Thursday, December 13, 2007

Living Well In the Emerging Milieu 2 (DMin)

The question of the previous DMin post was "How Shall We Then Live?" Given the realities of the postmodern world and the demise of Christendom, what must we be doing and how should we be living? The first requirement is to be incarnational people - recognizing the Christ is in us and living as light and salt in the world. The second suggestion is both personal and structural - for each individual and for each local church to simplify. This post addresses more of the organizational simplicity. The challenge also remains to simplify our lifestyles by consuming less and giving more.

2. Simplicity.

Many churches have become complex machines that dehumanize both the visitor and the Christian worker. The burden is felt especially by Christian workers who are becoming burned-out because the lack of sufficient human resources to do the job and lack of appreciation shown to those who volunteer. Some churches can do it (the program church) well and provide some excellent programs and services but most pastors are not gifted as CEO’s or as Broadway producers and have difficulty carrying this major production off week after week. And more importantly, is the big, complex church effective at extending the kingdom of God, nurturing the workers and in discipling people to become more like Jesus?

One way of simplifying is to grow smaller. Neil Cole, in the Organic Church, makes a convincing case that complex organisms do not multiply easily, and certainly not rapidly. He suggests “the term “simple church” began to gain popularity, because we valued a simple life of following our Lord and avoided many of the complexities of the conventional church. Complex things break down and do not get passed on, but simple things are strong and easily reproduced. Ordinary Christians were able to do the extraordinary work of starting and leading churches.”

Neil Cole has established a network of simple churches based on the concept of “where two or three are gathered.” He always meets weekly with at least one “life transformation group” (an LTG). These are gender-specific groups of two or three. The addition of a fourth person is the beginning of a second group. They meet at least once a week for about an hour.

Three tasks are accomplished in an LTG: sin is confessed in mutual accountability (by asking specific questions of one another); large portions of Scripture are read repetitively and in context (both at the meeting and during the week); and, people (primarily non-Christians) are prayed for strategically, specifically and continuously. Three or four LTG’s will sometimes meet together as a home group for sharing and worship. In six years close to 800 of these churches were started in 32 states and 23 countries. This is the essence of simplicity.

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