The Connecting Church: Beyond Small Groups to Authentic Community is the title of my course with Dr. Randy Frazee, teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Below you will find a sketch of my notes. It is not terribly well organized. I will try to place an asterick before comments which are meant to be provocative, and not necessarily the opinion of Dr. Frazee or myself. Also, I have edited out some notes which are not appropriate for this venue, in order to protect the privacy of individuals who shared ideas/views/experiences not meant for public consumption.
I suspect that this class will not only meet my expectations, it will exceed them by allowing me to interact substantively with a practioner who has some sense of the struggles with which I am grappling. While Dr. Frazee’s background is much different than mine in many respects, he exudes an accessibility borne of real life experience.
I also appreciate that he is willing to provide a somewhat jaded, though gracious account of his experiences. That is to say, he doesn’t pull a lot of punches in sharing his story, including his mistakes and struggles. I learn more from the mistakes than the victories, probably because I identify more with failure than success. This is not a matter of being self-deprecating. It is simply the truth.
Presence of Christ in every Neighborhood
Discipleship through family nurture
Frazee says, “Something is wrong with the model of lead pastor in a church. “
Missions problem: our community is reached and the world is all overseas. The upper middle-class people had been given a get out of work card for writing a check.
There is pressure to show value to clientele in order for them to give.
Pragmatism over a biblical philosophy of ministry.
Dr. Frazee couldn’t figure out how to invite his neighbor into his church small group because he had to believe before he belonged. He did not want to ruin his relationship with his friend. I have felt similarly regarding inviting friends to church.
If I can’t bring my neighbor to the church, maybe I can take the church to my neighbor. Establishing community out in the community. (I long to experience this paradigm in practical ways)
It takes about four years to change a paradigm (eg, Sunday school to small group, or traditional to purpose driven).
It takes about two years to establish a new program and make it stable. (preparation, execution, stabilization)
Geographic model: pods arranged in geographic concentric circles; on weekends gathered together, but during week geographical focused in concentric pods (connecting church concept).
Intentional spiritual formation/organic community (eg galaxy held together), yet dropping into it intentional spiritual formation.
Willow creek originally had affinity groups, but Hybels chose to go with neighborhood groups.
Randy Frazee: Teaching Pastor/Wednesdays; leading transition to neighborhood communities; leading spiritual formation.
Theological ideas which should form the mission and strategy of the church. Exegete the Scripture.
Deut 6, col, 3: 5, acts 17 Paul in ephesus, altar to unknown God (These are just a beginning)
What are the sociological issues that are a reality today, that we would want to keep in mind in developing strategies? Exegete the culture. How would we structure ministry as a result? (partial list below)
· Be real; authenticity, purpose. the community is dying for the church to be relevant.
· Looking for intimacy in life of church
· Being unknown in the community; invisible.
· Being a part of the community- being a part of the fabric of the community; addressing the plight of the community.
· Overcoming perception of evangelicals and christians as being adversaries vis-à-vis culture wars.
· Achievement theology versus alignment theology.
· Cocooning in america.
· Missional, organic,
· Tension between spider and starfish.
· Pastor is expected to prepare people for kingdom living or to be ready for the kingdom.
· Hear the gospel, cross the line of faith, and mature in faith…..to what end?
Mission and Strategy
Exegete Scripture: what is the big idea? What is it we exist for?
Harmartiology: We are sinners, born into sin.
Soteriology: Through Jesus Christ we enter into faith and experience salvation/eternal security in Christ.
Ecclesiology: Being discipled, trained.
Eschatology. One day you will die and be ushered into the presence of God. Objective becomes to prepare the individual for their encounter with Jesus in heaven.
Gen 3:24 God’s gracious act was to prevent the sustaining the kind of life we created for ourselves on account of sin.
Rev 22:2 tree of life on each side of the river; 22:20 come Lord Jesus
*Common statement: if you were to die today, do you know where you will go? Hence, death is the objective?
