At church, the elders and ministers are working through a visioning process based on the book Church Unique — which I really like because it combines some of my favorite ideas from some of my favorite books.
And we were talking through the “DNA” of our church. At the same time, one of our ministers was excited about, of all things, a public hearing he’d attended at the local VA. Well, it really was pretty exciting.
You see, the VA is offering a building and land for free to anyone who will turn it into a homeless shelter. And our minister has been contacting other churches in town (sadly, not Churches of Christ, as they won’t cooperate with the “denominations”) to pull together enough resources to make it happen. It’s bigger than any one church can do.
The pastor of one church told him, “I’m glad the University Church of Christ is taking the lead, because we know it’ll be done right.” Well, we had no idea people thought this way about us.
And we talked about it and wondered if bringing the local churches together in this way is part of what God is calling us to. It could be …
We were also talking about personal transformation (or spiritual formation) as well as congregational transformation. All of which reminded me of a post I started on but didn’t get very far on … and this a working draft. It needs work …
You see, I think that Christians and churches should think in terms of 7 levels of community — and church leaders should guide their churches to serve Jesus at all 7 levels.
First, there is our personal relationship with Jesus. The fashionable term is “spiritual formation.” We need to grow — be transformed by God’s Spirit.
Second, there’s the family. Nowadays, it’s very important that churches help husbands and wives build stronger marriages and parents become better parents.
Third, there’s the congregation. We leaders need to help our members form the chuch into community.
Fourth, there’s the community, that is, the city or town. The churches — all Christ’s churches in town — should be community, especially when it comes to mission. We’re not going to save the lost and help the needy in competition with each other. Cooperation in love is the Biblical model.
Fifth, there’s the denomination. I’m hoping we one day get away from denominations, but that day isn’t today. Churches need to be involved at the denominational level — to help them overcome their problems, to keep them from being isolated from their sister denominations, and to support other congregations with similar heritages and, hence, similar needs.
Sixth, there’s the church universal. I’m not big on the ecumenical movement. And the World Council of Churches hasn’t been very effective. But there must be a way for all Christ’s churches to work together in God’s mission.
We may find that something evolves radically different from what we have today as church cooperation at the community level overtakes cooperation at the denominational level. God will help us find a way.
Of course, there already are important ways in which churches work together cross-denominationally worldwide — through books, seminars, blogs, and such. I mean, Saddleback and Willow Creek have influenced all of Christendom without the need for some kind of ecumenical council.
Umm … that’s it. There really needs to be seven, and I guess I need all seven to start with the same letter. But I’m not a preacher and I’m just not good at that kind of stuff.
I could add in small groups, I guess. But I keep getting the feeling that I’m missing something else.
Oh, well …
Now, notice this. There’s lots of literature about individual spiritual formation. And there’s lots on marriage and parenting. And on congregational leadership.
But there’s next to nothing on the rest. The Church of Irresistible Influence, a great book, addresses church cooperation at the local level somewhat. That’s about it.
You see, we just don’t think at the supra-congregational level. We have very little sense of obligation to other churches in town.
We expect someone else to deal with denominational cooperation. In Churches of Christ, we expect some publishing house or university to do that for us — and it’s frankly not that important to us, until it goes wrong.
So maybe this model will help us think in larger terms. I’m not ready to roll out some kind of huge, seven-layer model of how to do church. I’m missing a level, you know. And I need to get a cool acronym. Or a baseball diamond. (What sport uses a heptagon?) But maybe it’ll come to me.