August 30, 2010
I have been reading the book Pathways to Renewal: Practical Steps for Congregations by Daniel P. Smith an Mary K. Sellon. One of the elements of renewal that they identify as key is to have a germination group. They identify this as so important that they write that they have not seen a congregation renew itself without one of this. This also fits with my own experience and our work with the Possibility Thinkers Group.
So what is a germination group? Quite simply it is a group that brigs together people who are interested in having initial conversations (and I would add prayer) about different ways of being and doing church and living our our mission. The theory is that in any community there is usually a set way of functioning and of understanding your mission and way of life together. The problem is that is often very difficult for those within this system to think outside of horizon of those systems.
To over some this a space is needed where those who are open to looking beyond those horizons can be in conversation; where new insights from beyond the existing cultural system can be welcomed in; where dreaming can happen, new visions nurtured and ultimately where the Spirit of God can flow beyond the confines that we currently have for God. What is critical is that this initial group has no other task. Because if it does it will get bogged down in the deals of the task and loose its central role – dreaming and new visions.
This is very much the philosophy that has set the direction for our Possibility Thinkers Group synodically in our church. As a principle it also applies to a congregation. So if your congregation wants renewal, if you are going to start anywhere forming such a group would be one of the best places to start. If you want to learn more read Pathways to Renewal or as always feel free to contact me as well.
August 24, 2010
After I read Preston’s article about having a summer sabbath, I thought what a great idea. It has been good to have a break from blogging since then. Over the summer I spent quite a bit of time thinking about and reading about church renewal. Advent, where I serve as a pastor, has set for itself the vision of being a centre of renewal. That is, one of the many places where God is at work renewing the church. As I have been reading and talking with people I have been noticing elements of renewal that consistently come up, interesting insights and experiments that just seem fun. So I though this year I would write a series on elements of renewal In other words from our own exploration of what it means to be a church of renewal, what are some of the elements that we are hearing about and seeing in our own lives that our brining about renewal. As always I would appreciate that this be a conversation. So if you are seeing key elements to renewal – send in a comment or even submit a guest column.
So what is the first element of renewal. Well this might be stating the obvious, but it is the most important, – Simply wanting to be renewed and being open to the possibility of renewal. Yea, I know it seems obvious. It amazes me though what resistance there is to this basic openness. I look at my own denomination nationally, at our synodical convention I again heard clearly that nationally we have set a corse for one thing – a declining church and adjusting to that declining. I have also heard and seen many congregations literally build a fortress around themselves to keep new life out. I once even attended a congregation where I was once late for church and discovered the doors were locked. They literally locked the doors so that no one might wander into the church, especially the poor (ie. Jesus) who lived around them. I have seen other churches chase people out who bring new gifts, and I see again and again how congregations work to sabotage new life, or block out anything new by holding to a static idea of tradition (which usually looks like an idealized versions of the church from the 1950-70s) So why is this.?
I wonder if it is because we have forgotten the basic dynamic of confession and forgiveness. It seems we have forgotten that it is a central element of our faith to recognize that we don’t have it all together. That we are not right. That the way things are done are not the best. Recognizing that on our own we are in adequate, that we have fallen short of what God has intend for us is the beginning of confession. Confession though dosen’t stop there. Confession’s gift is not in making us feel inadequate, but rather the ways that confession opens us to the possibility of God’s grace-filled action. Confession is about turning from our selves, and what we have been to the possibilities that God calls us to and the ways that God is already at work amongst us. Confession is primarily about hope, it is about opening ourselves to the life of God being in us. And God’s life being in us is what renewal is all about. So the first element of renewal is not just wanting to be renewed and being open to renewal but also confession and then living into the proclamation of Grace and new life that flows from this opening of our lives to God.
August 20, 2010
I’m excited about a new small group resource called “Economy of Love.” Here’s a short video about the five-weeks study.
I’ve also been very keen to see what else The House Studio has been up to lately; they’ve published another book that I’m reading through now called “The Sinai Experiment.” It explores the Ten Commandments and brings them to life in some creative ways. Check out the links and get to know this small publishing house. They really embody a bold, Christ-centered approach to resource development for churches and small groups. These are more than just studies, they are a realistic call to action that is accessible and tangible for people in your church community.
I’ve been in touch with The House Studio and they’ve given us a 50% off coupon code good until September 15th. So if you’re interested in either the Sinai Experiment or The Economy of Love, go to thehousestudio.com and enter the promo code AEFW at the checkout for your discount. Thanks to the folks at The House Studio!