Doesn’t go far enough. What about restoring what was lost?
Means/Community End/Discipleship Individually
End objective is we, not me
Man- Image of God. Gen 1:26-31
*Loving neighbor has nothing to do with salvation, it means love your neighbor.
I would modify that harsh stance by saying salvation in terms of eternal security is part of the larger holistic concern for the well being of our neighbors. It is not an end unto itself, but part of the larger whole. Therefor I differ with some in the emergent church movement in this regard, while also appreciating their concern for temporal needs here and now.
Is there something about community which is essential to humanness? Is community necessary for restoration?
It is in the makeup of our being that we must have community; It truly is not good for us to be alone: Gen 2:18.
Ideas by Frazee
Willard: Heart (executive center); mind (know and feel); body; social/community. Then last part is the soul. But in between our body and our soul are other people.
Frazee: Father, Son and HS are three distinct persons who share a soul (essence),
Adam and Eve in the hula hoop. Sin, Gen 4 demonstrates that the sin nature was transmitted to the children. The community, the oneness with each other, was lost due to sin.
John 17. God in the community, yet the community surrounded by God.
Community is essential to realize who God has designed us to be. Showing deference to each other because individually the we affects the individual.
Vision: The Presence of Jesus in every neighborhood.
It is not about largeness or smallness.
Starfish and a spider; virus and an elephant.
Every single finger of the starfish contains the whole system.
9/11 saddam was the spider of iraq. We shut down their system, we have done nothing to stop the starfish, al quaeda.
The only way you can kill al quaeda is to undermine their ideology.
1 Samuel 8:6-7 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
Constantine provided the cash to locate the church in buildings. He single-handedly converted Christianity from starfish to spider.
David adjusted his life to the activity of God, not the reasoning of God. Viz. the person who died when he caught the ark. David adjusted by doing the sacrifices. David and the ark of the covenant. David did not like that the ark of the covenant was in the tent and on the move, but David wanted to build God a house. God never asked for a king or a temple.
Matt 28: Jesus wanted his presence to be on the move through us.
Where is the optimum balance between starfish and spider in the church?
Catalyst vs Champions. When the catalyst leaves or dies, the champions compete against each other for their own causes.
Willow Creek 25,300
George Barna: has gone to a house church model, He no longer has time or inclination to concern himself with campus based churches.
Frazee: believes we need authority structure and that we need the biblical base.
This is the most individualistic era. Gen 11
Hybrid of spider/starfish
Willow originally had an attractional strategy. Seeker sensitive.
Believers, snatching them from outside or from other churches.
*How to grow a large church in the USA? (sadly there is much truth to this)
This is the dirty little secret.
High new home growth upwardly mobile area. Above middle class.
Number one thing you need is a children’s program (star-studded).
Get a good looking married pastor who has wonderful kids. A bonus, but not essential
Staffing; building; volunteers. These three things produce a yield of 0. They are not producing followers of Christ. It produces numerical growth, but not spiritual growth. If you can get the parents engaged spiritually, you will see growth. How will we put parents in the driver’s seat?
How do we get parents involved meaningfully into the life and spiritual development of their children.
Where is the balance in the tension between the ideal and the pragmatic? We are called to lead people to a better place.
Philip Landon “A Better Life” creating a place; urbanism, neo-urbanism
Dave Ferguson. Christian
Suburban living requires we get into our cars to go anywhere required for conducting our lives: marketplace, church, entertainment, etc.
Sociological fragmentation: the adding of multiple circles/orbits of relationship.
Lyle Schaller says that the biggest challenge for the american church is to address the discontinuity and fragmentation of society. Whatever we gain in extra programs we lose in community.
Simplify, consolidate, eliminate. Re-architecture; re-engineer. We are not likely going to be able to consolidate by creating competition for the circles.
*(Amercan evangelical church paradigm; very campus-centered)
Grow- new community
Group- small groups
Gifts- volunteer at the church
Give- give ten percent of the money to the church.