Category Archives: Vision

Sorry Jesus, We’re Just Not That Into 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.

Here’s the link to the article. Sorry Jesus, We’re Just Not That Into You?

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Most of us aren’t here yet!

We believe this with all our hearts. It’s got two sides to it.

One – “Jacob’s Well is mostly made up of people who aren’t here…” Jacob’s Well isn’t for or about ‘us.’ It is about and for the people God has called, the people God has in mind when God said, “Let there be Jacob’s Well.”

Two – “Yet!” We expect them to come, or better yet, we expect to go to them. It is one thing for us to know we are incomplete, it is another to believe that God is at work to fulfill us and for us to live and act in that expectation.

What is so amazing about this is how this is coming to life within the community as we prepare to launch our second site. The night before the first preview service the Board and spouses met for a social dinner together (it is a whole other story about how we could possibly afford to do that the night before our first preview!) and while we were talking about the journey that has been Jacob’s Well our chair noted how close we had all become and how much we had done together that we loved and were proud of. And (this is the clincher) that if it were not for Jacob’s Well no one in that room would have known anyone else (spouses excepted…)

The next morning, about 45 minutes before the first service was to begin at Longfellow, we gathered for last minute details and prayer. Our Site Leader who has only been around for about six months made a similar comment. He noted that most of us haven’t known each other very long but we were all here because of God’s work in Jacob’s Well. He asked us to think forward six months when this circle would be vastly expanded with people we by then knew, loved and had shared significant experiences with, but right now we don’t even know exist. And just imagine what we will accomplish, be and reach with them as the next layer of who we are.

God’s vision for Jacob’s Well may have started in my mind and heart, but it is contagious and owned by so many other people now. That giving away and ownership by others is the fulfillment of a vision. That is why I get up each morning to help Jacob’s Well remain faithful to it. And it tells me to start listening for the next stage of that vision.

Launching a ‘not very good church’ on purpose

Cover of mailer for Jacob's Well Longfellow preview

Is this anyway to attract people to our church? We think so. Obviously not if you were trying to get people who already think church is just fine. But why would we do that? They are probably going to church already. What about all those people (a majority today?) who think there is something basically wrong with ‘church’?

From the very beginning Jacob’s Well was designed to speak to people who have given up or are ready to give up on church, God and faith. It seems ridiculous to try to interest them by claiming what a good example of church we are. The copy on the back of our mailer says, “If your image of church is like most people’s, we’re glad not to be a very good example of it. So instead of being another church, we’ve tried to be a “what if” church. One known for being honest, thinking, relevant and casual so people can be themselves – you know, their real selves.”

We believe that life needs God at its center and Jesus in its heart, but we also believe that for that to happen people need churches that are authentic to who they are. People want their church to be in their own  neighborhood so it resonates with, pulls together and speaks to people with whom they already share community.  That’s why we’re in the process of starting Jacob’s Well Longfellow just 4 miles from Jacob’s Well Field in this densely populated urban neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

We had our first monthly  “preview” service on Sunday at Anne Sullivan School on Sunday (Jan. 24, 2010) and had a great time. The school and district have been great partners and the building is wonderful. Most of all, the team of people, many brand new to the Jacob’s Well community, have been incredible. A little over 100 people attended, nearly half of them new to Jacob’s Well. A great start. But it is just a start. We want to add value to the Longfellow neighborhood and be part of the struggles and joys of the community and individuals. We don’t just want to expand, we want to fulfill what God has in mind for us. And we need to let them know we are here. As I’ve said a thousand times, “It doesn’t do any good to start a church if no one knows about it.”

Starting another church is a lot of work. Being an authentic presence is a much bigger task, but that is what it is all about.

[Want to know more about why we would do this? Read “Most of us aren’t here yet.”]

Leap of Faith

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 COUNTDOWN on our website (upper right).  It is ticking down the moments  until we start the second venue on Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.

Guiding Authentic Spiritual Growth

I looked at the last post [“Which is the greater danger?  Heresy or Blind Compliance”] and I had to say, “Let people make mistakes.”  I completely agree with the concept of letting people take ownership of their faith even though they will and do make mistakes.  And that ownership only happens when people learn for themselves.  But that word “for” is a big one.  It is “for themselves” not “by themselves.”

That means I don’t think it is helpful or responsible to let people wallow around in sloppy thinking or fall prey to deceptive thinking.  It happens too easily.

I’m going to start sketching out a formula for what I try to do, and I hope others will add comments and ideas and raise up examples that others have come up with.

One – Pray – The is a holy process that God’s Spirit is involved with.  It starts here, grows here and ends here.

Two – Scripture – Model a balanced approach to reading the Bible (primarily) and other writings.

Three – Vision – Supply vision for the purpose of faith and what it means to be a Christ follower in your context.

Four – Groups – Create and support opportunities for individualized learning and conversation.  Give general guidance to these experiences, but don’t manage them.

Five – Service – Encourage and give opportunities to people to practice what they believe.

Six – Listen – Leaders learn from what the larger body is discerning.  This allows the body to mature spiritually.

