Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Actually our conversation primarily focused on the former. Though we recognized that large megachurches do bring certain advantages and succeed in reaching certain kinds of people at particular points in their faith journey, we seemed to all come to a consensus that personally we each desired a more intimate experience of Christian community than a simple event-driven mega-church.
Kristine pointed out that of course this kind of intimate community is not necessarily antithetical to megachurches. She shared in particular about the changes currently underway at Willow Creek Community Church (the granddaddy of all megachurches), to deemphasize the Sunday events as the entry point for bringing new people into the community. Instead Willow wants to place much more of an emphasis on small groups as being the primary point of contact with non-Christians and the central focus of the life of the church, with the Sunday event then being more of a coming together of all these smaller, home-based communities. It's really a radical change if you think about it, since Willow pretty much pioneered the whole idea of event based church growth. This new direction, if they can pull it off, is in some ways a complete 180 from that model. It'll be interesting to see how it pans out for them.
As the conversation drifted towards discussion of what makes a healthy church in the first place we talked about things like intimate small group communities, a tangible and visible expression of love among the people in the church, an embodied message rather than a mere accumulation of words and preaching, real spiritual transformation occurring in people's lives, and a missional drive to transform the world for God's Kingdom. We shared experiences (both positive and negative) that we have had in churches in our past that either reflected these qualities or not. We were especially enriched by the experiences of one of our new members, Roberta, who has recently come here from Brazil, and was able to share with us her story of coming to Jesus through the love shown to her by her community of faith there in Brazil. What a great gift it was to hear how, even half a world away, God is still at work creating communities that embody Christ's message of love.
Our next up/rooted gathering will be a special event with Tony Jones, the National Coordinator for Emergent, and author of several books, including The Sacred Way and Postmodern Youth Ministry. Tony will be at Wheaton College in mid-January and has asked to meet with up/rooted on Sunday, January 22nd at 9pm. The event will be hosted at Kristine Socall's house in Winfield (26w325 Torrey Pines Ct, Winfield IL 60190) and we'll be doing it potluck style, so if you intend to come please bring some food or drinks to share. In fact please RSVP with Kristine by calling 630-668-6539 or emailing her at kristine(at)gifteddreamers(dot)com so we'll know how many to plan for as there is limited space.
I know 9pm is late for a Sunday but I can guarantee that it will be well worth it. I hope you can make it.
Have a Happy Christmas!
Sunday, December 04, 2005
What is a healthy church?
Is a healthy church always a growing church?
Is a growing church always a healthy church?
Is the mega-church movement good, bad or a little of both?
Is there a right way to do church?
Come discuss these questions and more at our next up/rooted.west gathering.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 12 from 7-9PM
in the PHELPS ROOM of the BEAMER CENTER at WHEATON COLLEGE
for directions go here: http://www.wheaton.edu/directions.html
and here: http://www.wheaton.edu/welcome/campus_map_brochure.pdf
I hope you can all make it. We need your wisdom and questions.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Those of you present at our November gathering last night can testify to a stimulating and productive conversation about how discipleship and spiritual formation happens within communities of faith. And those of you not present really need to drop back in some time. We miss you! And we especially miss the valuable insight and experience that you each bring to our discussions.
As with any good discussion, the thread weaved all over the place and sparked potential rabbit trails that could have used a good 8 hours each for further discussion. We started off the night asking four questions:
1. What does it mean to "make disciples"?
2. How has disciple-making/spiritual formation happened in the churches?
3. How do we see spiritual formation happening within scripture?
4. How has spiritual formation happened in your own life?
We began with some discussion about the differences between evangelism, discipleship and spiritual formation, and how these have perhaps been neglected or done poorly or well within the modern church. This led us briefly into the question of whether or not large, institutional, highly programmatic churches are the best vehicle for encouraging discipleship and spiritual formation (more on that later). We also talked about whether spiritual transformation is something that we can even affect or whether it is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit.
Mentoring and modeling was one area of discussion that we kept returning to. Biblical models of Christ and the disciples or Paul with Timothy, Titus, etc. seemed to point to a rabbinical style system of people doing life together and learning how to live in the way of Jesus by watching the example of others. We talked some about the difficulty of finding mentors, especially for women who are pursuing a ministry calling and can't find too many other women leaders in the church to learn from, and also for those of us being led in more emergent directions and not finding many older Christian mentors who are willing to go with us down that path.
Another dominant theme in our conversation was the fact that for most of us, significant spiritual transformation has happened most obviously during those times when we have been a part of an intensive missional community focused on a very specific ministry goal - e.g. a camp staff, a mission trip team, a ministry team within a church, etc. We talked about the value of being forced to spend large quantities of time with the same people and being focused together on a single purpose with those people. Many of us longed to make those kinds of experiences the norm for the daily life of the local church, but we wondered how that could happen, especially within a suburban culture where everyone is isolated and over-scheduled as it is. How do we create "monastic" communities that are not isolated from their culture and surroundings, but that at the same time live in a counter-cultural way to over-busy and overly individualized suburbs around us? What would that look like in an existing church, a multi-church ministry (like Emerge), or a brand new church plant like mine in Yorkville.
