Sunday, May 24, 2009

Duh Daily Scoop: Micro churches offer informal, interactive worship

Micro Church

The micro church concept is not really new, is it? Almost 90% of the Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations are under 100 members. But that is "small", not micro. And the small church is institutionalized in the image of the large church even though the dynamics are "family." And herein lies the challenge. Many small congregations are all about "family" and like their larger congregational siblings, rarely is discipleship and faith formation at the top of the list of priorities. The financial need to buy a new boiler or install a sound system, are.

The micro church is about discipleship, mentoring, peer learning and accountability, and faith community at a deep level. This movement may be only a temporary swing that fills the void between mega church and small church inauthenticity and in being such it could offer type of leader we have not seen in the church.

The Blog below tells more about a micro group in Arizona...

Duh Daily Scoop: Micro churches offer informal, interactive worship

Bob Anderson

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Passion Sunday in a Woodland....

I sat this morning before a wintry woodland. The trees stand tall, stark, and naked but for the wisps of burnt orange blossoms crowning the tips. The delicate blooms stand in contrast to the powerful energy pumping from the soil, resurrecting life as winter’s cold prison collapses under the under the solstice sun.

Today, Lent moves to Holy Week. It is Passion Sunday to be accurate. The trees seem a fitting meditation in a silent moment. I plan to paint the woodland scene and I’m sketching the trees, perplexed as to how to capture the gnarly bark. I noticed the shadows that play up and down the limbs on their northern sides. They play then across the trunks in overlays of breeze blown movement of trees playing and dancing with the wind for yet another new season.

The seasonal cycling of Lent and Holy week creates a season set apart. The Lenten journey winds through the lengthening sunlight of the day. Lent, lengthen, the same word. I’m wondering about how my life is stretched, lengthen by Lenten disciplines. I am not easily moved by God’s season of life it seems.

Maybe I am like the leaves on the oak tree outside the window. Seven months ago the leaves turned from a soft, pliant green to yellow, orange and then brown. Amazingly, most of the leaves still cling to the mother branch, delicate shards, shredded banners of a life past. If I were to touch them, the leaf would crumble to dust, humus, “from dust we were created and to dust we will return, were the priest’s words as he marked the cross on my forehead six weeks ago. I wonder if I cling too tightly to the life just past?

Yet these leaves cling through winter’s harshest coldest storms. While others drop, these frail oak leaves hold on. Maybe it’s the tree that clings tightly, or are they caught in some eternal embrace of celebration? Perhaps the leaves are in perennial advent, waiting, expecting, desiring to be midwives birthing new life through their stemmed branches.

As Holy Week parades it’s story through our faith lives today, we remember that we cling to Jesus and he to us as we follow in the shadow of his cross. He is the branch and we are the vine. He will never let us go. And so we are content to cling, shriveled, dry, and brittle awaiting our resurrection.

Bob Anderson

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spin Off a New Presbyterian Church

It's clear that denominations like the Presbyterian Church (USA) are floundering in the sea change of culture and society. So, I was wondering what it would be like if we spun off a new kind of church. Kind of like General Motors did with Saturn - with limited success but a good idea, nevertheless.
The Saturn Company was an attempt to wrestle with a new way to build a car, one that was not mired in old, costly, and unproductive practices. Religious denominations are mired in the same.
We value the grand experiment of a body of associated
congregations living into the vision of God's dream for all humanity.
That's a vision I covet. Yet we insist on front loading the vision with mechanics that make it our dream rather than God's emerging vision. We want members to freely embrace the vision and create rules that stifle that embrace. We want to share the Gospel with those whom God is calling yet we insist in doing it in ways that we can control, monitor, and shape into our own image. After watching millions of dollars go to new church developments that flounder, disappear to "independent affiliations", or simply never get past "go" I know it is time for a new approach.
My imagination takes over and wonders what would happen if the Presbyterian Church (USA) created an imaginative, missional and purposeful new way to "be church" - one fit for this time and place, not forever, and launched it into the future. I imagine these congregations as missionary communities in a world hungry for Good News. Their connectedness would be organic rather than organizational. Their purpose will be rooted in the call to God's mission discovered through consistent spiritual practices. Their accountability will be to one another through honest and open communication. These will be communities of witness and disciple formation. They would be a grand "experiment" in displaying the colorful textures of a faith community tapestry that is the Body of Christ.
My imagination grinds to a halt thinking, "now the first thing we have to do is create a name, and a 501c3, write a constitution and...."
Just Thinking Out Loud on a dreary afternoon...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dancing with Jesus

