Monday, May 11, 2009

More than "church"

Hi friends,

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted anything up on the blog. The last three weeks have been filled to the brim. I serve on my conferences Board of Ordained Ministry, so I was in Seattle for a couple days interviewing candidates for full membership in the PNW Conference. Then home for a day, then off to Ocean Park Retreat Center for the All-Church Retreat, that Orchards UMC does every year. Then home for one night in my own bed before Jennifer (my wife) and I flew out to Fayetteville, Arkansas for a week of “New Church Start Boot Camp. I was a little disappointed, I didn’t get to shoot a gun, or throw a grenade or anything :(

I have a lot to process, and mull over in my head after the week in Fayetteville. I have been appointed by the Bishop of the PNW Annual Conference to start a new church in the Vancouver area, beginning this July. The catch is that I have felt a call from God over the last three years to start something very different than most churches. The focus of the new “church” wont be a traditional worship service, but rather a community of disciples that actively work towards the transformation of the world, and hopefully ourselves along the journey. The building block of this congregation is the community and service we are a part of as disciples of Jesus, rather than the overwhelming focus being on a worship experience on Sunday morning. (although somewhere down the line we will be participating in some type of community worship together). As I sat in session after session at “boot camp” there was a presupposition that seemed pretty evident to me. There was a very real tendency to equate Church to a one or two hour block that we call “Sunday worship”. We talked about “previewing” the church to the community, and “launching”. In 99% of the cases I talked about with my fellow “boot campers” previewing and launching meant, Previewing a worship band, or a preaching style, or a worship facility, or “launching” a Sunday morning worship service.

I have always wanted church to be “more”; more than just a worship service, more than a bible study in the church basement, more than just a Sunday school program, (not that there is anything wrong with those things) I have wanted my world, and community to be different - to be changed because there were disciples of Jesus living there. I desperately want “church” to be something more than a worship experience.

I am finally seeing people recognize that “church” is more than just a pretty building, which I think is a great step for the community at large, but I know that when I say “I am starting a church,” and someone replies “Great! When do you start?” they have in there mind a “worship experience”.

So my work this week will be processing the gold mine of information that I received from Don Smith, and Bob Crossman at boot camp, and molding it and customizing it to fit a new community that is less about presenting a worship service, and more about forming a community of disciples that transform our world. If you have any thoughts please post them!

Having said all that “boot camp” was a GREAT experience! I came back with more practical tips and plans than I have had in three years of networking with people, and reading books. I and my family have a huge task ahead, that i am incredibly excited about!

Have a wonderful week friends!