It has been some time since my last post, so I suppose it is time. I have and am active on both Facebook and Twitter, and those are good connections with friends. But the blog has a different purpose, so I am back.
And I want to follow up on the issues discussed. I have been asked to help a congregation develop a small group ministry. This is a very good congregation with a long and admired history. They have recently relocated to a different community. The issue at hand is that they are getting many visitors to the Sunday worship service but these are not being assimilated into the Sunday School or other areas in the life of the church. I am working with two staff members and met with a total of 15 people interested in small groups.
Some want to drive small group with curriculum. Huge mistake. No doubt nothing should be taught outside the parameters of the Apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42), but small group is a method of developing Community, and Community is about relationships
Which brings me to the point. Why the Church? Why the "called out ones"? Often in discussions such as this some want to push every word to extremes. For example, if I asked "Do you go to "church" or are you the church? Some would take one extreme or another and shape the conversation to be about whether or not one should attend public worship. That is missing the point.
The point is about identity as a follower of Jesus. We are called out, transformed, and sent with the gospel message. And that new community of which we are a part is a relational community.
Within the biblical parameter, there is mutual accountability and accountability can only be positive in an environment of loving relationships. In the context of evangelism, no one is won to Christ by someone they do not like. In the context of the church, no one will submit to accountability or discipline unless they believe the church or the other person genuinely loves them.
Love does not gloss over sin or bad behavior. Confrontation is sometimes necessary and almost always painful. The Bible uses a phrase that we sometimes over-use and by doing so we can negate its impact: "But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head - Christ" (Eph. 4:15).
I confess my own guilt in using this verse as an excuse for sometimes blurting out words that are indeed truth, but not said in a way or with the intent of helping the hearer 'grow in every way into Him'.
Many churches have what I call an "inside culture". These are wonderful people who are very out of touch with the desires of the culture around them. In order to be part of that church, one must first learn the "inside culture" and adapt their life to it. That will happen less and less.
Does not love teach us to take proactive steps to develop biblical community in such a way as to break down the walls in order for us to develop healthy relationships and become catalysts for the transformation of soul that only Christ can bring?
Do you see an "inside culture" that is prohibitive in reaching people? How do you deal with it in your context?