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We are happy to announce that Breath of Life Mennonite Church has joined out little network of house churches. I met one of their members at a church planting conference in Calgary and we quickly realized how similar our values were. It was at the same conference we began our journey towards affiliating with the Mennonite Church of Saskatchewan. Breath of Life has since joined MC Sask and if things continue as they have been SeedLife will do so as well at MC Sask’s next annual conference.
This May 29th we will have our first whole network gathering in a facility larger than a home. We are still working out how this will look, how we can retain the participatory dna in a larger group. We are still going to eat together. My experience at the worship freehouse of days gone by showed me that one can successfully integrate large group ministry and small group dynamics with a larger group of people. If there is one thing that I miss about larger church gatherings is singing in a larger group. I know others feels the same way. We will have to see how it all looks.
The most effective life changing ministry happens when two people who genuinely care for one another connect. The best situation is when both will serve each other sacrificially. This isn’t always the case. Often sacrifice goes more one way than the other. This is normal because one has to take the time to earn trust through sincere acts of service. Jesus is our example. The willingness to love as Jesus loved, to lay down ones life for a friend, to risk in order to help is the mark of true ministry.
This kind of ministry happens best in a sincere community. In a place where people have an opportunity to be real, to grow in grace together, to discover their gifts and talents and use them to care for one another. To be the body as Paul describes in 1Cor 12.
This kind of ministry is the hardest because it requires that your life be put on call. It doesn’t require excessive demands on your time and resources but it goes far deeper than a commitment to attend a meeting or two. It requires that one open up their home, not just their wallet. It means going out of your way to show you care and deliberating passing up the things of this world that distract us from one another.
People change when they know they are loved. It is in the trials of life that we find the best opportunities to help people understand truth and grace. If we have no one we really trust, no one we can talk through our failures with then we are truly alone. It doesn’t matter what level of commitment we have to a group or organization.
One of the dangers of conventional church ministry is that in the minds of many singing some songs, listening to a sermon and attending a small group is the majority of church. While there is some value in doing all these things they don’t get you to the point where you can feel real love and encounter life changing ministry. It is almost impossible to be honest about the deepest issues in your life in a large group. A small group is better but people still find it difficult to open up in sensitive areas of their life.
Many small groups are just another event which at their very core function much like Sunday service. They are primarily leader led with only modest participation from the group . People find it very difficult to be transparent and open. The best small groups go beyond this, embrace broad participation where people are given freedom to use spiritual gifts. These groups touch people on relevant issues in their lives. These types of groups do all a small group can do but we need more than what a small group can deliver.
We need connections with people that are forged with a deep level of trust and commitment. Relationships that can endure flaws and mistakes and even hurt feelings. Relationships with people that can extend grace and unconditional love when we reveal the dark corners of our soul.
One of the reasons why so many people find their way out of conventional churches is that they are lonely and disconnected in a sea of activity. For a long time they believed that sitting and listening was participating in community. They believed that being in a small group was being supported and loved. They come to sense a huge disconnect.
I’m in a community but I’m all alone. I’m in a small group but I’m going through the motions. I recognize there is more I could do, more I could try but I have tried for 20 years and I realize that so much of what I do is empty. I know I’m supposed to be committed and be a part of the church but I am surrounded by church and I don’t know if I’m a part of anything of substance.
So they leave. Some people leave and give up on faith altogether. Others start looking for those connections they longed for and find them. While they aren’t part of any formal organization they discover an essential aspect of church life they have only had small tastes of up until now. It can be rightly said that these folks are missing out on other essential aspects of church life. However they are getting the an element of church life that is no less essential and powerfully transformational.
It is sad that these people are trashed from the pulpit so often. I’ve seen it. So many of the people who filter out the back door of churches are not seeking to leave the church but to find it. So many of those who sit the pews cheering on those preachers don’t realize they are missing it.
The heart of ministry is to be Jesus to one another. Too often we overload ourselves with activities that have value but have so captured our attention that they insulate us from each other. We avoid the heart of ministry because it is too hard. We can’t flee from commitment to each other, we must give grace when we are harmed, and we must love when it is inconvenient. Becoming like Jesus is a sacrifice that most of us are unwilling to make and that is why we lack so much.
It feels like it has been too long for me. Tonight my friends in church prayed earnestly for our oldest boy who has struggled a lot of late. It was touching to see genuine care and concern extended to our family. There are some things you miss when church is just a handful of people in a living room but there are things I long for that I’ve only found when there are a handful of people in a living room. Despite the reality that things never seem to go precisely as they are planned I often come away in better shape. Our group prays a lot and I really appreciate that.
There was another thing that was really cool. Our 11 year old really enjoyed the evening. He wants to lead a session on faith and use Maccabees. There is a profound lesson in this. If you make church simple ordinary people feel more freedom to participate.
I have something to share that I am genuinely excited about. 3 friends and I are exploring the idea of hosting a conference next fall on the gospel. It would address what I believe is one of two or three issues that are of utmost importance in the church today: the gospel. I’m hoping that SeedLife will be able to be one of the sponsors.
I believe the message of the good news is critical because I don’t believe the way we communicate what it means to follow Christ is complete. Without a solid understanding of the gospel people are converted to "fire insurance" instead of the person of Christ. Without a connection with Christ we remain unchanged and indistinct. We absorb the values of a church subculture unredeemed by the actual love, life and hope of Christ.
I want to share more but I’d probably get in trouble if I did. 🙂
Evangelicalism is so programcentric that when we think about church we immediately think about forms and structure. Over at the house church blog there is a great post on how life must precede form. It is a good reminder for me because I tend to fall in to the trap of thinking of church as structure sometimes.
One of the most difficult things to communicate regarding simple/house church is that we really, really do now want to just re-invent a new (or ancient) form of church. Instead, we are seeking to re-capture the essential “church life” that Jesus taught—a way of life. We are, at the core, radical Jesus-followers lived out in the context of everyday life, not church-goers. The form (when and how we gather) should, simply and fluidly, support the dynamic life that Jesus’ lit-up followers are living and not replace it.
We prayed this for each other at church. It is a mashup of several prayers Paul spoke in his letters. If you ever get caught in a rut in your prayer life praying through scripture can help you focus on things that really matter.
I ask God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.
May you understand what really matters so you can live a pure and blameless life. I ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants you to do in your life.
I pray that your love for others will overflow more and more, and you will continually do good kind things for others.
All the while you will learn to know God better and better.
I pray that your heart will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to you whom He has called.
I want to you realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people.
I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe in him.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit.
I also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need.
May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.
And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.
May your roots go down deep in to the soil of God’s marvelous love.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how high, how long, how wide and how deep his love really is.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.
Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
And may you always be filled with the fruit of righteousness, for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
Now glory be to God. By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would even dare to ask or hope.
|SeedLife is currently a group of people that gather in homes as the church. We hope to become a network of gatherings of people who are dedicated to being Christ’s disciples. With the word and the Spirit as our guides we hope to bring life to each other and very specific groups of people in and around Saskatoon.
We believe that by keeping things simple we can avoid some of the complications in conventional church ministry. While some of us have some experience in house churches we are still learning. SeedLife is an experiment in following an unconventional path to gathering as the church.