Every once in a while we need to ask the Lord if we should just close up the enterprise and do something else for which we are better suited! There is nothing worse than a church that doesn’t need the Holy Spirit to keep functioning, right?
So I asked a few questions of our Leadership Team the other day which I had been asking myself. A few people got right back to me with some encouraging answers. I am sharing them with you, basically unedited (but anonymous since I didn’t ask them) to see what you think. What would you add?
I know people read this blog from all over, but I hope you won’t tune out. It would be interesting to hear what you say. We’ve been told we are full of it before, so no need to be shy. But also, what you see from far away might be helpful for us who are way into this quadrant of the Church over here. Leave a comment or send me a note.
Why should Circle of Hope survive?
- We have deep roots, so much lore, so much mutuality, and I think “blossoming” for this particular season is possible if we keep asking these kinds of questions and clarifying our purpose.
- Circle of Hope should survive for as long as we are creating a community to exist in opposition to the evil in the world and to do so through Jesus. Perhaps the hardest part of this is creating a community in which we live up to “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
- Circle of Hope should survive because people need to know Jesus and I think our model gives most people the best opportunity to do that. It’s that simple for me: people need to meet God and I think our people are best suited to make the introductions.
- Today I say Circle of Hope should survive because cells are still a very good way to communicate the gospel. People need the good news of a community that loves them into life in Christ. The days are darker and more crooked than ever and we do shine like stars (see Philippians).
- Because it’s God’s will for us to fulfill the Great Commission. It should survive because Jesus wants it too. We are God’s dwelling place in an explicit expression. As it turns out, it’s the most authentic expression I’ve experienced, and the best delivery mechanism of the Gospel.
In a soul-killing day, in a church-killing area — Why does God want us?
- Because existence is one form of resistance. And because we have a unique voice that we still need to learn how to keep using. Many (most?) of us are not from the neighborhoods we now live in. We are people who didn’t find a home in our home churches. We have attracted high numbers of creative types who have hung around the margins and have prophetic insight, but we have more unleashing to do.
- I think that God has called us to do something specific and distinct in our region. It might even be special. Looking into the future, I don’t see many of the churches that cater to the young people that are flocking back the cities surviving/thriving with their models (that seem to be popping up more and more frequently). There is a pretty substantial dichotomy that exists between our missional model and their attractional one. In an increasingly post-Christian and digital society, it’s only going to get harder to attract people to something they don’t care about. In the bluntest terms, I would rather bet on some iteration of Circle of Hope existing in 100 years than whatever next Acts 29 church plant that comes down the pipeline.
- A lot of the local Christian Churches in the area are Reformed. Their theology is about being in the right position with God (humble, dependent, worshipping). These are good things. Our theology is more about doing the right things with God (serving, prophesying, witnessing). The propositional, principle based theology that is mostly about protecting God’s attributes is dying and was dead from the start. The Mission has a Church and we’re trying to be that church the best way we know how. The other churches are too, God bless them and bless God for using them despite their suspect strategy. All that being said, let’s figure out how to reach into groups of people who aren’t even close to Christian yet. There’s plenty of work to go around.
- We are diligent and loyal, and self-reflective (case in point is this question). We are radical Christians following God in an era where many are selling their souls to false idols and gods (war machine, corporations, nuclear family, material acquisition). We provide an alternative community and lifestyle that the 99 percent need (and the 1 percent, too). We help unchurched people find God in a way that other churches cannot. Christian burnouts get new faith in Circle of Hope, the evidence of which is overwhelming. Those Christians don’t just consume, they lead us. We covert people, disciple them into leadership, and end up planting more churches because of it.
- We lead and it makes others anxious because it causes so much disruption. Presbyterians get offended, the City Paper writes a negative article, the Fishtown message board criticizes us. We are self-differentiated as a church, but we are not unchanging. We adapt when we need too. The latest teaching on marriage and sexuality is evidence that we are listening and changing, that our conviction about dialogue isn’t just rhetoric.
- The way Circle of Hope maintains its intimacy and connection as a community is because of our dynamic leaders, and because literally, our Map leads us. We have goals and agreements, a mission and vision that helps us focus together. Our family system doesn’t undergo the typical dysfunctions because we are committed to a cause and our Leadership Team is generally committed to convincing people of that.
- We are a tangible expression of the love of God breaking through in the world—God wants that kind of action and purpose and understanding in our “being.”
What are we offering that you can’t just pick up anywhere?
- Our bias toward action. I’ve never been a part of or visited a church where so much onus was placed on the “lay” people. “We” really are the church. We have learned so much from each other and have more skills than we realize, I think. When we’re just around each other a ton we forget how talented and supported and capacious (whoa that’s a word!) we are.
- Honesty and vulnerability. When it happens in an attractional church, it’s a miracle (based on my church planter friends that are doing attractional model churches). In Circle of Hope, it’s a Tuesday. I had a really smart friend, who church hopped across the country as he finished his doctorate, connect to my cell for a while actually tell me that we talk too much about “social justice stuff” (which everyone is doing now that it is hip to care about people) when we really should be championing the richness of relationships that are cultivated in cells and PMs — “‘You really are the church.” Our model, which is always changing to meet the next person, is dynamic and simple in what it tries to do: put people in meaningful relationships with each other and God and give them a chance to flourish.
- Honesty. But it can get us a bad rep among the Christians. We’re too honest about how sinful we are. This gives us the unique ability to let people be in before they are in with Jesus. You don’t have to be a Christian to explore with us.
- Cells, original worship, a connected pastors team, both big and small incarnations of the church, good teaching, peace, justice, compassion. Committed pastors who are planters, shepherds, ship captains, and military generals–when they need to be. Circle Counseling.
- We offer a rare opportunity to be unified as a body and differentiated as a person. (Can’t pick that up anywhere, it seems.)
What gift do we bring that the Church needs?
- Dialogue skills, conflict resolution skills and building up an alternative economy. The Church needs more of all of this right now and they are things we have worked especially hard at.
- Conflict attraction (opposite of conflict avoidance — I just coined it). Devotion to Matthew 18. Devotion to the Sermon on the Mount- particularly peacemaking.
- Incarnational evangelism, missional community, apostleship, prophecy, nerve, truth in love.
- We bring an aliveness in Christ that demonstrates depth and expansion.
Refreshing, isn’t it? And quite a bit more than what I’ve printed came in after this first burst of enthusiasm. God is with us.
Really. It would be great to hear what you have to add. Leave a comment.