May 26 2017
We’ve been talking about the changes we’re making to our Sunday morning services for a while now, and I’m so excited to finally get started. Let’s talk about what you can expect this week.
First off, a recap of the changes. You’ve heard this before, I know, but it’s worth a quick overview.
Some time ago, I started using a three-part statement to summarize what Parkland is all about: love God, join in, and lead others. As disciples of Jesus, our primary responsibility is to give him glory, and we do that by rejecting our sin, accepting his grace and forgiveness, and allowing the Holy Spirit to conform us to his image so that we can represent him in our lives.
Most churches, including Parkland, know how to equip people to love God (by encountering him in worship) and lead others (by using our gifts in the service of the kingdom). But that middle part of joining in is a bit more tricky. Joining in gets to the idea of the nature of our relationships with others, and relationships take time to cultivate. But there’s not really a good vehicle to do that on Sundays during a worship service.
So, how do we create the kind of environment that would allow gospel community to blossom? The normal answer is that we do mid-week small group ministries. These have gone by many names over the years, but I prefer to call them Community Groups.
As anyone who’s studied churches and church health will tell you, one of the consistent through lines in healthy churches is the presence of a vibrant small group ministry. It’s not that small groups are a magic formula: it’s that the relationships they foster are part of the call of authentic discipleship, so it’s little wonder that churches who have vibrant small group ministries would also be healthy.
We tried to launch a Community Group ministry back in the fall, but it didn’t really take off, and that’s mostly because I tried to import a form of ministry that is suitable for churches that are a bit bigger than Parkland.
So we starting thinking about how we could use what we already have (a Sunday morning worship service) and infuse a small group ministry into it.
I’m certain this idea isn’t completely original, but I don’t know of any other churches who are doing it, which is exciting because this feels like a truly home-grown approach to discipleship.
To be clear, I’m not saying that community is absent at Parkland. Far from it, actually. What I am saying is that what’s happening in small pockets could happen more broadly, and that’s what I’m excited about seeing.
The bottom line is this: we believe that discipleship is a team sport, not an individual one, so building gospel relationships isn’t optional if we want to cultivate authentic discipleship. And we already have what we need to build these relationships because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who unites us together in a common purpose under the covering of the blood of Jesus, shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
With all that said, here are a few things to keep in mind as we embark on this adventure together:
Come expecting to see the Holy Spirit do something amazing. I don’t know how you personally feel about what we’re doing, but no matter what you think about the idea, I’d encourage you to believe that God will blow our minds and turn this into something far greater than we could ask or think.
Be willing. You may feel inadequate to engage in conversation with others, especially when you’re pretty sure the other people at your table are more “spiritual” than you. But the point of this isn’t to have the right answers or impress others with your Bible knowledge. The point is to bring what you have—no matter what it is—and allow God to use it for his glory.
Remember it’s not school. I’ll put some questions on the note sheets, but they’re not prescriptive so don’t worry about “getting through the questions.” The best questions are the ones you ask, so feel free to ask them.
Like I said from the platform last Sunday, we’ve done a lot of prep to make sure we’re ready to go for Sunday, and you should know how much work the staff team has done behind-the-scenes to make this all happen. But there are still a few elements of this that are unknowns to us, and we’ll need to make some tweaks as we go.
But the great part is that we’re in this together, as a family, and we’ll figure it out together. And as we press in to relationships, we’ll honour God by living out our discipleship mandate, and our work will redound to his glory. And that’s really the point of it.
See you Sunday!