The kingdom of God is like this,” Jesus said. “A man scatters seed on the ground; he sleeps and rises-night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he doesn’t know how. The soil produces a crop by itself: first the blade, then the head, and then the ripe grain on the head. But as soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because harvest has come.”
Last night Wendy and I had the privileged of participating in Valley’s first missional worship service.
“What makes it missional?” you wonder. Great question.
Most of the worship gatherings I’ve been a part of fell into one of two categories. They were either designed to appeal to the new people in the room or they were built around a set of long practiced rituals. Some congregations I’ve been a part of tried to do both, which is always feels like a tug-of-war to me. Valley’s Sunday night worship is built on something very different: the belief that every believer is a missionary, who is sent by God, and who should be struggling joining God’s continuous work around them. Instead of being a gathering that seeks to inspire believers toward action, Valley’s new Sunday night gathering is a team of Christ followers who come together to encourage and equip one another to better love like Jesus in their tribes (or communities, or flocks, or people groups, or crews…we are struggling with the term…more on that later).
Because the gathering is a response to our being on mission, not intended to inspire it, we spent four months building a small team and talking with them about what it means to live as sent people. That time was critical. The gathering needed to be born out of the work and not vice versa. As I reflect on that part of the journey, we probably could have been more strategic and disciplined about teaching the lifestyle; but I think (hope) God used our fumblings.
Last nights gathering started with Wendy leading worship from the piano. She is a passionate and gifted worship leader. I hadn’t worship that intensely in a while. It was fantastic.
After a few songs another group member stood up and read two short readings to the group – “Welcome to Church” and “We Will…” (I’ll post these later.) These will be read every time we gather. I picked this practice up from , Celebrate Recovery Groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous groups I’ve seen. No matter where the meeting is, who is putting it on, or who is attending the same 12 steps are always read. They set the tone for the meeting and immediately build community. When you walk into a strange group and hear the readings you are suddenly comfortable and at home. It creates a sense of “these are my people”. If God sees fit to multiple the group at Valley I hope these readings will serve to create connectedness between the groups.
After the readings we sang another song and then we discussed scripture. Well…usually we will discuss scripture. This time we worked through the lifestyle to make sure everyone’s on board. There was a great moment of decentralized leadership during that time that I loved. I had chosen the word “tribe” to describe the group of people we feel sent to. I picked the word because I have a crush on Seth Godin…he’s awesome. But the group totally shot it down. They suggested instead: people, flock, crew, group, community, or family. We will pick one next week. I love it when groups take ownership of stuff and debate it. Seriously, it makes me really happy.
For the final 45 minutes we broke up guys with guys and girls with girls to pray. We worked through six questions together and then prayed for each other:
- Who is your tribe (to whom has God sent you) and how did you engage them this week?What went great this week?
- How did you struggle this week?
- How did you love like Jesus this week?
- How should we pray for you this week?
- Along with prayer, how can this group help you better love your tribe like Jesus this week?
I feel like these questions need some work.
Once pray was over we all came back together and ate dinner. It was a cool moment to all be in the same room together with all our kids running around crazy.
There are a lot of bugs to work out but I think it was a fantastic start, which brings me to Mark 4:26-37. We are seeing this passage come to life in the Thingy. Seeds we planted a year ago, two years ago, are now starting to bloom. We don’t understand how or why, but flowers of Jesus’ love are beginning to show their heads. This is my prayer for the Valley group as well. Right now it may feel weird and different, but I believe things will bloom and some day soon we will begin reaping a harvest.
Let it be as you have said Lord.