A place for random thoughts from the life of a follower of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

If I Could Start a Church...

Here's a question for you: if you could start a church, what would it look like?
I've been doing lots of reading, thinking and praying about this question of late. We have been talking about developing "The Gathering Place West" for some time now. We always thought of it as being a church plant in the more traditional sense; that is, starting a new service in another location with the aim to reach more people and give more opportunity for ministry.
However, of late, thoughts have been turning to other avenues and approaches, hence my question. What DOES a church look like?
What constitutes a 'church service'?
Let me deal with some presuppositions here, those things that are non-negotiable:
1. any approach to church includes the understanding that we are absolutely committed to reaching people for Jesus.
2. community is important, in that we need to be connected to one another as followers of Jesus.
3. Jesus is the architect of the church - "I will build my church," he said. Whatever we do must be in step with Him and His leading.
You may think of some other things that you would consider 'non-negotiable'.
What I want is to hear from you on these things.
I'm changing the format of the blog for now. What I want it to be is a forum where we can exchange ideas, disagree with one another. It's not 'my' blog anymore. I want it to be 'our' blog, where we can communicate with one another and have some ongoing dialogue.
Shortly we will talk about meeting together in person to discuss these things further.
For now, I want to hear from you!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

When i first started reading this article i thought we were looking for ways to excuse our unsuccessful attempts at church planting. But then I remembered the church my wife's friend attends. They sit at tables,listen to a lecture (sermon) and then have small, round table discussions about it. People pray and interact. That seems like it is closer to the new testament churches when they met in people's homes and shared with each other. That would build community. You would have to ensure that people change things up every week and make a real effort at hospitality in welcoming visitors, avoiding large cliques but I would think the potential for spiritual growth would be great. Now if only The Gathering Place West was further east. I live in southeast Ajax. It would be hard for me to commit to a church in west Pickering. -Ross

6:18 p.m.

Blogger David said...

Thanks for commenting. It sounds like your friend's church is developing some good community. I think that's important, not just within the church body itself, but also developing community within its context, that is, the neighbourhood in which it finds itself.

8:22 p.m.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea of church being less 'formal'. I've heard terms used such as simple or organic. Meeting together with other believers to study God's word, break bread, and visit our neighbours would be natural. It would be an intrinsic part of our day and not something added on. This freedom from programs and formality may create more opportunities to minister to others. The world would know that we are Christians by our love/involvement.

7:39 p.m.

Blogger David said...

I can tell what you've been reading! I think you're right. We need to be involved and engaged with the people around us. I saw a story in the Toronto Star this morning on a new style of coffee places. They are open to all, offer free wi-fi and foster community. It sounds a little like what a local church should be!

12:56 p.m.

Blogger Jeff said...

In my opinion, church in its essence is meant to be a community - we were never meant as Christians, or as humans for that matter, to live in isolation. I think the format of a church depends on the format of its members; obviously there are some formats that work better than others, but ultimately it depends on the commitment of the members to the church they are a part of. Generally most churches have the 80-20 rule - 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I think ultimately it's not the format of the service that matters, but the openness of the church to allow for ways for everyone to get involved and be a part of the community. If that means that someone offers pottery classes because they know how, great. If it means having an accordion player, wonderful. The more integrated people are into their church, the more the community will function as a body, as the Lord intended. But those are just my thoughts on the matter :)

4:06 p.m.

Blogger Chris Burke said...

great to see other canadians on the christian blogger list... great stuff, i'll add you to my bookmarks, and check back often

10:33 p.m.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed all of the previous comments made on this blog...a sense of community is really important because our Western society today is lacking that sense of community. Many people feel alone and alienated and as believers in Christ we need to play a role in alleviating that. I think a coffee house idea is great as well as the home group concept. A lot of people have a keen interest in learning more about Jesus but are terrified of going to church. Some have had negative experiences with Christians in the past, some people are extremely shy, and some people are afraid of crowds. The list goes on and on.
I personally still find it difficult to get fellowshipping time with other believers because everyone is so busy and lives are so scheduled. A home church-type setting in which fellowship would be part of the "service" would counteract that. Also, the situation would be less likely to get "clique-y" which is what happens when any large group of people meet on a regular basis.
While I learn a great deal listening to the pastors, I also learn a huge deal by simply talking with other believers in Christ and exhanging ideas.
Oh yeah, and one thing we need to focus on is testimonies. I'm tired of hearing Christians talk at great length about what the Devil is doing and everything that is wrong with our world. We need to talk more about what God is doing because He is moving in people's lives in a mighty way and this needs to be shared.
Thanks for listening!
- Theresa

6:46 p.m.

Blogger David said...

Thanks for commenting. Community is certainly a very key aspect of what a church is to be. It's also common to all the comments I've received so far. While we build community, we have to guard against being so inward-focused that we lose sight of/don't allow for others to become part of what's happening. Cliques can happen in a small gathering (often the whole group or church becomes a clique, excluding all others) as much as in a larger gathering.
What we need is to be open and welcoming with everyone around us.

11:00 a.m.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that you have the right idea. A lot of people are frankly not interested anymore in coming to a big church and listening to somebody standing at a puplit talking to them. In my mind one of the ways to be successful in making relationships with your neghbours is by interacting with them on a personal one to one basis. This is the way that relationships are built. A lot of times this has to take place first before you can share with them Gods grace and forgiveness. That does not mean that God will not use us in those chance encounters when he puts us in a situatution where you will likely never see the person again.
Again I think what you are talking about is a good idea and it should be pursued further.

4:52 a.m.

Blogger David said...

Thanks for your interesting comments. Of course, the church relates to a wide spectrum of people; some thrive in the large gatherings, while others would prefer a smaller, more intimate fellowship of people. However, as you know, it's not the size, but the commitment to community that makes the difference.
I would encourage you to identify yourself so that we can see who we're in dialogue with.

