For those looking for a church, or trying to decide if they are part of the right one or not, this is the question. “Does this church meet my needs.” It’s the right question, we just don’t understand what it means. We move into church life looking for music and a style of worship we like, programs that are about what we want them to be, good stuff for our kids (if we have them), a theology we agree with, people we would want to hang out with, and probably one that fits in our schedules.
Let me go on the record and say that I understand this. I’m not against this attitude. It is natural. It is the ‘looking for something’ part of people that gives a church the chance to say, “Let us help you with what you are looking for.” But it is also something that a church has to help people redefine sooner or later or we are all in trouble, unhappy and unsatisfied.
We should always be looking for a church that meets our needs, what we have to understand as we grow in spiritual maturity is that our needs need to change from things that fill us up, to things that we can do. It is the job of a church to help people see and begin to experience that they need their church because in and through it they can exercise their gifts. Our need is to be a functioning part of the Body of Christ, not a shopping cart. That we don’t get what we want (a theology and worship style I like), but what we need. That is, where faith is challenged, where we’re led to a deeper understanding of God’s role in our life and our role in the community and the world.
At Jacob’s Well when we tell people they can come as they are, we don’t just mean in jeans and t-shirts. We don’t just mean with your recovery, financial, relational, personal and whatever-al other issues. We mean as a consumer. Bring it. We’ll let it encounter God and see if that isn’t one more thing from which God will free you.
Stephanie of Jacob’s Well – one of my inveterate combers of cyberspace sending me stuff I should have on my radar – sent me this article from Emily Bennington of the Huffington Post this morning under her subject heading, “Why Jacob’s Well matters.”
There is a lot more to the “why it matters” debate than moral discourse, but it important and is probably a good place to start. Particularly for those who have given up on church, God, faith and (without a doubt) religion. God matters. Faith matters. Jacob’s Well and others who are willing to wade out into the waters before they have fully parted… let’s go. We’ve got real, hard, honest work to do – there is a lot of wilderness between us and the Promised Land.
I wish I’d known about this project a few months instead of a few weeks ago. (Where was I?!? Well, anyway, see the video we showed Sunday, Dec. 14, below.)
While the project is new, the conspiracy of which it speaks has been going on for a long time. Jesus was God’s trump card in the process. As we talk about “Missing God” at Jacob’s Well these four Sundays before Christmas (Nov 30 – Dec 21) we are looking at all the places that God is around, bigger than life, but we keep missing it. Advent, God coming into the world, is exactly this. It is the world pregnant with God’s presence waiting to burst out at the right time – and it is continually the right time.
This was God’s conspiracy to disrupt our complacency, to wake us from our indifference, to get our eyes off ourselves, to open our hearts and minds to God’s presence and the possibilities which exist when God is that real and present. May we be part of the change!
Jacob’s Well started a second service on its 1st anniversary. That was Sept.2007, and the service is at 6 on Sunday evening. All our study pointed at this as the time to do it. It’s great, but poorly attended. We didn’t launch it right, we pushed it, but only in the context of what we are already did that has tons of momentum. Now it is time to relaunch it.
Since we don’t have unused money, resources, time or people to do the launch, there was only one option. Use who we have already to launch it. This not only gives us a several hundred person launch team, it reminds us why we are here in the first place – to be about what God is up to. That keeps us on target and helps us keep out of reach of the grasp of institutionalism.
So we are suspending our popular 10:30 am service for the 4 weeks before Easter to be about one, and only one thing as a community for those weeks. Getting a couple 100 new people to Jacob’s Well for whom the 6 pm service will be normative.
I don’t know of any church who has ever done this, but I think it is a noble experiment that has to at least teach us to never do it again. We will accompany the switch with a heavy dose of advertising in the area and a major push on getting out into the community to meet people, as well as encouraging everyone to invite others during this month.
That’s the short intro to it all. See the COUNTDOWNon our website (upper right). It is ticking down the moments until we start the second venue on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.
The same conversation as sparked my last entry also ventured into this topic which is very key for us at Jacob’s Well. We don’t just need a new kind of church for the sake of relevance, but because the church has become so polarized here in the United States. Whole denominations decide what and how they will do things not based on their core values and theology, but in order to not be confused with churches they don’t agree with (and feel threatened by – that’s another story).
