Sunday, September 7 we held our third Brown Bag Lunch, and it was a great time of food and conversation about the church and what we might become in the future. Many thanks to Jen who put together a wonderful lunch for us all!
The images in our head are important for how we define where we are going, and so it seemed like a good idea to talk about the images we have about what the church has been historically, what it could be in the future, and then how we can live that out at New Hope. We started by looking at the Greek work ecclesia. Ecclesia is the world that gets translated as “church” in the New Testament. Outside of the Christian faith it was a word that described a gathering of citizens who came together for purpose of decision making, governance, and voting, and was a term that wasn’t unique to the early church.
Why would we look at a Greek word that none of us use to talk about the church? Well since the word had it’s own meaning before it’s use in the faith, it raises the question, what made the gathering of Christians in the early years of the church different than the gatherings of cities or professional groups, or other people who came together as an ecclesia during that time?
What the Church Does Matters.
Ultimately, what the early Christians did as a group, what they practiced in their gatherings and as a way of life, is what set them apart from other groups. This is why, as we talked about, Christians were subject to weird rumors and suspicion early on, because people didn’t understand what was going on at the Lord’s Supper, or through the practice of calling one another brother and sister.
This idea came primarily from David Fitch and what he has shared at the Slow Church conference and elsewhere, and to chase the idea down further we made a list of practices of the church that we could name. Here’s the list that people came up with:
worship, pray, sing, glorify God, help other, have a creed, communion, baptism, we are non-judgmental, love each other, community outreach, mission, gather under Jesus’ name, read scripture, accept people, we are an assembly for people outside the group, have a cross, tell the gospel, focus on God, share a common belief, education, discipleship programs, history lessons, work together for a common goal
The idea behind creating this list is to identify some common areas of focus in the church’s existence, and to see how those could shape our ideas of what the church (and specifically what New Hope) could look like when we are a healthy, thriving congregation.
The Images in our Head
Since the words we use and the things we practice influence the images in our heads about what the church could be, it seemed like a good idea to see what those images are, so we drew pictures. Below are the three groups’ drawings of what New Hope could be if we became the church we thought we should be.
As the groups shared their drawings we saw a good deal of overlap, and found that there are real burdens on the hearts of people at New Hope to see God use this congregation in his mission for the sake of the world.
The Practices Boiled Down
After folks shared, we looked at seven practices that seem to be consistently found in the church throughout history, and that seemed to take up the list of practices and pictures that people offered during the lunch. This list is based off of David Fitch’s seven practices of the church that he shared at the Slow Church Conference in Indianapolis this past Spring.* Pastor Joe offered a slightly different list that included (1) prayer, (2) gift based ministry, (3) reconciliation, (4) communion, (5) being with people on the fringe (including children/youth), (6) intentional mentoring relationships (discipleship), and (7) proclaiming that Jesus is Lord. This list is still somewhat in flux, but it seems that these seven practices (or something close to them) make up the core of what we do as people who follow Jesus.
The Church that’s Open 24/7
One of the groups offered as a part of their image of the church, the idea that it’s a place that’s open 24/7, which led to the final image of the church, Joe’s drawing (again, influenced by David Fitch). The drawing below shows the different types of gatherings and social settings in which the church finds herself, and points us forward to a reality where the church can practices these seven things in a variety of contexts no matter where we are or who we’re with, 24/7.
All of this pushes us forward to the vision retreat at Camp Marengo, October 10-11. That weekend we’ll put these drawings together and see how they become something new. We’ll talk about what roadblocks will keep us from becoming that church, and we’ll plan specific steps that will start to plant the seeds of living as the church we want to become. If you haven’t considered joining us for the vision retreat, please do so. It will be a great time for everyone to be involved in what God is doing to reshape our dream of what New Hope could be for the sake of the kingdom.
*Fitch’s list includes (1) eucharist, (2) proclamation of the gospel, (3) reconciliation, (4) being with people on the fringes, (5) being with children, (6) fivefold ministry gifts, and (7) prayer