2:11 p.m.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There have been many times when I have felt that I should have said something to somebody but after the moment had passed I felt that the opportunity was gone for good. I have just finshed reading a book called " Share Jesus with without Fear" by William Faye. It was very thought provoking and challenging. In my mind it is practical Christianity because if one is really led by the Holy Spirit then every minute is an oportunity when we should share and show others that we care because of what God has done in our life.
As for saying who I am right now I am a little reluctant to do that right now. Once again keep up the good work and I will be following the comments on this page.

10:23 p.m.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will try this again. I did a big comment yesterday but lost it.
I believe we need to reach out to our family, friends, co-workers, neighbourhood etc. and share what Christ has done. This can be done by a comment, our actions, over a cup of tea, gardening etc. I believe a church is a group of believers; meaning one who has a personal relationship with Christ- coming together to lift each other up, encourage one another, share the good and the bad, pray for each other and develop our relationship further with Christ and also with one another.
A church allows us to come together in one location and do that. As a church we must also reach out, welcome and included those who are searching,seeking and to tell them, better yet show them how a personnel relationship with Christ can change them.
How one can have something more than life on earth here has to offer;eternal life is available to all who call on the name of Jesus.
I beleive establishing "house churches" and small group will help us do the above.
I have been struggling with what we discussed at our first meeting.
What is the difference between a small group and a house church?
I keep comming back to I don't think there is a big difference. The goal of both is to share with one another and share the gospel of Christ and that no matter what, the only thing to get you into heaven is your personal relationship with Christ. By studying, sharing, giving of our talents and using our spirtual gifts we can further the kingdom of God. The main difference between a house church and a small group I believe is the time it runs. Usually with a small group it runs for 6-8weeks on average and with a house church the time commitment would be indefinate.
I assume that once we establish enough "house churches and small groups", have the people, commitment both in body and finacially we would look at establishing a location where we can all come together and call this the sister church of PPC.
I understand that we would have the access to what PPC already has in place and what they will do in the future.IE:youth,OTSM,Kids club etc. Those wanting to assist and see the vision for Gathering Place Next; we need to look at what is available to support us. We need to still feel connected yet have our own idenity if that makes sense. As a group I believe we need to look at this. We need to discuss our excitment, our ideas but also what we fear, the change, stepping out of our comfort zone etc. I believe church is differnt for so many. This is evident in the comments on this blog. Some like it formal other maybe not so much. Some like a large location, some not. I do believe a church is made up of what people are willing to bring to it and share. Some like a very vibrant service others may prefer a more quiet approach. Thus, that is why we have so many different styles of church service. One thing I believe is that as we explore the option of house church or some other format we must keep our focus on what God wants for us, for PPC. We must remember to pray, seek God's guidance, trust, Be still, listen and obey! If we do that He will reveal His will to us; We may not like what He wants us to do. But if we truly trust in Him, His plan is perfect and we must follow. We must remember He will always supply our needs both physically and spiritually. If a house church format is what is instore for PPC within God's will;it will happen. Again, throughout this process I pray always that God's will will be done not our own desire. We who believe know that our purpose on this earth is to share the Good News, to share what Christ has done with others. To show them how a personnal relationship with Him will change their life now and forever. So I challange us all to seek God and his guidance; to grow in favour with God and Man as written in the book of Timothy in the New Teastment. We must thank God and realize we are under Grace, not Law(meaning Old Testament Law)We want to share our faith with others. This is to be done in whatever format we can. Being a large central location, or in the coziness of a living room or out in a backyard, in an office, at school etc.. Trust in Him and we will know what His perfect plan will be for PPC.
Boy, this was long, feel free to edit. I did a better job the first time round. Anyway, hope this makes some sense. Looking forward to sharing and growing this together. Blessings, Bonnie

11:00 p.m.

Blogger David said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. As more people leave comments, this discussion will only become more meaningful.
I hope everyone feels free to share their true thoughts and feelings, and to respond to others' comments as well. It's only as we dialogue together that we can truly develop into the church God is calling us to be.
People have lots of different ideas about house churches, and that can be good. There are many similarities between house churches and small groups. However, they are different as well. Small groups are a part of the church experience, though an important part. House churches are just that; churches that meet in homes. They are the total expression of the church. In that regard then, they can be very freeing. Without all the expectations of 'normal' church life, our lives can be simplified so we can spend more time getting to know our neighbours, co-workers, families, and friends. In building these deeper relationships, we can discover or be more aware of opportunities and needs and respond to them.
We don't want to follow a program; we want to follow Jesus.
There are advantages to house churches. One is the flexibility. It's easier to turn a canoe around than a freighter. So, a house church can adapt to changes much quicker and easier than a larger church body.
I wish I could say I've got everything figured out, but I don't. I'm not sure I ever will. However, I do feel pulled in the direction of house churches and life-simplification, to allow myself to follow Jesus as simply and clearly as possible.
I trust we will all learn and grow as we walk on this journey together.

12:01 p.m.

Blogger Jason Curlee said...

Great thoughts and comments on this post David.

I really believe we are at a point in time where there is new type of church being established. When you look across the landscape of America you see many people and churches trying many things. An almost re-inventing of the church which I am for.

I firmly believe that something must happen.

But mainly there needs to be a push back to better community within the church.

When you look at the explosion of growth the original church had the main thing is that everyone on the outside really liked what they saw.

I often wonder if that is what people on the outside think today. Do they really like what they see in Church today?

I know I didn't really answer the how to in specifics but no matter the how "true community" must be built if we are to reach others.

Making Difference Makers

8:04 p.m.


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