We had our first small group meeting last night. Faith Gatherings is what they are called. They have so much potential, but I'm not sure how I even feel about it. The purpose of the group is to create and build honest relationships within our church as a whole. To create community. We are using a book to get started called Lasting Legacy from Life Connections. It appears to be pretty good - the first week is designed to get people to think about and learn to share their spiritual story. OK, on the surface, sounds good. It was kind of a mechanical beginning tho, not easy or comfortable. The group is multigenerational, which is good, yet there is one couple I feel pretty uncomfortable with. I'm not sure I can open up there, truly, because I would still feel so judged, not only because of where I'm coming from, if I'm honest, but where I am. The point is to be authentic and let people know you, but really, no one else is where I am, and what will I be opening myself up to? It's ok to be where I am, and work through things on my own, but when this becomes public how will I be accepted? And I don't feel like I have the strength to go head to head with these people when they start questioning me.....
Next week they are covering Being Vulnerable. OK - I feel pretty vulnerable already. I'm obviously very anxious about making myself vulnerable to some of these people. I was pretty excited about these small groups, now I'm starting to be conflicted and very anxious.
I do like that we are working on the concepts of sharing your story without all the christianese, I like that the awareness is there that we need to become vulnerable (week 2) and authentic (week 3), and that the concept of living your life as a witness instead of using clubs and threats is being presented (tho I am not sure that concept is truly understood, based on the concepts I was hearing from our leader last night. - I fear it's pretty difficult to take a bunch of evangelicals and try to introduce a new way of living, of showing the world Jesus....)
We will be working on caring for others, affirming others, encouraging others, ministering to others, building relationships with unchurched friends (that ought to be interesting.....) and experiencing Authentic Christian Community.
So while I am excited, and encouraged in seeing our church thinking about these things, I'm not sure how much impact it will have in the long run. Maybe I am being overly pessemistic, or not trusting God that good things can happen. I just know there is alot of baggage there, and a lot of changes to be made. And I know I will probably hold a lot of things back - and that flies in the face of what we are trying to do....
I am also encouraged that our pastor is truly trying to think about these things, and even about the structure and purpose of various meetings at the church. Every one has a different purpose. Sunday morning - praise and worship. Sunday evening - Faith Gatherings - which I had talked about above. And he is starting a half hour prayer time on Wednseday evening to have a dedicated time of corporate prayer. He has truly thought this through, recognizing that many people are uncomfortable praying in a large group setting, or praying outloud in front of others at all. When he was talking about why people are hesitant to pray aloud, all his thoughts and reasons were so right on I have to wonder if this is how he has felt? So his challange is 50 people this week, those who pray aloud, and also those who will stand with them and pray silently. Just being there, with the community, praying in whatever capacity. I had to laugh - he is so serious about this that he said if he puts anyone on the spot, or embarrases them in any way he will pay them $50.00. :)
My daughter was so impressed with his thoughts on prayer, and how it is so neccessary, and so impressed with his thoughts and ideas for Wednesday prayer time she marched right up to him after church and proceeded to tell him so. (She is not shy)
She told him she enjoyed and agreed with that sermon, that people needed to hear it and she was in support of it. (She's 15....)
So we'll see where this all goes. It is exciting that our pastor sees the needs, and sees that we need to change many things. Yet when push comes to shove, when life becomes messy as it will, how people will feel? Will they accept or judge? Will they open up, or keep quiet? Will these changes be embraced or will people leave? Will this remain only on a surface level, or will it become deep and meaningful? Where are we truly headed?