Start process over…

This was just a quick shot at the process… It is an inexact process and certainly full of holes.  Help me with them.  But then… maybe the holes are the faith part…

Happy Birthday, Spirit Garage!

sg-namelogo.gif

10 years old this weekend!

Back in 1997 when no one I knew had any idea how to start a new church in a dense, urban, eccentric neighborhood of people who were disillusioned by church, a few people had a vision and a few were crazy enough to try it.  Spirit Garage was born in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.  They pioneered trails that many of us, years later, have followed without having to bushwhack.  The emergent church of today has a debt of gratitude to the leadership and larger community of Spirit Garage!  No, they haven’t found all the answers, but they broke the ice, they said it was possible, they had fun, the gave legitimacy to what many were afraid to express and try.  And 10 years later they are still here.

This Sunday at 10:30 they will celebrate at their venue, the Music Box Theatre, the life they have had over these years.  But if I know them as well as I think I do, they will really be celebrating the life they hope to embody in the years to come!

So, go get your oil changed and consider it a toast to Spirit Garage.  I tip my radiator cap to Rob Norris-Weber, Ryan Torma and John Kerns (Kernsy) and the many mechanics who keep the community tuned up.

And while you are at it, send them a donation to build the next decade with!

Spirit Garage – the church with the really big door
4100 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55409 

Note: Spirit Garage is sort of our sister congregation.  They were started as an outreach ministry of the same congregation that birthed Jacob’s Well, Bethlehem Lutheran Church.   Hats off to them too, this is a great day celebrating their vision having come to life.  Spirit Garage continues to be an arm of Bethlehem, but with complete creative and organizational autonomy.  Jacob’s Well is an independent congregation (they didn’t want us anymore… 😦 )

Political as well as Personal Relevance

The paragraph below is part of reader Jenna’s very articulate comment on my post “Being Christian isn’t a good thing anymore.”

“...what about bigger problems like racism, poverty, and lack of access to education? Many churches focus on these issues at the global level, but problems like these are very present in Minneapolis…”

Boy, I know what she means. I’m going to try to respond and I’ll bet my response won’t be wholly satisfactory to anyone, including myself. So I’d love more people weighing in on this.

1. Yep, we do have to raise our voice as followers of God. The Bible consistently balances (if not trumps) the personal impact of faith with the societal impact of it. I do not think the societal (or political) is anymore important, but that God is highly suspicious of any manifestation of faith that doesn’t start reshaping the world around it.

2. Politics are dangerous in church. Here’s why. Not because we aren’t supposed to be political, but because politics tries to regroup us according to our stands on issues and stake its claim on us as its adherents. That isn’t the job of politics, that’s God’s job. Our only unwavering adherence should be to the gospel and its transforming power in us and through us. When church bodies (local, regional, national) have taken political stands on issues they have usually done it badly. They take votes that make losers and winners, dividing the unity of Christ. Losers either leave, alienated from the dialog that might have furthered understanding and growth; or they retreat until they can mount their forces to overthrow those who won last time.

3. One of the core values of Jacob’s Well is “We value unity and diversity. We focus on the mission that unites, rather than the details that divide.” How do we do that? It isn’t easy, but we already hold a large range of diversity in our community with almost no conflict. If we only do that by avoiding issues it is bankrupt, but I don’t believe that is the case. My vision is that the church is called to convict people with God’s desire for justice and compassion. The church has to be ‘prophetic’ about what the real issues are. The action, however, is a response of faith. It is individual and we are called to be tolerant of and engaged with each other despite our varied approaches. Face it, we never know for sure when we are right. It is the church’s place to say, “Racism is a problem. Here are some of the things the Bible says about it. Here are questions that we as people who carry Jesus’ cross with him are called to figure out and act on.” But it is not the church’s place to say, “This is the only right response to racism.” Or “This is the right stand on the issue of racism.”

4. I will freely admit that this is a growing area for me to learn how to walk the precarious edge of calling a community to action in the political/social sphere, but not endorse policies or candidates. We are trying to learn, however. We did a series (IMUR) some months ago working from Jesus’ “I am” statements in John’s gospel. Two weeks focused on local justice issues with expert guest speakers. One dealing with poverty and race issues in our neighborhood, and another with Muslim/Christian relationships. Two Muslim speakers helped me with deliver that message. This summer we did a series (Is God Green?) dealing with environmental issues and capped it off by having our worship one Sunday be actually working on projects that improved the environment. We gave everyone a dvd afterward with a message from me (and another for kids) to help interpret the experience. (If you want a copy of the dvd, let me know.)

5. We believe everyone should have a ministry within the church and a mission beyond it. That will be a goal for Jacob’s Well forever. That ‘mission beyond’ will be different for every person, but we will try to help everyone see that their voting, their voices to elected and appointed government officials, their volunteering, their influence over friends and neighbors, and their mere presence in the community should be understood as part of their mission.

Sorry for so long a response, but Jenna hit a hot button for me that I wrestle with a lot.