- On page 32, the authors ask what would happen if members made a commitment to stay connected. This is an important “what if.” Dr. Gary McIntosh offers a guideline for pastors and ministers that might apply here: before you leave a ministry, you must have both a push and a pull. There must be a compelling reason to leave and a compelling call elsewhere. While this is most easily applied to pastors, the priesthood of all believers requires that we apply this to members as well. Members are ministers in a local church. They are not merely observers or recipients of religious goods and services. As such, members ought to consider themselves called to a local church and behave accordingly.
- The interpenetration of a vertical relationship with God and a horizontal relationship with fellow believers is a distinctive feature of Christianity (p.33). The participatory format of home churches offers many opportunities to live out this distinction. On the other hand, the main worship gatherings of traditional churches offer little opportunity. The physical structure of our worship centers and the non-participatory design of our services hinder this interpenetration and teaches its opposite. Even if traditional churches do not apply this to the same degree as do home churches, we have much to learn from them.
- The room layouts on pages 36 and 37 brought the impact of space design into stark relief. I serve as the college director for my church. In recent months, I have noticed an increase in audience mentality during the weekday gathering. Upon reading this section, I realized we had been using the small group layout. The physical distance between people was hindering participation. After rearranging the space according to the home church layout, participation increased. Of course, other changes were made, but the impact of space design was clear.
- The commitment to remain connected (p.32, discussed above) is important but not sufficient. An additional layer of commitment ought to be added: the commitment to be the people of God (p.85). This commitment is both intriguing and frightening. It is intriguing because God created humans to live as a people, reflecting his Trinitarian nature. It is frightening because it means removing our carefully crafted masks. Commitment to be the people is worth the risk, but it is a risk. Church leaders can help by creating safe spaces, by designing relational structures within existing programs, and by equipping members with the knowledge and skills to live as a people.
- The commitment to be the people has both internal and external impact. Internally, this commitment fills a deep need inherent to humanity. Those who participate in such a commitment receive very real consolations. Externally, this commitment embodies the kingdom of God before a watching world (p.108). Those who participate in such a commitment are as much the people of God on Monday nights as they are on Sunday mornings. Implementing such a commitment in the traditional church may require a dismantling of some internally focused programs that use a disproportionate amount of limited resources. It may mean freeing up the weekly calendar, moving some gatherings off-campus, and making a commitment to communicate the priority of being church over doing church work.
- The authors invest considerable ink to the place of children in the church (p.205ff). Most important in their discussion is the elevation of parents to their rightful place as the spiritual leaders of their children. The church’s responsibility is to equip and support the parents in this task. Involving children in the life of the whole church rather than shuttling them off to children’s church is a large part of the equipping and support. A large traditional church may have difficulty implementing such a change, but it ought to be held as a benchmark.
- The way church lives life together declares the kingdom of God to a watching world (p.229-230). Our declaration may be accurate or inaccurate, but it is a declaration nonetheless. Our post-Christian culture requires us to decide to declare accurately God’s kingdom. Emerging churches have decided to do this. Traditional churches must not “leave it to the youngsters.” We must search the Scriptures and risk responding in a way that may challenge some beyond what they can bear. Changes must be made with wisdom, but they must be made. Being who God created us to be is more important than remaining comfortable in our traditions.
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