A few months ago I read an interesting article from YES magazine entitled Relearning the Skills of Community. As I read about their check-in time and provision of mutual support I thought – that sounds very much like Christian community to me. Maybe this is church?
I have the same response when I read books like Imagination First and Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks. Young social entrepreneurs living in community, practicing mindfulness, and holding each other responsible sounds like spiritual disciplines without the spirit. But then I think: is it really without the spirit?
Then I get together with the Food and Faith Initiative Steering Committee of Seattle Tilth’s Just Garden Project. As we talk about churches, synagogues, mosques, and Hindu temples growing food and helping to sustain those at the margins with their produce, I think: This is God at work.
From a Church Congregation to Community
I believe all of these movements are God at work. Church is changing and church planters need to change in order to understand this. We have all heard the Pew research on the decline of the church. We all know and are concerned about the fact that young millennials are leaving established churches in droves. The largest generation in U.S. history — the 80 million Millennials — has come to view religion (and the Bible) as judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical, and too political. Today, only ten percent of Millennials are “religiously affiliated.”
Basically, the Church as we know it could disappear in a couple of generations. Yet God has not abandoned the millennials, or the millions of others who have left the church in the last few decades. God is at work spreading the salt of the kingdom throughout the world. Perhaps church planting should be more about helping people to notice the activity of God in our world than about joining a congregation.
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A Millennial’s Church Association—From Buildings to Action
To our administrative assistant, a typical millennial, church is our Mustard Seed Associates team meetings where we gather round the table, share food and coffee together, check in to find out how well we are doing spiritually, share our joys and our struggles, and then talk about our work. She has no interest in buildings. She is starting her own business, an ethical, fair trade clothing company, Same Thread. Her major concerns are justice and environmental sustainability. For her, church is more about engagement in these issues than about going to a building.
Helping people recognize the ways that mindful meditation draws us close to the living God, like the New Monastics do, is an important part of what followers of Christ have to offer today. Helping seekers of community draw close to the love of God which is at the centre of their interactions, like the Parish Collective does, even if they don’t see that, is hugely important. Helping those who love to get their hands dirty in a garden to interact with God and the story of God that is revealed in their labours like Forest Church does in the UK is a wonderful achievement.
The spirit of God is still very much at work transforming, renewing, and making all things whole. My question is: will we be recognize this and join in, or will we stand back because it does not fit our preconceptions of church?
God rarely works according to our plans. The Jews looked for a powerful king who would triumphantly lead them into the glory days of a physical kingdom. Instead, they got a humble servant whose kingdom was ushered in through the renewal of suffering, death, and resurrection.
I wonder how often we miss what God is doing because we assume we know what the next steps will be.
[Tweet “How often do we miss what God is doing because we assume we know what the next steps will be?”] Perhaps it is time for all of us to look around and ask:
God, what are you doing and how can I be a part of it?
“Learn more at The Praxis Gathering!”
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