We had another great conversation last night at our up/rooted.west meeting at Wheaton College. After spending the first half-hour or so chatting and doing introductions among the nine of us that were there, we migrated from the Phelps Room to the more comfortable chairs in the game room across the hall. Above the noise of pool and foosball we discussed the question of church health and church growth.
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!