Wednesday, January 24, 2007

“Church 2.0” Series: “Rediscovering The Church”

On September 8, 2004 a group of 11 of us met together at our old house to start talking about starting a new church on the Peninsula.

There were just 7 adults (me, Sue, Glen, Paula, Aaron, Jen and Dave) and 4 kids (Jack Will, Dana, and Gabe).

Just about 2 years ago, on January 23, 2005 we met for the first time in a public gathering at Spangenberg Theater on Gunn High School.

We had friends, family from other local churches come that day, along with a missions team sent from NCC to help us with our first gathering. We had 48 people that day!

Currently in our house mode we have 27 of us - about 20 adults and 7 kids.

We’ve gone ups and downs like any new church does, but especially in this area that’s no shock! This is a really hard area to start a church in! (Some of remember I met with 3 church planters in two days who were from this area and had to close down or merge their church.)

But, after all of this, I really feel like we’re exactly where God wants us to be to see this church really become all He planned for us to be from the beginning!

I think that God has us in this current house-mode for a purpose. I think he has a transformation in mind for us.

But before we talk about this, I need to tell them the story of why I was inspired to plant this church.

When I started as a youth pastor and never wanted to be a lead pastor.

Gradually over time, I started to think about the idea of maybe becoming a lead pastor, but at that point I thought maybe I’d be one at the church I was at or another one that already existed.

I didn’t think I’d start a church! But that all started to changed when I was at one of the former churches I worked at.

You see I really liked the church. I liked the people. I liked the youth kids. I really liked working with Senior pasto and the other people on staff. But, I saw some of the stuff the lead pastor had to deal with that bothered me.

Some people complained when we wanted to move the organ. They worried about taking out the pews. They were bothered about things I couldn’t understand why they’d be bothered about!

That stuff started it all. It got me thinking, “How much of this stuff that everybody considers is so important to have church is really important to God?” “How much of this stuff people act like has to be there for church – really even Biblical?” (Not that it’s against the Bible just NOT in the Bible.)

I started to look in the Bible at the parts that described the first church. I wanted to look at it with new eyes and not picture what I thought church should look like or be like.

I looked in Acts 2:42-47 and what I saw was something I never noticed before. Listen and look at what I saw…

41Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church—about three thousand in all. 42They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer.

Did you hear that? There weren’t worried about pews, or how dressing up, or organs or whatever. They were devoted to 4 things:

1. The Apostles’ teaching (God’s word)

2. Fellowship (Being together)

3. Communion (regularly remembering Jesus’ redemption)’

4. Prayer (Talking/communing with God)

Listen to what they did as the first church in verses 43-47…

The Believers Meet Together

43A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. 45They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. 46They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity47all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

The thing that jumped out to me was that what this described was a group of people who were walking through life together. They were friends! They were such good friends that they sold what they had and took care of any of the rest of them who were in need!

The crazy thing is that God never TOLD them to do this! Just did it naturally because they were friends! That’s what friends do!

The other thing I noticed was that they did two things: (v. 46)

1. Worshipped together in the temple.

2. Met in their homes for Communion

Because of the things they were devoted to and the way they lived, God was able to add to their number daily! (verse 47)

Richard Halverson former chaplain of the senate said this about this verse…

  • “Multiplication is the result of conducive conditions in the community.”
  • “The emphasis was not on expansion; the emphasis was upon the conditions that allowed the expansion to take place.”
  • “Yet because of their relationship to Christ and to each other to which they devoted themselves, the gospel spread through them everywhere…”
  • “I saw evangelism as a natural outgrowth of fellowship and then Acts began to open up to me in a completely new way.”

I looked up the word church and found out ekklesia meant “called out people” it was the term they used for people called out of their society to be in politics. The Bible was talking about a group of people when it used the word church, not a place!

I started to think about some of my greatest and meaningful moments I could remember of church and I started to realize they were:

  • The teaching
  • hanging with friends
  • the worship/prayer experiences together.

I realized it was that connectedness that made my experience with church, so powerful!

If I didn’t have that the teaching and worship would still be good, but it wouldn’t satisfy. It wouldn’t fulfill my real emotional, personal needs.

If I just had the friends without the Bible, teaching, prayer then I would have fun but not the challenge and transformation in my life.

Let me ask you guys…

What are some of your best memories of church? Not necessarily ours only, but any church?

Through all this time and thinking it led me to this core value that I’ve tried to instill in us. We have to be more than a group of strangers/acquaintances who sit together on Sundays. We have to be connected – to be the church. We have to focus on the church as the people, not the place.

I started to wonder if maybe me and a lot of other Christ-followers had been thinking about church in the wrong way and focusing and emphasizing the wrong thing!

Last year I read George Barna's (church pollster) poll and it's leads my back to one of my biggest fears about church gathering (planting) and the church in general...

Barna's "update" showed what the "typical pastor" uses to measure the spiritual health of their church. He said this…

"In other words, the typical pastor measures the spiritual health of congregants by considering one or two numbers (e.g. church and Sunday school attendance) and a handful of vague impressions (what did exit comments suggest about people’s reaction to the sermon, how widespread was people’s participation in the singing, were there enough people who were sufficiently trained to enable the services and programs to operate smoothly)."

