We’re about to invite some of the individuals we’ve been meeting one to one for the past year to gather, meet each other, and to hear our plans for church.
1. ON YOUR MARKS, DRAW NEAR
As a ‘waking thought’ – which is how God often speaks to me (Phil) – we were given this image of church as runners racing. In 1 Cor 9:24ff, Paul asks how much more agōnizomai – (agony?), exertion, effort, endeavour, strength and striving – living a life with eternal significance takes, compared to a race with a prize that’s perishable. Our rhythm of church begins with, “on your marks” because to race, runners must first be made aware of the need to start. We see God as the starter, initiator, activator, and, in gathering together, Sunday is our starting point.
God calls us to attention, to draw near, and as we settle ‘on our knees,’ we do so expectant of what is ahead, as we wait for further instruction from God.
In the on your marks position we see Sunday as a catalyst, where we value celebration, creativity, curiosity, different points of view, diversity, honesty, experiences, friends, knowledge, openness, opinion, and participation. There will, of course, be input from speakers, but equally from the ‘runners’ as we encourage them to gather to debate, discuss, listen, question, share, think, wait and worship.
Rachel and I have found that adults learn best when they interact with and learn from others; engage in activities that reinforce a message; feel respected and equal to the facilitator; and when their learning styles are catered for, included, and recognised. Suddenly aware that he is reading a book on ethical food, whilst unethically food shopping, JKA Smith, asks why, like him, so many of us have, “…this gap between my thought and my action” (2013:9).
2. GET SET, DIG IN
Rachel and I have seen the value of investing in the gap that can exist between faith and works, the bit in the middle where inclinations are processed, and from where actions emerge. In my work with teachers, Rachel has seen how training only leads to change when accompanied by 1-2-1 support. Only ‘Tiggers’ return from workshops as implementers (see our blog on Change). Which is why, our second ‘posture’ of church involves investing in the middle, because, like Smith (p.12), we believe the gap is where our loves, longings and habits form and, given time, become daily actions.
The ‘race’ or stádion, Paul refers to in 1 Cor 9 covers a distance of 185m, a sprint, rather than a marathon. “Get set” – typical in races under 400m – is a signal to raise knees, bring hips to shoulders, and wait on finger tips motionless, in anticipation of the instruction to “go!” What we’ve learnt is that when people are given opportunities to be still, process and contemplate they’re more likely to action their thoughts. We see continuing to meet business owners 1-2-1, to dig deeper, as an integral part of church. Interestingly, until blocks were introduced in 1920, sprinters would dig holes to push off against.
3. GO, AND DO
The example of a Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is a good illustration of our third posture, “Go”, since it is all about people’s response to injustice as they go about their lives. Our reason for first meeting business owners, and now gathering, is the belief that God’s plan for poverty is not just charity but a just life; everyone utilising their position, resources, time, etc. to address the injustice that is plésion –‘near’ or ‘neighboring’ (v. 27, 29, 36). Want to live a life of eternal significance? Then, as Jesus instructs the lawyer, “Go & do” like the Samaritan did (v. 37).