Next Steps: Who to Do What Step With?

So I’ve shared some about the process of the group.  At least, I feel as though I did:  does it make sense to you?  What are you fuzzy about?  What would be helpful to hear more about?

During this process I read a great book called Permission Granted To Do Church Differently in the 21st Century.  It’s written by Gary Goodell, a person I know not a lot about, and Graham Cooke, a person who has become key in my spiritual journey.  Graham Cooke, originally from Great Britain so he’s got a *great* accent, leads a prophetic ministry centered in Vacaville, CA.  Dad introduced me to Graham in the form of videos and audio cassettes which I listened to while going for morning walks around my neighborhood.  He is one of the kindest, to the point, challenging, loving teachers I’ve ever heard.  So when I heard about this book, I knew I’d need to read it.

Section 1:  The authors talk about the “Third Day” church God’s told them that we’re moving into (there’s lot of references in the Bible about moving into something new on the third day).  Development of people and churches; Church as a living system – organic and organizational paradox (the church is a field – flexible and changing (this is the response to our cultural context) – and a building – rigid and unchanging (these are our values) – how do we hold to both?).

Section 2:  Third-Day Worship; God-centric Worship; the Worship Feast

Section 3:  Third-Day Meetings; Embracing the Unpredictable; What’s Really Sacred?

Section 4:  Transition (Oh, my, how people would be helped if they read this – to actually understand what we’re going through.  It doesn’t make it easier necessarily, but it’s nice to understand what is actually going on).

Section 5:  Third-Day Preaching

Section 6:  Third-Day Mission.

Good stuff, eh?  One chapter really struck me:  Groups of Tens, Groups of Fifties, and Groups of Hundreds.  “It is not that we just need more than one meeting.  In fact, it doesn’t matter how many meetings you have in a week or a month.  What is important is to see the potential of different sizes of meetings that create different atmospheres or venues, and thus produce different outcomes or results” (109).  We have different sized meetings at NFC, but I don’t think we know why we do, nor do I think we always have placed the correct desired outcomes on those meetings.

The first group is groups of ten.  “These smaller groups are home-based, intergenerational meetings, where we share our lives on a regular basis, make our needs know to each other, and bear each other’s burdens.”  This seems to happen with small groups and Listening Life groups and some Sunday School classes.  “These groups are not cell groups, or even home groups; they are real churches – complete and autonomous churches.  They have leaders; the often receive offerings for missions, the poor, the needy.  They evangelize the lost, baptize converts, dedicate babies, marry the wed and bury the dead, and obviously celebrate the sacrament of communion.  These small groups are not just extensions of the ‘mother ship’ local community church that has a central campus around which all life swirls.  They are the Church” (111).  He then goes on to talk about the theological importance of having The Meal together.  “The local church does not do small groups; the local church is a small group where everyone participates” (117).

Groups of Fifties:  “This is the group where everyone worships” (117).  “These groups are not meant to replace the whole body, but rather make possible a type of meeting in which all ages, including children, can participate” (118).  There has been a concern voiced about what to do with the kids during our six-week fast:  people are concerned for their spiritual welfare if they aren’t in Sunday School.  I’m a bit concerned for their spiritual welfare if they don’t know how or get to have an opportunity to contribute to the larger body!  “This meeting is based upon the full priesthood of all believers with mutual edification and mutual up-building for the purpose of personal strengthening” (118).  And Goodall notes that this is not the entire body, but a gathering of several smaller churches or simple churches in a larger setting (even a home, a park, a backyard).

Groups of Hundreds:  “This is the group where everyone listens and learns.”  The point of these groups is for the larger body or network of churches to consider direction.  They are generally led by teams, not an individual, embodying fivefold ministry.

The other week my husband was getting poked by God to consider the point and purpose and elements of worship.  He was questioning the focus on the sermon:  is that very worshipful?   We do need to be taught, but perhaps we have been putting the wrong function on the different group sizes.  It’s like putting a wrong car part in a car engine:  I will probably be frustrated when it does work well, but can the part change to meet my expectations?   Not so much.  When we try to wed worship and teaching, the focus is divided.  When we aren’t being church in small group ways, we’re probably not prepared to worship:  we have to play catch up in worship to get to that worshipful place.  When we try to get our individual needs met in the large group, people will fall through the cracks:  people can’t be held accountable very well in groups of hundreds.

So, as we think about where we are stepping next and who we are stepping with, perhaps we need to make sure the “parts” are serving their intended function, otherwise we’re going to get stuck on the side of the road, and I don’t think Click and Clack will be able to gufaw our way out of this one.

2 thoughts on “Next Steps: Who to Do What Step With?

  1. grace

    AJ,
    I’ve enjoyed reading about how you are attempting to apply some of the concepts of this book to your situation.

  2. Robin Mohr

    Aj, I am so grateful to have a window into a faith community wrestling with their calling in such a transparent way, but that doesn’t feel like airing the dirty laundry – just a breath of fresh air. I want to commend to you, if I haven’t already, Diana Butler Bass’s book Christianity for the Rest of Us, which is about healthy Christian mainstream churches – and ten characteristics she found in them. I’m sure you’ll recognize NFC in her book (not literally, but close enough).

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