, I’d like to think that there can be some sort of a balance between the small groups and the larger cohesive community. The small groups are critical; it is there that we share, laugh, weep, know each other closely, and encourage each other as we strive to follow Christ together. The large group is wonderful…it is there that we rejoice together, learn together, listen together…worship together. I would hate to lose either of these venues. The thought of what could happen corporately in-between the two worship services, with more time to BE with each other, it pretty exciting…

    Just random leakings from my brain….and my heart…

  4. Mike

    Excellent summary of the business meeting, Aj! I appreciate being able to read your thoughts here.

    I too went away with a really good feeling about it. It was long, but at the same time it seemed like it was cut short…there was so much more to say and hear. But I suppose this is the beauty of it—the conversations and momentum and listening to the Spirit have just started!

    One thing I really appreciate that came from the Next Steps people was the focus on how we can all be a healthier “us”, rather than on personal preferences, and how can we get things more like “I” would like them. There really is a fine balance going on. There’s a respect for our heritage and traditions AND a longing for new life and fruit that is incredibly exciting to me!

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