A big THANKS to all who participated, especially Michael Nelson for hosting our gatherings!
Big Takeaway from Session 5: The general consensus was that Theophilus does need “members” (although “member” may not be the best term to describe what we mean). Members of Theophilus are simply those that belong to the community. The discussion also led to an agreement that there should be certain behaviors that are expected of those that belong to the community. Some of the possible expected behaviors that were discussed include 1) embracing a baptismal spiritual journey, 2) embracing diversity and welcoming new people, 3) investing in Grace Groups and the community life of Theophilus, and 4) discovering your unique spiritual gifts and using them to participate in the ministry of Theophilus.
Several of us had a great time reflecting on the question,“What does it mean to be a church community?” on Wednesday night. You can download the handout that guided our discussion so you can follow along: Session 4 Handout
Big Takeaway from Session 4: We dove into some biblical and theological explanations of what the “church” is. The church is the creation of the Holy Spirit. No one really decides for themselves to become a part of the church. The Spirit of God is always drawing people into community first. The church’s model for community comes from the Trinity. The Trinity is our model for a relational, organic community of interconnected, mutually submissive relationships. The mission of the church is wrapped up in the narrative story of a Three-in-One (communal) God that is re-creating everything into a new and perfect community.
We also completed a comparison of how three different churches handle their membership practices. Several values and practices are beginning to emerge in defining how Theophilus might help people belong to our community:
It might be helpful for new Grace Groups to be created around new “members.”
A process for discerning whether “membership” is where God is leading someone might be a helpful thing to offer (but without a specific time frame expected for completion).
If a process for discernment is suggested, it would be helpful if the steps are easy to understand and communicated well.
It seems that regardless of people’s “membership” status, everyone should feel welcomed and encouraged to participate (with no guilt attached for not becoming a “member”).
“Exploring the Future Church” is a series of discussions around the question, “What does it mean to be in a faith community?” These sessions are the foundation of the ministry intervention for my doctoral thesis (Discerning the Meaning of Church Membership at Theophilus). If you’d like to follow along you can download the notes from Session 2 here: Session 2 Handout
Big Takeaway from Session 2: God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) was meant to be a blessing for all people (Genesis 12:3). The fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all people is realized through the Holy Spirit working in and through the church (beginning at Pentecost, leading to today, and into the future). There is some difficulty in explaining ideas like “covenant” and “Kingdom” today. They are foreign terms for most people. God’s Kingdom and covenant can be simply understood as “God’s love working to bless all people and bring peace.” When it comes to the church, people are wary of joining institutions that are interested in their own preservation. The foundation of the church has to be authentic and genuine relationships.
If you’d like to keep up with the discussion from “Exploring the Future Church: an open discussion on what it means to be in a faith community” you can download the notes here: Session 1 Handout (.doc file)
Big Takeaway from Session 1: We had some significant discussion around the question, “Does church membership matter anymore?” We noted that the idea of “membership” has evolved from what it once was because people’s social needs have changed. One difficulty is that church membership rolls are never accurate. Some people will become a “member” of a church, but never participate or develop relationships. On the other hand, some people are highly engaged in the life and ministry of the church, but never officially become a “member.” Regardless of where people stand in their “membership,” it is essential that everyone feel welcome and invited. The conclusion the group came to was that “membership” as it has been known and experienced in most churches does not matter anymore. What does matter is “belonging to a community.”
Our future sessions will continue to explore this idea of how to encourage people to belong to our community.