This is the topic of my talk this Sunday.
The sub-text says: “In church life it seems that ‘bigger is always better’ but is it really? Perhaps it depends on what we are trying to do… On this day we will try to convince you that for the church to genuinely accomplish its mission its primary expression must be small.”
I haven’t stretched people’s thinking too much in the first few weeks but I imagine this will get some push back…
My observation is that the Sunday event has become the primary
focus for most whereas I believe that much of what constitutes ‘church’ as it is described in the Bible is very difficult to do in that setting. Its not to say there is no place for a Sunday gathering – a larger expression on occasions – but it is to say that if we are to do the things that church is to do as the ‘family of God’, then our primary expression will need to be in the smaller setting.
So what I am proposing (in theory) is that our first port of call – our top priority – will be our smaller communities – I don’t want to call them ‘home groups’ because that already tags them in a certain way – and our secondary community may well be the larger group, but if you never get to the larger group, or if you don’t want to attend the larger group then that is fine.
I will write more on this later as I have already listed ’13 reasons church must be small’, but the biggest challenge by far is not simply inverting people’s paradigms (although that will be tough).
It is that the secondary expression has snaffled the best timespot of the week! Over the last 7 years in all of our experimenting and tinkering we have discovered that Sunday tends to be the most accessible time for people to come together, especially if kids are involved.
Honestly, I am not sure how to overcome this because we are not about to stop meeting on Sundays in the near future – if ever. But I am not convinced we will actually shift people’s imaginations unless there is a dramatic change in behaviour. If we simply roll on with Sundays as usual and the ‘option’ of re-imagining church then I doubt very many will do the hard yards of actually re-inventing – because it will not be easy.
I am not intending to even act on this until we get back from our trip, but I do want to plant the thought seeds in people’s minds and let them know that this is core to our future.
Perhaps the most ‘accessible’ expression of church is Neil Cole’s concept of Life Transformation groups where 3 people = church. It is easy for 3 people to find a time to meet and virtually all the ingredients of church can be present in a small community of that ilk. However I would still argue for a more ‘household’ / ‘family’ orientation in our primary communities so that we experience greater diversity in relationships.
I am interested in whether others have made this paradigm shift in reality rather than in theory and how you have gone about it.