April 27 2017
Last week I started a series of posts about the upcoming changes to our Sunday service format. Today is part two in that series.
Last week I focused on the question of why we’re doing what we’re doing, and I gave a very brief outline of the “what.” Today we’re going to dive into the “what” more fully so that you have a better understanding of what this is all about.
The change we’re making is this: instead of sticking around for a few minutes for coffee and light conversation after the service on Sunday, we’re going to serve a meal and spend some time together around tables to have some deeper conversations.
As soon as you read, “deeper conversations,” some of you had a shot of fear run through you because your experience with “deep conversations” isn’t all that positive. I get that. The truth is that many of us feel safer with surface-level conversations than we do opening up our hearts to one another.
So let me put your mind at ease. This isn’t about sharing your deepest secrets or letting all the dirty laundry of your life hang out for all to see. Not yet, at least.
Let’s start with the assumption that the purpose of coming to church on Sunday is to worship God together and to encounter him through our singing and through the proclamation of the Word of God. Further, I’ll assume here that your desire when you leave is to find ways to put the truth of God’s Word into practice in your life.
It’s the “putting it into practice part” that’s sometimes hard. I can preach a sermon from the pulpit that’s true and that gives you some ideas as to how to walk your journey of discipleship in a way that honours God more fully, but I’ll never be able to tailor that sermon to your specific circumstances. You’ll always need to think about implications and make connections suitable to your unique situation and your place on the journey.
How do you make those connections? Maybe you think it through alone; maybe you talk to your spouse or a close friend; maybe come up with an idea and try it, but you don’t know if it’s effective and you lose steam after a couple of days.
You might have success with those approaches, but there’s a better way, and that way is to submit the process to the community of God’s people. That’s what we’re trying to cultivate with this change.
The point of the discussions we’ll have is to think together about what Jesus is asking you to do in your life to live out the truth of his kingdom and the call of the gospel. I’ll be producing note sheets that ask implication questions, and there will be space on them for you to write your own.
Then we’ll sit down together and have conversations that sound like, “Mark said this in his sermon, and here’s how I think that would look in my life. What do you think?”
These discussions will be led by table leaders whose job isn’t to tell you what to do, but to help the group discern together what God is doing and saying. The table leaders and I will brief together before the service and debrief after so that we can figure out what’s working, what’s not, and what else we can do to make the time even more productive.
So, let me put a few things in front of you to think about. First, ask God if he wants you to put your name forward as a table leader. We already have a few people signed up, but we could always use more. If he’s placing that call on your heart—even if you’re not sure yet whether you’d fit well—please let me know and we can talk more.
Second, if you’re nervous about the idea of sharing life with others in this way, that’s an okay place to be. But it’s not where you should stay. The Bible calls us to be in relationship with one another, to love one another, to pray for one another, and to confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed. So ask God to give you the strength and courage you need to engage boldly in these conversations.
Third, why not practice this discipline right now, even before we get started formally? As you’re eating lunch after church, tell the person across from you what God is teaching you. Share your story with them. Give them the chance to engage the process with you. And if you start on a small scale, it’ll be easy to move to a somewhat larger group on Sundays.
Ultimately we’re making these changes because we believe that discipleship happens when we love God, join in, and lead others. And if we’re willing to embrace that process together, I know that we’ll see God move mightily among us for his glory and for our joy.