New Denver Church is part of the Ecclesia network of churches, and this week I’m here in Washington DC for our annual national gathering. Here’s the focus of this year’s gathering from the website:
Our focus this year is on how our churches can function as centers of reconciliation, where we learn through the power of the Spirit to live as one reconciled family of God across racial, economic, and generational lines.
I’ll share my notes from the conference, but my standard disclaimer applies – these were the thoughts that captured my attention but may or may not make sense taken out of context. If you have questions feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
Church planter in Jackson, MS.
- “Our visionis too small.”
- 1. Jerusalem – Your home, family, and church.
- 2. Judea – Be a witness in the area surrounding your home. Impact your city.
- 3. Samaria – Jews didn’t associate w/Samaritans. Samaria is the place you don’t want to go. It is the tough places where we stand on the front lines and make a difference.
- Isa 58:3-7
- Our relationship w/God is vertical, our relationship w/others is horizontal. Vertical is indistinguishable from horizontal. God initiates, we respond, it flows.
- Dunn – Justice of God.
- Four bad things that happen
- We distance ourself from the poor. We send $2M down the road to people we don’t know. It is easier to deal with the poor at a distance.
- We reinforce injustice. When the numbers get large and we send money to people we don’t know, we reinforce the problems.
- We end up doing justice for wrong (perverse) reasons. We give to feel better than ourself.
- We lose the ability to discern justice, complete it in Christ.
- Practicing justice as a revolutionary subversive body: try this?
- Fight the split. Resist separating personal salvation from social salvation.
- Go local first.
- Always move toward relationship.
- Town meetings. Gather for conversation.
- Proclaim gospel more widely. The gospel reigns over the systems of injustice.
Dr. Ivy Beckwith
The Faith Community & The Spiritual Formation of Children
- John Westerhoff says “If we want our children to have faith, they have to be part of communities that are conducive to their spiritual formation.” What does a faith community look like that’s conducive to the formation of children?
- “…a true community consists of an inclusive group of people who are a) socially interdependent, b) share meanings, history and practices and c) have personal relationships of depth.”
- “Emotional health and spiritual health go hand in hand.” -Beckwith
- Westerhoff on what a community conducive to formation should be:
- A group of people who share a common memory or tradition. (A generation of “history” – where did we come from, a generation of “now”, and a generation of the “future”)
- A group of people who share common goals and purposes.
- A group of people with a clear identity.
- Characteristics of faith community conducive to formation:
- Belonging – how well do you do helping adults and children feel like they belong. “A place to belong, a place to become.” How are children greeted? Do greeters greet adults and children? Where are they allowed and where aren’t they?
- Moral Trust – How is power used? What is the perception of leaders of the church? What does that have to do with kids? Kids can feel and discern if people don’t trust leadership. Kids’ ideas about leadership in church is formed by what they hear parents talking about. How trustworthy is your community for the children who are part of it? How are you doing making your community a safe place for kids (e.g. background checks, ensuring quality of volunteers, physical safety of the rooms, etc)?
- Mutual Gifting – Does your community allow children to serve adults or is it all about serving the kids? “We are really good at doing things for children, but how are we at doing things with children or letting children do things for us?” Think of ways that children can minister alongside you or things where children can be included as equal participants. We all have a long way to go in creating “pan-generational” worship services. The sermon is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to including kids in the worship service. You don’t have to have a sermon every week. “We would never exclude the mentally handicapped because they disturb our services, yet we do that with our children.”
- Citizenship – “Being missional.” Communities who help their children reach out beyond the walls of their church. Give children a chance to participate, and then give them the opportunity to reflect (e.g. making sandwiches for homeless people, then asking “why did we do that?”, answer: because that’s what people who love God do, they care for other people). This is about teaching kids about the larger world and how the faith community fits in this larger world.
- Story – First, we tell the Biblical story. How are kids hearing and understanding the Biblical story? Second, your community has a history. Why did your community start? What is your purpose? They also need to know the stories of people in your faith community. Seeing how others live out their faith is so necessary for kids, particularly as they reach middle-school age. We often don’t give kids language to understand their own faith experience or how their lives intersect with the Biblical story, or with the kingdom of God story, or their community at large. Once you can talk about it, you canbegin to internalize it.
- Processes of Spiritual Formation
- Processes that communicate belonging.
- Processes that involve participation.
- Processes that facilitate modeling.
- Processes that provide instruction as interpretation of life.
- Processes that encourage the exercise of choice making.