Notice something?

It's almost ALL "Sunday based"!

Typical pastors base how well they and their churches are doing based mainly on what happens on Sundays. You think I'm exaggerating? Barna found that...

  • "Pastors are nine times more likely to seek reactions to their sermon than they are to assess the congregation’s reactions to visitors."
  • "Perhaps most alarming of all, pastors were 21 times more likely to evaluate whether people showed up (i.e., attendance) than to determine whether people experienced the presence of God during their time at the church."

That reminds me of this post that I blogged back on July 31, 2005. Here’s what I said…

My biggest fear is that...

If we're not careful, our church -- and all of other churches -- can actually get caught up measuring the wrong things and become deceived about whether we're succeeding or not!

That can lead to a HUGE gap between how God perceives what I'm doing and how I perceive it. And guess who's perception is gonna be right? :)

I think God measures success by measuring the church (the people), not the service.
That's what I want to do.

I want to have powerful, applicable Sunday gatherings, but I don't want to deceive myself into thinking that means our church is succeeding!

These polls obviously show those measurements don't reveal if the church is succeeding or not. It just shows how the day went!

Think about it like this...
You wouldn't measure how successful a family is by only measuring how 1-2 hours of their day went on Sundays. That'd be CRAZY!

We have to come up with other ways to measure our real success!

This is what I said in my blog post from July 2005…

How do you measure a church's success? And an even more important question: What if the way we measure success is not God's way?

The usual way a typical church measures success is by it's services. If a lot of people come to the service and if the services are exciting, then we think we're succeeding.

But, was Jesus' idea to just set up services everywhere so people could come and learn and sing together? There's nothing wrong with these things and a healthy church can have these things, but is that ALL we were supposed to do?

Wasn't there supposed to be something more?
Didn't Jesus say something about making disciples?

  • Didn't he want us to reproduce servants, not just services?
  • Didn't he want transformation, not just education?
  • Didn't he want us to gather a group of people together who would walk with Him and each other through life?

Questions I ask myself:

  1. If our services become huge and exciting, but people aren't connecting, will God consider that a success?
  2. If our worship is "cutting edge" and I feel like my messages are really dynamic and powerful, but people aren't growing - aren't reaching others, will God consider that a success?
  3. If we talk about God and what we want to do for him on Sundays, but our church doesn't know God and we aren't doing anything outside of Sundays, will God consider that a success?

I'm not saying that a BIG church or an exciting service is bad. I'm not saying a small church or a boring service is good. I'm just saying it's possible to have a successful service and still have an unsuccessful church (group of people).

In some churches, there are large amounts of the people aren’t really connected to others who are a part of their church. They might talk for a few minutes during greeting time, but they don’t really know or feel a connection to that person!

I talked to one woman from a church I used to be a part of and she said something that shocked me… She said didn’t really have any close friends! She had been a part of that church forever - 60-70 years!

Here’s what I believe…
People connect best when they have a chance to be together regularly in different settings/activities. That’s why people usually connect with someone better after hanging out with them on a one weekend retreat, then after talking with that person over months or years of "greeting times" in a Sunday service!

That’s why we have connection time! I know you guys tease me when I try to get us to “connect” when people are already standing around talking.

I just want to mix things up. I want to have some CTs where we just hang and talk. I want other ones where we play games. I want others where we have discussions and some like we did today where we have people one-to-one.

Why? I want to help us go beyond superficial, small talk and get a chance to know/appreciate each other more. I don’t want us to be together for years and have relationships the depth of puddles!

I don’t ever want CT to be akward or forced. I just want to give us all a little nudge to maybe go a little deeper with our friendships. We won’t all be best friends. We won’t all be close or hang out, but we might find out some thing about someone and really feel more connected through CT.

I try to always give everybody a “heads up” about what we’re doing, so you can decide if you feel comfortable to come that day. I know each of us feel comfortable doing different things. I know some of you have requested doing small group time and others like just talking.

So, I give you a head up so you don’t feel ambushed or stuck. If you don’t feel comfortable with something scheduled for CT, then it’s totally cool to come at 10:30am instead.

But we need more than Connection Time! We need to meet like this in house-mode with others, so we can really have the chance to be the church.

I believe that even though we’re not exactly where I thought we’d be on our two year anniversary, we’re right where God wants us!

You know I’ve been reading a lot of different things and thinking about this meeting in a house phase and you know what I found out?

The greatest church planting movements around the world have happened when churches were “forced” into house mode!

What happened?
It became organic. People began really connecting, worshiping and praying to God together. They started bringing their friends and reproducing other house groups. And “God to their numbers” and these church grew to thousands!

In Acts 8, Persecution led to God’s purpose, which was the spreading of the church to the ends of the earth like Jesus commanded them to do in Acts 1.

I believe God “forced” us into this mode, cause he wants this part in the house has to become part of our DNA! We can’t ever settle for just an event that happens every Sunday. We’ve got to seek for more!

I believe God’s used finances to “force” us into this mode that he wants us to be in. I believe he wants this house mode to be kept as a part of who we are.

I’ll talk more about that next Sunday as we continue this series. Let’s pray…

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