If you’re reading this particular blog on church planting, I have three quick assumptions about you as a reader.
1. You can’t kick your church habit.
What I mean is that despite how confusing and difficult it can be, you can’t imagine not giving your life to helping people join God in the renewal of everything. You might not be in “official” church leadership right now, but you love the church and want to be part of the story God is writing now.
2. You’re not freaking out about the future of the Church.
Yes, you know it’s an awfully confusing time to define what the Church even is. Yes, you know that the vast majority of denominations and most church networks are wringing their collective hands in anxiety due to declining numbers. Yes, you’ve read many of the post-everything books: post-modern, post-colonial, post-Christendom, etc., and while it’s humbling at what an adaptive and experimental season we seem to be in, it’s more exciting than scary.
You figure, God is already at work, so there’s not really a good reason to freak out. We should be open and excited about new questions, new guides, and new experiments.
3. You are ready for a new conversation.
When it comes to learning from peers, you are far more interested in hearing about communal practices in contrast to solo talking heads. Yeah, it’s hard not to get caught up in the latest theological showdown. It’s fascinating to watch the rise and fall of celebrity-driven churches. And sure, you feel ambivalent pressure not only from your denomination to produce numbers, but from yourself.
At the end of the day, what you find most inspiring are the stories of what other communities are actually doing, not just what is making the headlines.
If you resonate with my assumptions, then can I lob out a way for us to connect more intentionally? Could I recommend a new organizing question for how we converse?
A New Conversation
Let’s be disciplined to ask each other about practices first, and everything else later. I’m tired of all the talk about church models and strategies and brands and gloss.
We need to change our leading questions as we learn from each other.
It’s crucial to remember that our neighbors will know us something, either for our public, communal practices or something else.
What would shift within our national conversation if our brand, our image, our teaching, even our national affiliations, were the secondary conversations and our social practices the first?
What kind of reputation would we have?
The best way I know how to do that is simply keep asking: what communal practices have you committed to in your place, for this time?
Here’s my hunch: the future of the church will unfold as thousands and thousands of us commit to a communal set of practices. We will practice our way into a new future, and it will be so much more encouraging when it’s our practices that begin to define our default mode of learning from one another.
A friend and pastor I really admire is Jon Tyson who leads a new church community in Midtown, Manhattan. He recently tweeted this: “I am basically convinced that without a shared rule of life, based on tangible practices, discipleship won’t happen in a western context, radical individualism and consumerism are simply too overwhelming as seductive forces for individual Christians to resist.”
I think he’s right on.
So, how were my assumptions?
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