Many of us have come to expect church plants to start with five different life stage small groups, each with its own trendy name attached to it. However, I have seen how most of these churches also try to guilt you into these small groups. We start by saying, “So glad you are here on Sunday morning” but then subtly start filling up your weekly calendar. Suddenly, Sunday morning worship attendance turns into Wednesday night suppers, Thursday night small groups, Friday evening Christian concerts and Saturday morning service opportunities. What happens is we holy-huddle with all of our church friends and forget to engage the people God has placed in our lives as coworkers, neighbors, families on the soccer fields, PureBarre partners and wherever else Christ has us plugged into “small groups.”
So, as you are looking around on this website, you may be wondering where are the life groups? Aren’t small groups a prerequisite of all new churches?
Yesterday morning I joined 9 other men as we sprinted around a track. For all 8 of my laps, just in front of me ran a man, who by my calculations remained 5 seconds ahead. Unknowingly, he helped to motivate me to stay on course and continue at that pace when I hit difficult parts of the run.
In a similar way, two weeks ago I was able to visit my hometown of Atlanta to meet with different pastors and churches. On my final night, when I gathered for dinner with Kairos Church’s mission team, I caught a glimpse of where God is leading our community in Charlotte. The pastor–a few years older–went to prep school in Atlanta, then to Davidson and off to seminary. After serving a large urban church in Atlanta, he veered off “course” to start Kairos. While his personal journey has been similar to mine, it was when I saw their community in action, that I realized this community was 40 yards out in front of where I pray God will shape our community.
One of their core values I saw demonstrated that evening was “Authentic Relationships.” For two hours I was welcomed into a stranger’s home for a delicious meal, reconnected with an old high school classmate of mine, met the father of a seminary friend, and sat quietly (well the best I could) as I listened to them enjoy each other’s company, reflect on their experiences over the past 4 years, and encourage me that this can be done.
I commented that I wish I could have videotaped the evening so that our community could see what is possible in a church plant; where we peel back the surface veneer most of us put on when we step onto a church campus, and begin to share real, transformative life together.
At one point I sarcastically asked them “How do you package up and manufacture ‘authentic relationships’ so you can sell this as an effective church planting model?” Then they actually gave me some pointers…
1) It starts with the leadership…their pastor had demonstrated this by sharing the difficulties and stresses he faced, telling stories of where he sees God molding the community, seeking to connect them with one another, and getting out of the way so others could do God’s work.
2) It continues with intentional efforts to meet new people and invite them along the way. This was not the pastor’s job; it was the responsibility of each of them.
3) It’s sustained through prayer. Each week, their open prayer times go beyond prayers for “Aunt Stella’s dog’s cataracts.” They call upon Christ to restore broken relationships, to give them rest during restless nights, and to protect a young adult struggling with a heroin addiction.
Likewise, I recently read that individuals need two types of people in their lives:
Contemporaries who are in the trenches fighting alongside you.
For us, our first Core Value is “Genuine Community” where God will raise up men and women who want to break past our vast amount of surface relationships and discover not only other people in Charlotte who will be elders and siblings in our lives, but also that God Himself fulfills these roles as our Heavenly Father and as Jesus Christ (hmm, starting to see some sermons materializing).
Last month we held the first official gathering of the Trailblazers at my new favorite place–The Lodge on Carmel and Rea Road. In typical fashion, I snuck out of the house way early and found myself waiting at the bar for the rest–if any–of the Trailblazers to arrive.