“Pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” – Jesus
The church family I run with is making a profound change. Like right now.
We are moving from pews to living rooms. From one big room to dozens of small ones. From one large central location to numerous small ones all over town. From a single centralized gathering to many scattered out gatherings.
A circle calls for more participation from everyone. A circle invites more authentic interaction with people. A circle meets more people where they are at. A circle is more personal. A circle can address a broader spectrum of subjects custom fit for a broader number of people. A circle is more intimate. A circle is less consumeristic. A circle notices when someone is missing. A circle ask “how are you doing?” and exists to have time for a real answer. A circle is more relational. A circle is more likely to live out the dozens of “one another” instructions in scripture. A circle is less likely to fall into a mind numbing religious routine.
Now…read that last paragraph again replacing the words “a circle” with the name “Jesus”.
You see it?
A church of circles needs more leaders developed. A church of circles goes out into all the world rather than needing the world to come in. A church of circles trusts the Holy Spirit to move and act through more people. A church of circles represents the Kingdom in more and varied places, in more and varied ways. A church of circles is agile and able to plant churches from it’s own number for more people groups where those people groups live. The ministry of a church of circles is definitely more messy than a church of lecture hall and classroom, but it is also less constrained by anything or anyone that would stand opposed to it’s mission. A church of circles is to it’s city what leaven is to bread…it makes the whole thing rise.
Now…read that last paragraph again replacing the word “circles” with “Christ”.
Isn’t it obvious…why we are doing this, I mean?
Our church family feels commissioned to make disciples of Jesus Christ through relationships. For too long we’ve been trying to make disciples through a meeting on Sunday mornings. We’ve even tried to use the meeting to develop relationships…with some success, I might add.
But if we can do it better, we should. We must. And now we are. We’ve been talking about it for a long time. Both our duty and our love compels us. So every single one of us in our church family is being asked by our leaders to circle up – with a few friends – and gather weekly for the purpose of relationally helping each other become more like Christ.
When we do…
- Goal 1 is for all of us to learn how to better be in deeper relationship with each other.
- Goal 2 is for each of us to offer that kind of relationship to people who are spiritually lonely.
- Goal 3 is for to offer that someone our whole group of friends.
- Goal X (the one that “marks the spot” that all of this revolves around) is that everyone gets into deeper relationship with God, becoming more like Christ, and experiencing a fuller life.
To make this personal, I want my wife, my sons Shade & Jakin, and my daughter Callie to have a tight group of friends that exists to help each of them become more like Christ. I want that for me, too. You, too. Our church family is organizing to help with that. And then offer it to everyone.
Creating tight groups of spiritual friends. That’s what our church is doing. As many times as (super-)humanly possible, that is what we are doing.
I’ll post more details about what we specifically mean by “a tight group of spiritual friends”.
I’ll post how we are using our church-family resources create & sustain these city-penetrating groups in ever-increasing numbers.
I’ll post the steps we are taking this Fall (our “Give Groups a Try” campaign) to move all of our current family members “from rows to circles”.
But for now, do you see how this differs for people substantially (as opposed to superficially)? How it changes the typical church member’s “religious practices”? How it calls for more loving relationships out of more people? How it offers loving relationships to the world? How much more human it is? How much more potential there is for it to offer life-giving, Christ-exalting relationships with more and a wider array of people in our city?
Do you see why we are opting for this kind of change rather than the superficial changes of how we do worship on Sundays? Or what day of the week we offer it? Or what time? Or how women should be “allowed” to participate? Or whether classes are offered before or after worship? Or how long the sermon should be, or what teaching style is used, or who is preaching it? Or the role musical instruments will play? Or whether the Lord’s Supper is offered monthly or weekly or in one cup or multiple ones? Or what we name our church on the church sign by the street? Or whether we should sing ancient or contemporary songs or both?
We want to become more relationally connected to each other & then to our world, so that when we invite people to “our church,” we’re inviting them into a circle of good and spiritual friends of depth, rather than to a auditorium ushering in rows of friendly and polite people.