Oxymoron: Shopping for a Missional Church | Part 4
So here’s the problem: I’ve moved to Orlando, Florida. I was a campus minister for eight years, I have a seminary degree, and now am a manager in a Christian missions agency that serves missional leaders throughout the US. But I don’t have a local body of believers to call my own—to serve or lead or embody redemption with. And the biggest barrier to me finding one? Probably myself. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Surprise. I'm Leading a Small Group
Wow. Well, a couple weeks ago I showed up at Summit Church to hear my new friend Alistair Sterne speak. The church is a large one: almost 3,000 people attending services. And while it has awesome indie-professional worship music and a gifted communicator, it's faux-perfect veneer brushes up roughly against my “ideal missional church” list (especially when I'm in a snooty mood).
Alistair did great speaking, but I was caught off guard by them announcing “group night.” It’s a once-a-quarter thing they do that gives an opportunity to form an all new small group, right with the people standing there in the room. I had been contemplating going to one of these, but had still been pretty unsure I wanted to commit to Summit. I decided to stay and at least see what it was like—mostly to hear them talk about their small group theology/system.
I walked out as a small group leader.
Yeah, that was a surprise. It’s just that the method they use is a little chaotic. They stake big signs around the room announcing Orlando locations, and people gather awkwardly to try to start conversations with strangers, attempting not only to get past the “name and what do you do?” stage, but straight into the “you want to be in a group?” “you want to talk about life? “you want to talk about schedules (this one is particularly difficult: find 10 people who KNOW each other real well to agree on a ‘good night’ for something) “you want to elect a leader? (we’ve already forgotten names, but I’m sure we can get a leader… J)”
That said, I’m guessing what often happens is what happened to me: I know I can step up and help; that I can step into a group conversation and bring convergence. I’ve been doing this for a long time (probably others in the room, too), and I’ve gotta think all those people feel pressed to step up or risk a weirdo group meltdown… so they do.
And so I did.
And honestly, I sound a little disconcerted, but not overly negative. The people I met who are looking for a group seemed genuine and interesting and I will look forward to getting to know them. I will just have to be honest that while I like Summit Church… I really hadn't decided to land there. Can I really be excited about a church that has four services every Sunday and its own iPhone app?
Here’s how it will work: this really is only an 8 week commitment. Summit asks a group to start out and “try things out” for 2 months, and then after that sorta lock-in. This will give me a chance to pray and evaluate, just like everybody else in the group, and see if God has me here for the time being.
Why “compromise" on my church values? Well… the reality is that me sitting at home, uncommitted and ungiving and unengaged, isn’t the way I want to live.
I’ve often counseled college students that its hard to reflect on life while standing still. Waiting to see what career God will drive us towards, for instance, is difficult when we’re pulled off to the side of the road, just trying to Think our way there. Typically, cars steer better when they’re moving; its better to merge into traffic while we discover where we’re going. Maybe this is God is doing with me. Getting me to hit the gas pedal, even if I don’t know the destination.
So I'm gonna help lead a group for a while. On the way, I’ll still be reflecting on the church selection process. This is just a chance to start rolling again.