Come and See: Being a Small, Strong Church

How do we come to Jesus and bring others to him? Jesus’ command is simple: ‘Come and see’. Bring those that you love to meet the Messiah.

I honestly believe that the neighbourhood church in the traditional denominations still have the ability to transform our faith.

Diana Butler Bass in her book Christianity for the Rest of Us sets out ten signposts for renewal of a church which I think build upon the idea of ‘Come and See’. They are really basic ways to evangelize without getting hung up on a lot of programs like Back to Church or Fresh Expressions.

However, I would argue that of these ten points which I will summarize, it is not a case of choosing one or two of them. They need to be seen and lived out in their entirety.

Let’s take a look at some of the main points for each of the signposts:

Hospitality – Welcoming Strangers

  • It is not a recruitment strategy designed to get people to become members. It is the central practice of Christian faith.
  • You come as you are and who you are.

Discernment – Listening for Truth

  • It is the idea of listening with our hearts.
  • Being open to spiritual practices in addition to Sunday worship which could include Taize, prayer, studies, and reclaiming the Anglican tradition of morning and evening prayer perhaps in Lent or Advent.
  • Discernment is a gift the whole community can engage in whereby we learn ways to hear, see, touch, and feel God.
  • Asking God questions and not ‘I’ questions

Healing – Entering into Shalom

  • Shalom is the healing of the disordered and broken harmony in our lives and in creation. Shalom is the movement towards a deep sense of oneness with God. To live a life rooted in God means we need to seek harmony in our lives.
  • We need to do kind to our bodies and brains which can mean more healthy eating, technology breaks, and physical fitness.
  • Continue with lay-pastoral teams and lay-anointing.
  • I think it is okay that we have practices like Yoga and mindfulness in our church

Contemplation – Open for Prayer

  • We need to experiment with liturgy from other traditions that invite more contemplation: examples are Celtic and Taize tradition. This does not have to replace Sunday worship but we need to bring it in during the week.
  • Invite more silence into some of our services and slow down how we read together as a group.
  • Many church growth specialists think that activity, noise, and being a busy church means success – perhaps for younger people. Noise actually disconnects us from one another and drives us into deeper isolation.
  • Holy Communion is different because the focus is on prayer, singing, the Word, sermon, and liturgy.

Testimony – Talking the Walk

  • Successful churches have introduced the idea of testimony: allowing people to share their experiences with God.
  • People want to hear the stories of people and their relationship with God – there is a sense of normalcy about this. (Corner Gas)
  • Lillian Daniels featured this in rebuilding her church at the Redeemer in New Haven. She introduced the idea as part of their regular worship of people speaking about God because: “Words are like an earthquake.”

Diversity – Making Community

  • Some churches would argue that the push to be diversified means that we fall into diminishing our denominational identify and leads to theological chaos.
  • Diversity is not along liberal or conservative lines. If anything it is reflective of the lives that we live.
  • Jesus embodied the love for all of God’s people: sinners, women, children, tax collectors, the sick, the faithful, Roman soldiers, the poor, and the outcast. Jesus followers were a pretty diverse group.
  • Paul is thought of as being the apostle to diversity bringing the good news to the Gentiles.

Justice – Engaging the Powers

  • This means being the ‘hands and feet of Christ’.
  • Responding to those injustices we perceive in our community and country.

Worship – Experiencing God

  • As a small church Sunday is the focus of our worship and it is the time we come together.
  • Worship needs to be expressive, emotive, and freed from shackles.

Reflection – Thinking Theologically

  • We may have great worship, like our music, and do all the other points listed above. Yet we get the feeling that when we leave the doors we are absorbed into the ‘day’.
  • We need to find ways to think theologically in our day to day lives. This could be in the form of the following:
  • Education for Ministry program.
  • Adult Studies/Bible Studies have been the most effective tools to changing the mindset of a congregation.
  • Intellectual openness is vital to spirituality. The church needs to engage the brain.
  • Ability to question and raise doubts but also to be challenged.

Beauty – Touching the Divine

  • We are a church that cares about liturgy and music. Our Choral tradition is important so we need to run with it and build it up. We should use our space to offer up other expressions in art and music.
  • In art, music, literature, and liturgy we come to the realization that “God is indeed elegant and beautiful”.
  • We need to sit with the mystery of the Trinity, virgin birth, and to trust in the resurrection. You may have doubts but they are still beautiful ideas.

I think that each one of these factors is an opportunity to allow our congregation to be ‘remade by God’. God calls each congregation into a role and to offer up its gifts. Each congregation is unique and special. Yet at the core is the ability to say to someone ‘Come and see’. It is not about gimmicks, marketing, or being the flavour of the day. I am advocating that we begin the process of discernment whereby we go deeper and for different reasons. We have two basic questions to ask:

Who are we?

What is God calling us to do?

The churches that have done this have experienced a change of heart. They have found a new purpose. And they unabashedly can say, ‘Come and see’.

 

Comments

  1. That’s very good.

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