This post is a part of a series on what it looks like to be a Slow Church that Pastor Joe has begun on his personal blog which can be found at www.noggingrande.com. Many of the thoughts from the Slow Church blog, book, and conference have informed the conversations we’ve begun here at New Hope, and it seemed like a good idea to share these thoughts here where folks from New Hope could consider them as well.
Looking For Answers
March was a busy month for me, full of more traveling and conferences than I ever expected to be a part of as a first year pastor. But as we were entering an important season at New Hope Community Church it became clear to me that I didn’t really know what I was doing. I certainly had ideas about what the church could be, but I wasn’t foolish enough to think that I had all the answers. So I attended seminars, met with friends in the ministry, even attended a week long book camp for pastors in churches in difficult situations looking to turn around and grow again. Everything I attended had value to it, and I learned from it all, but throughout my travels, and the numerous books I was reading on turning churches around, I found much of what I was reading and hearing seemed to cause more stress than it gave answers.
Is your church at the right place on this curve, what about that chart?
Do you have a new logo? The right name? Are you in the right demographic? Is your parking lot the right size? Shape? Color?
And the largest source of stress was what I’ve come to term, “the cycle of the machine called the church”. You have to have new programs if you want new people. You’ll need money if you’re going to have new programs, and if you want enough money you’ll have to have more people, which of course means, you’re going to need new programs, you get the picture.
The pressure that built just as I read about some of this was nearly unbearable.
Then the calendar turned to April, and I was able to attend the Slow Church Conference in Indianapolis. I’d been excited for this since I signed up. I was familiar with the Slow Church blog, and followed the Englewood Review of Books on Twitter, and I had a feeling it would be a different sort of conference. And I was right. While there were brilliant speakers (you can hear their presentations here), the conference went beyond presenting facts or ideas. We shared meals together. Speakers, attendees, and folks from the neighborhood became conversation partners around the table over deliciously prepared meals. We walked the neighborhood where the Englewood Christian Church is living out the very ideas found in the book. There was a kingdom feel to everything that I experienced that weekend, and I came home with a different idea of who we could be as a church at New Hope.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to read and review the Slow Church book by Christopher Smith and John Pattison, and found it to be a compelling counter idea to the hyper-active, program-drive, stress-laden world of Church Growth. This series will bring together some of my reflections from the conference, as well as the book. It’s not meant to walk through either bit by bit, but hopefully will shed some light on some of the thinking that is influencing the way I’m dreaming of our future at New Hope. My goal is to post every Wednesday for the next six weeks, and share that post on noggingrande.com and on the website at New Hope. I’m building the series around the idea of the dinner table as an image for what Slow Church means, an image that’s important to the book and was an important part of the conference in teaching and in practice.
I hope readers will engage with the ideas here; ask questions, push back, whatever. There seems to be something significant about the call to the church to slow down and stand prophetically against the culture of speed and efficiency that is so prevalent in our society today.
“We’ve been formed by a culture of speed, but if we recognize our malformation, and the selfishness and fearfulness that are fueling it, perhaps we will become less resistant to God’s transformation. Maybe we will taste, in a deeper way, the rich joys of God’s kingdom.” Slow Church, p. 226.