What is a church supposed to be?
Is it supposed to be a place of worship that offers spiritual practice and identity? A place of refuge from the world? A base camp for those working for God’s kingdom in their daily lives? A place of direct response to human need?
As the shape of faith communities continues to change with respect to financial resources, physical plant, and leadership models, we’re forced to grapple with this question. And sometimes there’s a sense of shame about it: “If we had been living the way of Jesus the right way, our church wouldn’t be so small now.” That shame, of course, only gets in the way of listening to how the Holy Spirit is calling us, in this new day, to show up for the Kingdom of God.
Let’s be clear: there is not one right way to be a faith community. There’s so much that depends on identity, context, and assets. The church in Rome was not the same as the church in Ephesus or in Corinth. The church in Ely is not the same as the cathedral in Minneapolis or the school in Faribault. As our bishop-elect Craig Loya said in one of the tour stops, a ‘diverse church ecology’ is a strength, not a weakness, of our network. There’s room for many different approaches and methods of being church.
But there is something all of those models have in common: apprenticing people into the Way of Jesus. You can call it ‘formation’ or ‘discipleship’ if you want – both of those words point to helping people see their lives grafted into God’s story, and making choices with their lives that help them show up for Kingdom of God.
Our worship is a vehicle for that apprenticeship. But so is the coffee hour. And the website, engagement with neighbors, social justice work, pastoral care, small groups, knitting circle, vestry, children’s choir, finance committee, team meeting, and buildings and grounds committee. All of it is discipleship, all of it is formation, all of it is apprenticing people into something. There is a message in your method, whether you intend it or not.
Read the rest here.
The Rev. Susan Daughtry |
Missioner for Formation
Emilia Allen |