There are things that are bugging me about Joseph Myers’ book, The Search To Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community and Small Groups.
- Being a part of that american church leadership crowd, he totally bends stories from the Bible to try to sanctify his point. It’s unnecessary and completely annoying. The Roman Centurion telling Jesus to not come over, “just say the word and my servant will be healed,” didn’t come from the Centurions’ deeply felt public connection to Jesus. Myers is probably right, the dude didn’t need to attend a small group in order to feel more connected … but still.
- Myers seems to be writing from this view of either american cultural Christianity, or he’s got a hangover from Christendom. There seems to be no in/out point. There’s no talk of conversion, or growth towards maturity and Christ-likeness. The end-game is individuals feeling connected. If people never attend, but feel connection to your church, then that’s just great.
- It’s all about the individuals feelings. He hasn’t yet engaged with the possibility that the human heart is a vain, self-centred, deceitful thing. People who in fact are deeply connected, valued and loved can still be lied to by their feelings, to feel isolated, lonely, redundant. Feelings are wonderful, yet fickle things.
However, it’s still a good read. I’m equipped to understand people better when they say they don’t feel welcome or connected at church. I’m being challenged to think about why we do what we do, and what—as leaders—we’re aiming, hoping and praying for in people.
I want to incorporate the 4 spaces idea into my thinking for my new job. At Seaforth Anglican, we’re on about building lives for Christ. Similarly, at North Epping Anglican, we’ve been on about the same thing in more words: people being transformed by Jesus’ love, growing in their love for one another, impacting the world with Christ’s love.
Connect - Grow - Serve.
Both statements imply what Myers doesn’t seem keen to write about (yet; I’m only ⅓ of the way through): growth towards maturity. All Saints uses the language of transformation. Seaforth uses the imagery of building. Both mean movement. Not being satisfied with where we are, but growing to become more like Jesus.
So I think I’m justified in my discontent with people who attend church only when their name is on the roster. Their feelings of connectedness is not the end-game. Their growth to maturity in Christ is. Their ‘being presented fully mature in Christ’ is what I’m concerned about. I can’t control that, but I can create spaces where people can do things together that will contribute to that goal; maturity in Christ. Myers calls this ‘creating environments where people can spontaneously connect’. I want to modify that a bit …
On that note, I read a couple of chapters of another book a few months ago; Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry from an Entertainment Culture by Brian H. Cosby. I need to get back to that one; it’s good.
Cosby’s idea is that youth ministry will see greater success (which he defines as growth to maturity) by relying on God’s grace, rather than our ability to attract and entertain a crowd.
And so his vision of youth ministry is to use the means of grace: those things through which God usually distributes his grace: the Word, baptism, the Lord’s supper, prayer, service and community.
My homework now is to think through what those 4 spaces will look like in the program I build, and how we might use the means of grace in those spaces.