Three years ago, a wonderful thing quietly happened in our lives. A community was formed, with Jesus at the centre, which taught us how powerful and beautiful church in a circle can be. It has impacted us deeply and is the reason for this blog. And it showed us there is a way forward for the church today, which doesn’t have to involve disbanding and starting over. It just requires a change to the seating. And that requires a change to our mindset.
We have been exploring ways to do church for a long time now. I grew up in the church; my husband, Kevin-Neil, grew up outside of it. He has the advantage of being able to see how strange our church services are to an outsider. His life radically changed direction over 20 years ago, when he came to know God, and he hasn’t looked back since. I’ve loved coming along for the ride as this passionate man seeks to know God and to share him with others. As we studied together at Bible College, and subsequently worked in church ministry, we became increasingly convinced that church is going to undergo a significant shift in our lifetime. It has only been in the past few years that some of the pieces of the jigsaw have come together, and we have seen a way forward for the church which excites and inspires us, and that we want to share with you.
We’ve been part of different types of church along the way. All of them wonderful in their own way. All of them used by God – in their own way. Big church, small church, home church, emerging church, para-church. Baptist, Anglican, Church of Christ, charismatic, anabaptist, non-denominational. We’ve sat in the front row, the back row, been outsiders, been part of the core group, run home church in our house, and spent six years in senior ministry. In the process, and through our reading and searching, we’ve learned a lot about church from a lot of perspectives. What we are sharing in these blog posts could apply to any and every denomination. It’s not about the theology of church – it’s about the format.
Three years ago, Kevin-Neil started a weekly church meeting called Fresh Start Community. They don’t meet on Sundays. They don’t meet in a church. They don’t sit in rows. They don’t listen to sermons. Heck, they don’t even sing. Many of them are at some stage in their recovery journey, and it’s a pretty rocky journey, let’s be honest. But something really beautiful is happening in this meeting. People are connected. People are engaged. People are real, and honest, and messy, and they feel loved and accepted by the community. People are learning, and teaching each other, and applying their learning in real life. People are empowered, and given a voice and a value. And God is working in people’s lives.
Kevin-Neil is a doer. I am a writer. Together, we are excited about what we are seeing and learning, and want to communicate it to God’s people, to inspire and encourage them. We are writing this blog because we’d like to open up a conversation about how church could be better. Church is not hitting the mark anymore, and we think we might know why. We want to share with you what we have learned from being a part of Fresh Start Community, that could have a profound impact on your church. And it starts with the seating arrangement.
Kathleen and Kevin-Neil Ward