I’d like to suggest a radically different way to do church. Well, it’s not really that radical at all – lots of people are doing it this way. But it looks as different to sermons as circles look different to rows.
It’s all about sharing. Sharing our stories with one another. Sharing an experience with one another. Sharing our thoughts and responses with one another. Sharing God’s story together. Sharing a meal together.
Kevin-Neil and I are involved with a very special church called Fresh Start Community. This group of people is made up of people from all walks of life, many of whom are struggling to overcome addictions. We have homeless people sitting next to people who live in the most expensive suburbs of our city. We have prostitutes sitting next to pastors. We have scary looking men covered in tattoos sitting next to gentle grandmothers. Something beautiful happens when these people meet in a circle and are invited to share their lives with each other. People laugh. People cry. People connect deeply with one another, and minister to one another. People learn from each other, and teach each other. People go away touched and transformed. It’s powerful stuff.
What we’ve learned at Fresh Start Community can be done in any church setting. We’re convinced that changing the way we meet will change the way we relate to each other, the way we communicate with each other, and the way we impact each other. It will also change the way we relate to, communicate with and impact our world.
Here are the 5 steps to modelling missional values in your church meeting by making it all about sharing.
The first step is sharing our STORIES. Individuals share the stories that God is doing in their lives. The stories may be messy and unfinished, unlike traditional “testimonies”, but they offer points of connection and empathy. Others are invited to enter into the story, to speak back to the story and connect with the speaker.
The second step is sharing an EXPERIENCE. It could be an activity, a visual presentation, or even a (short) sermon. The activity should stimulate people to think, feel and do, engaging them intellectually, emotionally and physically. A shared experience creates common ground and a bond between people, giving them a platform to learn from and teach each other.
People can then be asked to share their RESPONSES. Usually this is done by asking questions, eg. 1. What happened? 2. How did you feel? 3. What will you take away?. Other creative ways to respond may include writing down thoughts, making or doing something and then discussing it with the group.
After the experience/response time, people are in a good head space to share GOD’S WORD and actively explore it together. “Simply the Story” is a useful technique for this, involving 5 steps; 1. Listen to the story (spoken orally, not read aloud), 2. Retell the story to the person next to you, 3. Reconstruct the story as a group, looking for the details, 4. Explore the story in it’s original context, 5. Look for the application in today’s context. This is one method of group Bible study which is inclusive, accessible and highly effective.
Finally, the group can share a MEAL together. This is Biblical and symbolic of the way we are supposed to share our lives with one another. It creates a sense of community and belonging, and allows an informal setting for extending our learning time together.
Can you see a place in your church for these practices? Do you already use these approaches? How much would you miss the sermon if you started to practise learning from each other instead? Please leave a comment and share this article with others.