I for one came away from our discussion with renewed passion and some new ideas and directions for my own ministry, and I hope that others did as well. As we talked about what some of these ideas would look like in practical church settings, our conversation turned to what exactly is the mark of a healthy church, and how church growth ties in to church health. We decided that that should be the topic for next month: CHURCH HEALTH & CHURCH GROWTH.
I hope you'll join us next month on Monday, December 12 from 7-9pm at Wheaton College as we discuss those issues.
See you then!
Thursday, November 10, 2005
That's the next topic of discussion at our upcoming up/rooted.west gathering on November 21. Let's talk about questions of discipleship, spiritual disciplines and practices and how local churches can effectively engage in the hard work of transforming the lives of real people. How have you seen it done, effectively or not, in the churches in your past. Come to share experiences, stories and strategies for the emerging church.
We're meeing at the PHELPS ROOM in the BEAMER CENTER at WHEATON COLLEGE from 7-9 PM on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21.
For directions to Wheaton College go here:
For a campus map go here:
I hope to see you all there, both our newer friends and especially you old timers who didn't make it last time! :)
Friday, November 04, 2005
For those of you that were at our October 24th meeting of up/rooted.west, I just wanted to send you this recap of our discussion and let you know how much I enjoyed hanging out with all of you. And for those of you who weren't able to make it, I wanted to keep you in the loop on what we've been talking about, and hopefully wet your whistle a little bit to come and join us next time. :)
As you know, this meeting was our first time in our new location in the Beamer Center at Wheaton College. We were joined by a good number of first timers from Wheaton College and the surrounding community. It was also great having food and drink and ice cream readily available once more for our gatherings!
The topic this past week was "WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?" and we began (after a much too lengthy introduction to up/rooted and the whole "emerging church" conversation by yours truly) by brainstorming how we have heard the gospel summarized or explained to us in the past. As you'd expect, common to most of us there was the idea that gospel is about "trusting in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of your sins so that you'll go to heaven after you die." The next question then was naturally, "If that's the gospel, why then don't we see it explained that way in scripture itself?"
This led us into good discussions about the true fullness of the gospel and what it's really all about, especially in terms of being called into service of God, and in announcing the "kingdom of God". Many seemed to especially resonate with the lament that contemporary evangelicalism has seemed to make the gospel into a consumer commodity, and that our churches are offering
salvation as a kind of economic transaction. We have packaged and marketed the gospel in order to "attract" people, but the worry seemed to be that in the process we may have lost our vision of what it is we are actually "selling" (or whether "selling" is even the right metaphor at all). This led us into discussion about the nature and purpose of the church and what it should be all about in the first place.
While more was said than can be effectively summarized here, towards the end many excellent and provocative questions were raised by Tory Schalkle about the emerging church movement and it's attitude towards questions of inclusivism/exclusivism, of church structure and government, of doctrinal boundaries, etc. Though we ran out of time to discuss most of his points, his concerns did help us choose our topic for next month. I'd invite you to join us MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21 to discuss the question of "SPIRITUAL FORMATION AND DISCIPLESHIP WITHIN COMMUNITIES OF FAITH". For those of you who were there this past week, I wanted to also give an apology and a disclaimer. First, up/rooted is intended to be a discussion and my role is simply as a facilitator. However, I personally think I did way too much talking this time, and my intention is not to play the part of "professor". So, I implore you all, if I end up talking more than say 20% of the time next meeting, please just slap me upside the head or something. And, on a related note, I need to also give a disclaimer that my personal opinions, whether about the gospel, or inclusivism/exclusivism, or church structure, are simply my own and are not necessarily representative of everyone involved with up/rooted. In conversation at our gatherings, I am simply one more voice among the rest, and the things I say are no more the "right answers" or authoritative position than anyone elses. Our hope is to encourage free and open conversation, not to simply indoctrinate everyone into some kind of new "emergent" way of thinking.
So anyhow, with all that said, I want to remind you one more time that we're meeting again Monday, November 21 from 7-9 pm in the Phelps Room in the Beamer Center at Wheaton College to discuss "Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Within Communities of Faith". Can't wait to see you there!
Friday, October 28, 2005
Our guiding ideas:
As postmodern Christians we perceive the world around us and understand we are in a changed context for ministry. Years of restlessness, church-hopping and significant personal study has revealed we differ from the pragmatic or modern approach to ministry and the Church. We understand we now minister in a new paradigm of thought while still valuing the essentials of the Christian faith. We recognize the road to the future runs through the past. We value our shared history with all Christians and understand our generation must embody the gospel of Christ in an authentic way.
We understand theology as narrative. Theology is a way to understand God and our world. Not as science, but as a reflection of God’s community on the narrative of God’s involvement in history found in the stories of Israel and Jesus.
We understand apologetics as embodiment, ecclesiology as the visible church. We do not mourn the passing of Christendom, but look forward to a new world in which the church can again reclaim its role as a counter-cultural force. We are committed not so much to congregation as to networking. We understand we are to be the church, not just do church.