I never learned to dance. Dancing was forbidden in my fundamentalist Baptist church and family. Consequently, I shuffle around the dance floor at weddings and social events. Shortly after Christmas last December, I went to my first real dance. I knew no one there but became friends quickly. They helped me dance and it was a great evening. I was even awake at 1am. For those who know me well, that speaks volumes.
Recently, I tried Scottish Country Dancing. The rationale was that my Scots heritage would be in my DNA and help out. Susie, in the picture above (she's the one on the right, silly!), is an excellent dancer and my first teacher. She taught me the basic steps. Her left became my right and so forth. My usual struggle. However, when the music began, she said, "follow what I do, look in my eyes and feel how I move". Then follow. OMG! What an experience. I actually forgot my feet and I danced. Dancing is about the music, the flow, the rhythm. The technical steps follow over time.
This is also true with God. When I keep my eyes on Jesus, look to see him "face to face", I enter the movement, the flow of divine rhythm, I am swept up in the dance of divine love. Most of the time I'm busy counting how long I prayed, or how many people I prayed for as if it is some kind of righteous competition to prove that my faith is efficacious. That's all technical stuff that makes me feel good and holy, but it isn't dancing. Dancing is not all about me.
Dancing is an "us" and so is Christian faith. Christian faith is about community. It is about relationships with the Trinity and with others who relate to me in the divine wholeness of Trinity. I suppose it follows then, that my task is to look you in the eyes and invite you to dance with me. Then, we will both dance the world with Jesus.
Bob Anderson

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Coffee, Community and Facebook

Yesterday, I stopped at my local North Shore coffee shop, a non-descript but hospitable escape called Hoi Polloi, on North Ave. at Galveston. Inside was the usual Saturday morning gathering of my neighbors. They are more than neighbors, however. These good folks are becoming my friends.

I sat down with couples, singles, and kids coloring and playing with a "Mr. Potato Head". I watched four year old Annie become entranced by Tony's expertise as he morphed Mr. Potato Head into a variety of spud faces. Software engineers, journalists, physicians, arts educator and two unemployed professionals "between gigs"as one called himself (and me). (including me as of last week).

I easily engaged in the topic of the morning - "social networking". Facebook seemed to be the rage, though Twitter (which I simply don't get - yet) had some following. I quickly became Facebook "friends" with Tony and Sue. Tony asked me if I ever thought about starting a "cyber church" - a cyber network of those who would probably never enter a church door. This caught my ear. And my imagination. When was the last time you saw a church door that was open? Or, for that matter, one that wasn't a solid wooden barrier blocking the "narrow way" to God?

Our little group exhibited no apparent barriers - our diversity and commonality manifested human "community" because we share a commitment to life on the Northside/Northshore of Pittsburgh. We live in the old, restored homes of the neighborhood and create gatherings to enjoy our holidays and events. The sense of "community" exists because of an active social network that arose from common passions and vision for an urban neighborhood.

Hoi Polloi's door may be a non-descript "plain Jane" brown. But it does sport a small window that opens to a world of caring friendships for a disparate collection of neighbors. Different careers, straight, gay, white, African American, jobbed and jobless, we sat around our table telling our stories and laughing our way into the weekend.

I began to feel like I "belonged." I became more whole and complete as this social network wove their lives into mine and mine into theirs. My 35 years of church ministry is only slightly spotted with this experience of acceptance and "belonging." The closed church door is my metaphor for the way we become closed to most of Jesus call to go out to the entire world as Christ's abassadors who lead to open doors of love. Rather than risk exhibiting God's dream for all humanity, we send a message that "church" is about "church", not people.
I wonder if Tony could help me recreate a congregation as creatively as he morphs Mr. Potato Head?

I thank God for Facebook. And my neighbors.

Bob Anderson
Presbyterian Transitional Ministry Leader
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