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March 16, 2008

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Larry

What would it take to start another "Living Room Experiment?" I'll admit I'm naive, and I also don't intend this as a challenge. Because what you describe here is very attractive to me, I'd like to know what it would take; it's probably not so simple as I think.

Maybe it's a naive fantasy. What would church be like if people just didn't even bother preaching about what we should be doing, and simply allowed God the free run of the place? Instead of "Oh, I'm sorry, God. Your turn comes at 11:37, when the worship band starts playing. Right now we're having the offering, and then the announcements."

My thinking is that such a church may be very slow to get going, but after a while it would really move out. Then, history says that it would succumb to the paralysis of organization but by that time some new people would start their own. I think this is why people don't live forever.

You have all kinds of people out there. Some are strong, some look strong, some are weak. Church is usually designed by the strong, for the strong. Those who are weak, or simply not strong in ways the church expects, end up burdened by a list of requirements. This is something God never does; he leads the weak so that they become stronger... assuming they can hear His voice amid all the rest of the noise.

Sometimes I think about starting such a meeting myself. I lack the genuine caring for others that would be required, and I'm not very patient. Someday, maybe.

Marti

It sounds like the great thing about the living room experiment was that it was like a life group - which suggests to me, anyway, that even if a 'Sunday' (or whenever) service cannot live up to what one hopes for, as the best of what church is made to be, perhaps the ambition for a great life group is one that can be more often realized? The one I'm part of now is, indeed, great - and that's made my Sundays better too. I love the way my small group works so much I want to write down all that's great about it and encourage others to start them like ours, too. (Maybe I will blog about it!)

At any rate... most every one of us has a living room, even if most of us don't have a church that feels like a living room.

Lu

Larry,

As far as I know it would only take a small team willing to try, and willing to completely commit to seeing it through.

Granted, starting a church plant is not easy or simple. You need a set of core values and the foundational theology upon which your church will stand, as well as where the church stands on various issues -- and what action will be taken when certain major issues arise.

You also need to spend a good amount of time -- 6 months to a year, longer if necessary -- just building team community, going over all the core values, theology and stances on issue with the core team, making sure that everyone's on the same page and understands, and agrees on the essentials (but not necessarily the secondary stuff). But most importantly, that time needs to be spent creating a safe, grace-based community within the core team.

We didn't do that in the beginning. We had a leader when we first arrived in Nashville that thought we should just hit the ground running and let the community just naturally form. It frustrated the hell out of me because I had huge expectations that we'd spend at least 6 months team building and working through the core values and theology. I was about ready to quit when the leader had a personal crisis with his family and left us.

To his immense credit, our co-leader Josh took over leadership even though he really didn't want it, and took us back a few notches. Most of the core team met regularly for about two or three months and began working on community between ourselves (forming the first small life group we had) while also revamping the "service" to become that living room experiment.

We still didn't get it right -- we left out a couple of people from the core team from that small life group because we couldn't make the schedules match. I was eventually shut out of the core group for the same reason (I worked full time during the day, while the rest worked coffee house/barrista schedules), which is how the decision to merge with the other church came about without me having an input into it. And also frustrated the hell out of me because I wanted to be involved; that's why I moved my life out here.

We also didn't create a real grace-based community; but we did the best we knew how, and could, under the circumstances.

Obviously we didn't get it right, but I think we gave it a good try for none of us having had any formal, intense training in planting a church.

So that would be the other thing I'd strongly advise anyone wanting to undertake the Living Room Experiment. FIND AN EXPERIENCED, PROVEN church plant leader to lead your group. You could do it without the leader, but it will cost you a great deal in frustration, aggravation, chaos, and probably failure. You won't have a solid team, so your living room experiment won't last long. And may damage lives in the process -- either in its living or in its dying.

Okay. Looong winded answer to your question.

Marti,

I completely agree. I've found that even when the services don't really capture me -- whatever that means -- or gel with my personality, if the small group experience is really good, it doesn't fully matter.

Or perhaps that's better said, that it seems to change my perception of the the service time. Whereas, if both are not a good fit, I'm perfectly miserable.

I'm struggling right now in my church because I had a great community group last year. But this church mixes it up every year, so you don't get to stay with the same group -- or multiply (one group into two) with part of that group, so you have to start building community all over again every year. It was too an experience jarring for me this year; and I haven't been able to recover from it yet.

On top of which, the church is undergoing subtle changes that I'm not sure I like; things that just seem "off" to me. I don't know what to do... and with the community not fully gelling for me either... I'm feeling a little lost. I keep going because I told God I would stay there and serve until He made it clear it was time to move. And I also don't want to be one of those church hoppers... but there are many times when I REALLY miss Mosaic LA.

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