The church is moving from market driven to mission driven. As pastors we seek to move from power to servanthood. As educators we long to move from information to formation. Through spiritual formation we desire to take people from legalism to freedom. As worship leaders we are moving from program to narrative with interaction and use of symbols. As artists in the church we will go from constraint to expression. The evangelists among us understand it’s not rallies but relationship, and our activists are moving from theory to action.
Together we will explore what this looks like in our communities.
What to expect at an up/rooted west gathering:
· Understanding that we are in a changed context for ministry, we will explore, teach, and encourage with a spirit of humility toward one another and toward the traditions and institutions which have nurtured us.
· Understanding this is a new world and we are the “experts” on our generation, we will take turns asking questions and sharing insights from personal study. We will discuss and brainstorm together in a round table environment.
· Understanding information must lead to formation we are committed not so much to pure academic thinking as we are to no-lazy-thinking. Our gatherings will be full of substance and creative imagination which leads to action.
· up/rooted west values the process of shared experience from which we derive a sense of wisdom and direction. We meet once a month for discussion on topics of theology, ministry and social justice. The meetings are open to any who wish to minister to their hurting generation, not just those with “official” church jobs.
Keeping coming back here to find out when the next up/rooted.west gathering will be.
Friday, September 16, 2005
up/rooted is made up people from very divergent backgrounds, Christian traditions, and places in their spiritual journey’s. What you take for granted may not be shared by all. While we value spirited discussion, we also value listening, learning, and respecting others.
From Abraham to Moses to Jesus and the Apostles, God works in and through His people by taking them out of what they know and understand and moving them into exposed and difficult situations. All throughout history God has moved in this way: uprooting his people in order to work mightily through them. The followers of Christ all live according to the same call the Lord gave to Abraham, "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you" (Gen. 12:1) At this time, the Church, especially in North America, is being uprooted from familiar ground (call it modernity or whatever you will) and rooted in unfamiliar territory (the emerging postmodern, post-Christian culture) and as a result is experiencing a re-envisioning of all aspects of being and living as the people of God. Some welcome and embrace this transition; others view it with varying degrees of apprehension. Yet within this upheaval we are not left stranded and drifting in this changing culture. Though we are "resident aliens" (1 Peter 1:1), living off the land in which we find ourselves, we are rooted in the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ. Just as the people of God were guided by the cloud by day and the fire by night in their wilderness wanderings, so also has God provided the means necessary for our survival. As God’s people we have been given the gift of the Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13) through Scripture, the history and tradition of the Church, and the community of believers, local and global. Therefore we are both rooted and uprooted in this emerging culture.
In the midst of this liminal situation, transitioning from one epoch to another, the best way forward is to work out the transition together, exploring the future in the midst of friendships and partnerships. Untangling ourselves from (past)modern hindrances to faith and Church life and re-imagining the Church in this emerging culture is best done in a community of wisdom that is guided by the Spirit. Because we do not seek a firm and definite definition of this emerging culture but a permeable approximation, what we need is not a rulebook or prefab program, but a community dedicated to living faithfully within this emerging culture, while simultaneously dwelling within the story of redemption.
As a means toward supporting, encouraging, and expanding the conversation concerning this emerging culture, we are a "collaborative friendship to understand and engage the emerging post-Christian culture."
- We are committed to God as the foundation of reality. In a world where particularity is a scandal, we seek rootedness in history, following God as revealed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- We are committed to maintaining the authority of Scripture—the apostolic authority of Holy Scripture as a valid witness to Christ beyond modern reductionistic, propositional scientific criteria.
- We are committed to the faithfulness and integrity of the church as a ‘contrast culture’, witnessing to the reality of the Kingdom of God.
- We are committed to being a space of communal reflection, questioning, wondering, and rethinking essential aspects of the church as it stands "between gospel and culture." Therefore, we will gather monthly, if not more frequently, to discuss topics related to missiology, ecclesiology, spiritual formation, justice, the arts, leadership, and catechesis.
- We are committed to deepening relationships among current and emerging church leaders. Therefore, we will establish and maintain a website to facilitate this friendship. We will develop a common way of life that seeks the Lordship of Christ in all things through practices of prayer, worship, works of mercy, and other spiritual disciplines as a means toward forming our lives out of our consumerist culture and into the Life of Christ. We will gather face to face with each other either on the first Monday of the month or other more informal times.
- We are committed to being a place to stimulate creative resources for the benefit of this friendship and the larger Christian community. Therefore, we will generate critical and creative essays and articles, as well as art, music, and literature as expressions of new ways of being the Church and living into the gospel.
While utilizing existing internet communities, books, and conferences to enhance our conversation, we emphasize a commitment to the importance of regular face to face interaction. We commit to cultivating this "collaborative friendship" among local/regional pastors, church planters, worship leaders, artists, and students in and around Chicago.
This "collaborative friendship to understand and engage the emerging post-Christian culture." we call up/rooted, in recognition that we are simultaneously rooted as the people of God yet uprooted in this changing world. We invite Christians from all walks of life to join us.
up/rooted’s purposes are closely aligned with those of both Emergent (we are an Emergent cohort) and The Ekklesia Project, both national organizations creating community and intellectual resources for the emerging, post-Christian Church