Sunday, March 11, 2007

Perception is Reality-Edited Version

After this post, I will need to go put out some fires across the blogsphere (well Dayspring Project is the only one I know about). I appreciate all the comments from the others ( Normality with TJ and Pastor Philip at Every Home a Church and my great friend Kc ).

I know I have a lot of conversations open. I kinda like that, in case I get stuck for content, I can continue them. =) I am going to turn the corner a bit today. Eventually, we'll get to the fact that I really am for non-traditional church models (despite what you may have read or thought from previous posts). But before I do, I wanted to see what others are thinking about concerning the mindset of a "church."

Anyway, this is the heart of this post. How do you take either a culture that thinks in a traditional church manner and transform a group of people into thinking of themselves otherly? In my limited experience (back in the States) I was asked to plant an ethnic church. I was able to group some believers and started a Bible Study, but they never did see themselves as a church. They only saw themselves as a group who got together to study the Bible. Even though I tried to let them lead, with partial success, they never saw themselves as a church. Of the churches I have been a part of or pastored, they would have never seen themselves as a church (in the sense of an organic church) if they were to go that route.

But apart from my anecdotes, if a group of people never see themselves as a church can they be a church? On the other hand, if a group of 2 or 3 can perceive themselves as a church, can they be organic? How do we change perception?

Some have said we instill in the DNA of the church the need to be outgoing instead of incoming ("Go and Tell" vs "Come Here" (to hear)). But if that group of people has in its DNA that the believers must go to a central place (house or house of God) on Sunday, will they really be organic in the Neil Cole's sense?

Maybe I am so far off base. I suspect I am.

(see further clarification on comments to Jeff)

13 comments:

Jeff said...

You're asking the wrong question. Too much time and resources go into trying to "transform" churches and groups into something they aren't. Instead, plant a new church. Gather a group of people and let them become what God has wired them to be. Then plant another. And another.

Your second set of questions is more complicated, I think. I'll be back...

Kc said...

Pech, I’m wondering about the effectiveness of any group approach. It seems that no matter what model is selected by who there always tend to be those who realize their responsibility as the Church and those who don’t. Don’t those that do “go and tell” but then say, “come here” regardless of where “here” might be at any given moment? I guess I tend to think that discipleship occurs within the individual but is reflected in the assembly so at the risk of answering the wrong question (hehe) I would say, “one at a time”. ;-)

Philip said...

Yes, this is true, in the Western world especially even Non Christians have a a clear idea of what they think a church should be, which is where organic church breaks down. This has been a massive problem for ourselves. Its a problem they dont have in central China or other Non Christian countries which is why Church Planting Movements of house churches are more legitimetly accepted. How do we overcome this, I have no idea except to make as much noise as possiablt to make people start thinking there is a different way to think of church.
www.everyhomeachurch.blog.co.uk

TJ said...

I like this post! ;) I agree with Jeff on the first set of questions. As a pastor, it will be almost impossible to change the DNA of a traditional church to one that is more non-traditional. If it does happen, I think it will only happen because either the congregation wants and embraces the change or the pastor steers the ship towards that change over MANY years. As far as the second question of viewing yourselves as a church or not...I have no idea. :)

I like your questions about being "organic" in the Neil Cole sense. I guess my thoughts on this reflect much of what KC says. Even if you have a "go and tell" mentality, a central location/meeting/worshipping time is important. The evangelism, discipleship, serving in the surrounding community, etc. (the actual living out of the faith in word and deed) is what will be taking place on the outside instead of just on Sundays or whenever the group comes together. No matter the model or method, I think it is proper for there to be a time to come together as a whole...even if that takes place in several smaller house churches.

pecheur said...

Thanks to all for your comments.

I want to begin by apologizing for the not so clear post. I wrote it rather quickly and was tired a bit and honestly did not edit it well.

I have, obviously, re-edited it, but there are still some clarifications to make.

See below for personal response to Jeff, Kc, TJ, and Phillip.

pecheur said...

Jeff et al.,

When I got your response I knew I had miscommunicated my position. After clarifying my position here, I may still be asking the wrong question and that is cool. But when I got a moment to re-read the post I saw I had not stated well what I was saying.

Here goes. I agree with the statement that we can't change existing "churches." But I only half agree with the statement we go plant another and another and another. The half I agree with is "church planting" (even if I have some problems with CPM and sometimes even "Church Planting" as I hope to discuss at some point). I would disagree with planting churches just to plant non-traditional churches.

Now that I have confused the heck of you, I will move to a clarification of position and how I see this position as at least à-propos. You may disagree still, and that is fine. I admit I could be way off base here.

Let's start with churches in America. Except for the movers and shakers who are thinking differently about church, when one says "church" in "America" there is a general abstract concept that is conceived. In other words, if I say to my neighbor, "I am going to church this Sunday, do you want to come," he usually has an idea about what I am talking about. He usually thinks about joining you on Sunday morning around 10AM at a central location (usually a building) where others have met for the same purpose. He will expect there to be an order to the experience with either an emphasis on the preaching from the Bible or the taking of Communion (depending on the tradition). I believe this is the current "American church" perception. It is not related to being or not being a believer. It is what is believed by a vast number of people. To change this attitude from what church is (that is go from the above illustration to anything other) to what church could be is often a too difficult "paradigm" shift, if you will. This shift is more reveloutinary than evolutionary and will be accepted only by the more progressive thinking of the culture.

Not saying you are suggesting this, but we have seen church splits wide open by some who leave the traditional church to go plant "their" church (in a house, cell, or other building in a strip mall). So, if the motivation is to plant a church to propogate our "view" of church is less than productive (especially in light of unity). However, if our church planting is to "attract" others who are not believers and who will respond to this "new kind of 'church'", then we are potentially a little helper with Christ as he continues to build his church worldwide.

But I am afraid that in America and Europe the church culture is so strong that we have to look like church for us to be see as legitimate. Now that is a bold statement and is totally untested. I admit that is where I could be more idealistic than realistic.

Soon, I am going to propose we have to start somehwere other than CPM or even church planting. It's too radical. (Yes, I realize that this is the end-vision, but in reality I question this--stay tuned).

Hope that helped explain better my position. You are free to have the same opinion as before. ;)

pecheur said...

Kc,

It is crazy how we see things so similarly sometimes.

Changing "groups" is like changing ship directions. But one by one, the jury can be persuaded (see 12 Angry Men).

But as individuals change what about those who do not change? Maybe both groups (as individuals congregate for whatever reason) could give their blessing to the other.

Interestin thought on discpleship in an individualistic context. Never thought about it like that. I'll have to get back with you on that.

pecheur said...

Philip,

You are a bit different from other non-traditional churches, i've met. It is refreshing. And I admire your honesty.

You are right CPM is seen as legit where there is no Western ideas about what church should be.

I appreciate your input.

Peace to you

pecheur said...

TJ,

See response to Jeff for clarification.

Maybe we'll discuss the importance of the group getting together for X activity. Good points and again, I may need to think on it some. I want to see "why" it is important, even though I think it is. I do not know I could explain why.

See we do see things alike. ;)

Jeff said...

Man, I wrote an especially brilliant comment the other day and it either did not save properly or you deleted it...

Oh well...

drlobojo said...

For what it is worth, I kind of think that a man can only start a congregation. It is the congregation that calls forth and receives the holy spirit that then creates a church. So start your congregations as you may, and let the Spirit do the rest if it is to be done she will do it..

pecheur said...

Jeff,

I promise I did not delete it

pecheur said...

Dr Lobo,

I can see that!