Friday, March 27, 2009

A Simple Resource for a Simple Church

Brian over at Faith Practice & Simple Church Movements has posted a wonderful little brochure (still a draft) that offers a description of simple churches. It includes a set of three norms for this kind of church life that are oriented towards practice rather than doctrine.
  • A Rhythm of Presence speaks to the relational foundation, being present to God and each other in ways that are significant and active.

  • A Movement of Renewal speaks to the outward focus of working to bring peace and justice - God's shalom - more fully into the world.

  • A Culture of Blessing speaks to enacting grace in love and gentleness no matter what you do (or is done to you.)
Beyond being explicitly centered on Jesus it is presented without any doctrinal core or theological boundaries. Some may find that to be a weakness, but for the purpose helping to nucleate a broad spectrum of faith communities instead of cloning the one you have I find it to be an attractive strength. I think this comes through most clearly in this one comment in a section of final thoughts; "Communion & baptisms should become a consistent expression of your simple church."

I invite you to take a look at his work and give him some feedback as he continues to develop it. Below are the first couple of introductory paragraphs.


This simple church brochure is designed for Jesus-centered & Spirit-led communities that revolve around three essential norms of expression: rhythm of presence, movement of renewal, and culture of blessing.

Simple churches share life together through prayer & deep conversation, over meals, in play & recreation, & through adventure in serving those in need. Simple churches actively seek the care of the last, the lost , and the least in our world – always with a gracious invitation to
join us if you’d like & yet whatever your decision we will still treat you with dignity & respect . . . we will treat you as Jesus himself.

And while this brochure does not place an emphasis on restricted religiosity as typified by many fundamentalist expressions of religion it does have a central focus on following and imitating the practices & teachings of Jesus & the rhythms of the Holy Spirit - envisioning the renewed reality of a people unleashed to collectively utilize their gifts & talents not toward service of money, consumerism, & self but in service of the Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke of constantly. (Read more...)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Renew Community, Lansdale PA - Worth A Look

My daily Google search on the term "House Church" led me to Renew, a network of house churches in Lansdale PA. Judging by their website, these are people I'd like to know better.

A couple of things caught my eye:

A post on the rhythm of their house church life described gathering 2x a month for "Exploring" together, once a month for service, and once more for some form of celebration, which is not a fancy term for a large group Sunday-style worship gathering. Rather, it's as they say; "While followers of Jesus are seldom accused of throwing great parties or being known for being celebratory people, we should have a reputation for this!" Amen to that!!

In previous posts I've talked some (I think) about theological minimalism. So I was pleased to see that the only thing they list under "What We Believe" is the Nicene Creed. That's refreshing.

Apparently they don't - yet - have a public or large group gathering up and running. When they do I'll be interested to see if they feel compelled to offer it weekly or not.

Anyway, if you're interested in "who's out there" or looking for signs of hope on your journey to a different way of being Church together you might like to check them out. And if you live near them in Lansdale... lucky you!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Twin Peaks: Resource Allocation and Effectiveness in Promoting Spiritual Growth in Conventional Congregations

Dontcha just love that title? It's just like the stuff I used to write back when I was a molecular biologist.

I have an observation.

In conventional congregations, the larger a gathering is, the more resources are invested in it. For example, the typical Sunday morning worship service consumes the vast amount of the resources available. This is true I believe in terms of staff time, funds and physical space. (It's probably true of member time investment as well, to the extent that they invest their time in their spiritual life.)

Here's how that looks:

(You'll notice that I drew that on a napkin to underscore the sophistication of this analysis.)

Thus far, I've restated the obvious.

I also have a hypothesis: The smaller a group is, the more effective it is in promoting spiritual growth (to the extent that the group focuses on spiritual life).

So on one extreme you have spiritual friendships, marriages, mentoring relationships and "two or three are gathered" accountability groups. Next up come the familiar "small groups" and Bible studies. At the other extreme is, well, Sunday morning worship.

Here's how that looks:

The obvious question here is; "What's wrong with this picture?" To which I would respond; "Well, it looks to me as if resource investment in conventional congregations is 180 degrees out of alignment with the strategies that are most effective in promoting spiritual growth."

But here's a more interesting question: "What would congregational life look like if we realigned our resource investment to reflect this?"


Friday, March 13, 2009

The Magic Purse

So, shameless sell-promotion is okay when you're not selling anything, right? I mean, what's a blog for?

I wrote a short story a while back called The Magic Purse. It's a little fable about scarcity and abundance. Over the years a number of people have downloaded it from a collection of stewardship resources hosted by Luther Seminary and told me that it was helpful to them in their congregations. Cool!

For the last couple of weeks I've been having some more fun with it at my current church. I've used it as the basis for a contest for kids, inviting them to write alternate endings and to create illustrations. It's been fun to see their work! I've created a little website in support of that where you can read the story and the alternate endings and see the illustrations. So if that's intriguing to you, or you're looking for a stewardship resource to use in a creative way, check it out. I think you'll like it.