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The Present-Future of Gatherings

These days, I am placing less primacy on critiquing how churches worship in this or that style or what particular theology arises out of this or that leader, and more on finding communities who are first and foremost passionate around the idea of God giving God. Moreover, I am discovering there is no one right approach in communities passionate about God giving God in their gatherings.

This phrase (God gives God) is often recalled in an attempt to challenge believers to reflect on personal ways in which they allow God to give God in their respective lives, e.g., prayer, scripture, fasting, meditation and so forth. But I wonder what would occur for us if we took this concept and applied it to the gatherings we play a role in creating.

Many of you play a role in creating the spaces that Christians inhabit on a weekly basis. Since age 19, I have played a role in creating gatherings that met in the house, the bar, the designated church building, the park and the brothel.  Since that time, many have experienced a myriad of approaches ranging from Bill Hybels’ mega model to Neil Cole’s Organic Church; from Ed Young, Jr’s video venue to Peter Rollins’ Ikon.

I suspect the number of different ways to construct a gathering equals at least the number of people who will read this post. We all have our idea of what it should look like as our generation is anything but short of opinions.

In many contexts, the gathering is the central (and perhaps only) task churches revolve everything around. Other conversations are ongoing and forthcoming as to whether or not the gathering is an ecclesiastical necessity. My guess is that you probably fall somewhere in between.

No matter where you land on the spectrum, it seems evident that people experience God differently in the various gatherings and, right or wrong, land in churches that coincide with the gift make up they feel most comfortable operating in. Though much more could be said here, suffice it to say for now that this reality should free us to celebrate the diversity of the Church’s various gatherings rather than imposing our preferences on the whole [1].

These days, I am placing less primacy on critiquing how churches worship in this or that style or what particular theology arises out of this or that leader, and more on finding communities who are first and foremost passionate around the idea of God giving God [2]. Moreover, I am discovering there is no one right approach in communities passionate about God giving God in their gatherings.

This phrase (God gives God) is often recalled in an attempt to challenge believers to reflect on personal ways in which they allow God to give God in their respective lives, e.g., prayer, scripture, fasting, meditation and so forth. But I wonder what would occur for us if we took this concept and applied it to the gatherings we play a role in creating. Now I know that most of you would defend your position that God “shows up” to what you plan for the corporate church body. However, I want to challenge your current framework and suggest that it may be true that the Spirit is partially constricted by the ways you organize (or perhaps disorganize) spaces.

Desmund Tutu once said, “Without me God will not and without God I cannot.” And this is the tension of it all—God uses humans to create space for Him. But often humans hijack and occupy that space more than God. We go from being conduits of the divine for the divine to being talented leaders who know how to produce a veneer of godliness void of true supernatural power.

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I am tempted to detail an onslaught of various options at our disposal when creating gatherings such as didactic teaching versus texting questions to the pastor; liturgical worship versus charismatic environments; reciting ancient creeds versus writing new targums, to name a few. But I want to leave this open ended in an attempt to elicit new innovation and renovations you are up to in your gathering.

An obvious presupposition at play here is that God is alive, relational and desires to be experienced by His people. If that is true, what then is the responsibility of the pastor, teacher and follower within the gathering context to create maximum opportunity for people to experience God? How can you create gatherings to get more of God giving God and less of you giving you?

[1] Something I struggled with horrendously in my previous ministry experience

[2] An Augustinian axiom

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