Something I think my ‘mainline’ tradition has been missing is decisiveness. That is, ‘Why follow Jesus?’ What does it matter, what difference does it make? We associate the decisiveness of faith – a core message of the Gospel, God does make a difference – with the way some very fundamentalist churches have played it out; only being concerned with ‘saving souls,’ with drawing lines of who is ‘Christian’ and who is not. We don’t want to define whom loves by excluding people (homosexuals, non-born-again’s, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, other denominations, etc) so we don’t talk about what it is that God calls us to at all. We just talk around it, we make it ‘easy’ and that is different than making it the greatest and biggest investment of our lives. We also haven’t found ways to articulate how God might be at work in other faiths and other lifestyles that are ‘foreign’ to us without gutting what is decisive about our faith. We’ve left ‘decisiveness’ to others, but it doesn’t belong to them alone, it belongs to all who seek to ‘take up their cross’ and follow Jesus.
It is time to claim decisiveness back. We can affirm the decisiveness of our faith without creating unnecessary devisiveness. We don’t have to decide whether Buddhists will go to hell or heaven, whether homosexuality is a sin or not. Face it, God hasn’t asked our opinion on these issues and God hasn’t asked us to judge each other. Rather, to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4.15), witness to what God has shown us (1 Peter 2.9) and let those seeds take root in people’s lives trusting God’s Spirit to be at work (Matthew 13). To be honest about our own need for forgiveness, redemption and transformation (1 Corinthians 15.9-10).
We can be decisive – we have the greatest news and the greatest relationship in the world that changes us whether we want it to or not – without being devisive – our job is to let people know they too are children of God, not how much God has judged them,
This is a precarious position to hold, and I’ve been taken to task for it before. What I find so compellingly Christ-like about it is that it depends of God’s power of transforming our lives and forgiving our mistakes rather than our ability to conform people to what we think they should be like to be “Christian.”
One of our core values at is to “Focus on the mission that unites, not details that divide – We value unity and diversity.” This holy balancing act is a good example of that value and I see it happening at Jacob’s Well.
Okay, so it isn’t the “real” thing, but it is something we can all start with. Yesterday at Jacob’s Well I talked about the non-negotiable dimension of faith that we call ‘grow’; it’s learning, discipleship, education, doing the stuff you need to do to mature in your spiritual life. We always have what our creative team calls a PAW in our services, that is a ‘personal act of worship.’ A PAW is something that people are encouraged to do that takes the good intentions that people may have in the service and has them make some sort of first step towards actually doing it. (I’ll have to blog about this PAW concept later – I think it is extremely important.)
The PAW this week was to ask people to be in one of the Groups here at Jacob’s Well or elsewhere, (but I’m not writing about Groups here) and to join me in the 10.10.10– that is committing 10 minutes to reading the Bible, 10 minutes to prayer and 10 minutes to quiet every day. You can hear the message on our website, but I don’t think it is up yet. When available this LINK will take you to it.
Now I know that millions of people have resolved to reading their Bible and crashed and burned because they couldn’t make heads or tails of what they read. And I know that this simplistic 10.10.10 formula isn’t a magic recipe for enlightenment, but we need something tangible, somewhere to start. This little dip in these three spiritual disciplines (very close to lectio divina actually, another blog that needs to be written…) reinforced by the Group Life available here at jacob’s well, and some encouragement and energy from the church as a whole, can make this simple formula have real staying power. Also, like I said yesterday, these 3 components of faith, with the right support, can take on a life of their own in people who test drive them.
At the morning service I asked people to do it, but forgot (argh…) to ask them to let us know they were going to do so by indicating it on their Communication Card (one downside of preaching without a script…) so I have no idea how many people meant to try it. But in the evening I did remember and nearly everyone wrote the 10.10.10 on their card. I can’t believe it. Oops, of course I can, that’s a God thing… I just know I can’t be that convincing.
What did I learn? 1. don’t be afraid to ask people for meaningful commitment around things that make a difference in the lives they see God calling them to. 2. People are hungry for spiritual growth and want to know what to do next. 3. We have a big job ahead of us keeping people focused on this and helping them sustain the practice until it becomes a natural (not a simplistic formulaic) part of their walk with Jesus.
Want to join me on the 10.10.10? Comment here and let me know. We’ll try to support you. Got other good ideas or stories about how this has worked (or not worked) for you? I want to hear them!
Want to know more about the 10.10.10? Check out THIS ENTRY on our website and watch for updates on what to read and how to live out this piece of your spiritual growth.