It was another great night last night with the Thingy crew. Because of vacations, Labor day, and life it had been four weeks since we had a real gathering. Each missed week for me had been painful. Going into the meeting I was desperately longing to be with my team.
We met at Grind On Cafe. For most of our time we were the only people there besides Matt, the guy working behind the counter. It was nice being in the coffee house alone. No one was distracted by activities in the room. No one seemed nervous to share because a stranger might over hear. It was just what we needed.
We started off like we always do, by reading through the Core Principles.
For those of you new to this blog, here is a little back ground. Our church plant team formed in January of 2009 with the aspiration of being a community God could use to transform and heal our city. We knew He was calling us to be a different kind of church. Like so many say, “If we want to reach those no one is reaching we need to do things no one is doing.” Our goal was (and is) to reach those that want nothing to do with inistitutional forms of religion (a growing population here in Baltimore). We also knew our efforts needed to center on imitating Christ.
So we started with a white board and the Gospel. Good place to start right? We turned to the life of Christ and asked, “If we were living like Him what would people say about us? How what would define our lives?” Off the bat it was clear that we needed to be people defined by our love of God and our love of others (practicing righteousness and justice in OT lingo); but “love God and love people” maybe the most over used phrase in Christianity today. What in the world does it mean? As we hammered through stories in the Gospels we semi-accidently stumbled upon six characteristics of Christ we thought should define us. Our community is centered on living these out in the world.
So, every time we get together we read the following…
“We will share Jesus with others by loving God and loving people through lives defined by…
- Humility – understanding our need for God, we will be defined by our transparent, sincere brokenness.
- Forgiveness – with an attitude of brokenness, considering others to be better than ourselves, we will seek to offer forgiveness, restoring others to right relationship with God and one another.
- Service – longing to see people restored, we will love them with reckless and messy abandon.
- Worship – as we encounter God through loving others, we will proclaim Jesus as Lord with uninhibited authenticity.
- Wonder – in reverent stillness we will appreciate God’s glory without fear.
- Surrender – knowing that Jesus is God and we are not, we will daily humble ourselves, deny our selfish ambition, and seek the Spirit’s guidance.”
…and then we ask each other where we have succeed and where we have failed.
Okay, enough back ground. Back to last night.
So we read through the CP’s. It was great hearing them again. Group members had wonderful stories of trying to love others by imitating Jesus. Then we looked at Zechariah 7 together. Here is a portion.
Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?'”
And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'”
Now, when I first read this my head got real big. “Oh yeah bady!” I thought to myself. “Worn out rituals and rules suck! What we are doing rocks! We walked away from all those lame selfish practices. We are the bomb! (and by extension in my head) I am the bomb!”
Then the Holy Spirit smacked me in the face. I heard the whisper in my ear, “So…all the changes you’ve made to the rituals and rules…these core prinicples you are so proud of…they’re leading you to administer true justice, show mercy and compassion, and all that jazz right? I mean…living with this community has deepend your relationship with Me right? Cause if you are just replacing old rules with new ones…is it working?”
That gave me pause.
I posed the question to the crew last night. It was an interesting conversation. In the end, we have been changed; but many of us have also figured out how to cheat the system, not intensely focusing on imitating Christ during the week as we should, but still participate in the conversation by reinterpreting our week through the lens of the CPs. This means the structure we have developed is not working as efficiently in our lives as it should be. So in the next few weeks we will be going back the white board and reevaluate what we are doing. I’m really excited about it. I think great things are going to come from the time.
Over all I love this group. If you don’t have a community of faith, a team of people you are encountering God with on a routine basis that you love and long to be with, find one; because you are missing out.
Oh….we are also working on a name because we are tired of people ignoring us when we tell them the name of our community is “The Thingy.” I told this to a reporter yesterday and she said, “I’ll call you Hamilton Community Church.” At first I protested, but it was fruitless. There was no way I was going to get her to call us “The Thingy.”