From the Temple to a Cell Group: Looking in at the Bubble and a Fork

This month, I am going to ask you to do something difficult. I want you to step outside the bubble. Close your eyes, one big step.

You are no longer a member of this church.

You are no longer a church attender.

You are no longer a baptised follower of Jesus.

You are no longer a Christian.

You no longer have a background that includes church or Christianity.

Step outside the bubble, just for a moment. Put yourself in that space.

What would your perspective of Christianity be? Be honest. What are the first images that come to mind? Words? Phrases? Leave the bubble and be honest with yourself…

Most of my time as a minister is spent outside of this bubble. This is simply due to the fact that our congregation is mostly comprised of people that are non-members and in many cases non-Christian. I spend much time outside of the bubble because my ministry places me there.

During a small group session, I asked a collection of non-Christians to tell me what first came to mind when they hear the word “Christian”.  Their responses includes words like:

– Judgemental
– Anti-gay
– Angry
– Corrupt
– Money hungry / business-like
– Republican
– Not relevant to current issues

They painted pictures of preachers on television. They told stories of personal rejection, both from individuals and by the hands of congregations.

From their perspective, “Christian” was a bad word.

This was hard for me to take in. Mostly because this point of view does not accurately represent MY experience with Christianity and congregational-life. My experience teaches me that most folks are good, decent, loving people willing to give what they have and where they can to help one another. Words that come to my mind are “loving”, “open”, “honest”, “caring” and “devoted”.

But my perspective is irrelevant. I AM A PRODUCT OF THE BUBBLE.

The reality as I see it, is that there is a perception problem and if Christ is calling me and our church into a world of non-believers we MUST ackowledge this perspective and face it head on.

“Christian” in some cases must be rediscovered and reclaimed.

Now we come to a fork in the road.

If you are part of a congregation that is alive and vibrant. Where you have a solid core of priesthood members. Where you have a balanced work load. Where you have a balanced group of members, believers, and non-believers. If that’s your reality… feel free to read future postings and I hope there is something you can pull from them.  But I am going to focus further on redefining the church and in most cases successful congregations probably don’t need redefined (kinda the “not broken, don’t fix” rule).   I wish you continued success in your ministry and pray for God’s spirit to continue to work through your church.

For everyone else, I ask that you continue with me. It’s gonna get a bit messier over the next few months, because we have to confront a number of harsh truths. But I promise you, stay with me and we’ll start talking about moving forward. The mess will start clearing up and we’ll start building a path forward.

Over the next few months we’ll discuss:

– The role of authentic priesthood, colored pasts, and relationships
– Productive ministry time and preparing for hard lives
– Collaborative Worship and a new approach to teaching / preaching
– Unique and strategic opportunities for life-long impact

But throughout this process, I am going to challenge you to take moments to step outside the bubble.

Christ is calling us outside of the circle of followers, so we best understand what we are getting into.

With love and God Bless – Brian

“From the Temple to a Cell Group” is my attempt to make the case that in order for us to respond to Christ’s mission for our church we need to think small and intimate and to walk away from both “church” as we know it and our internal desires to “go big” (See the older posts in this series.)

4 thoughts on “From the Temple to a Cell Group: Looking in at the Bubble and a Fork

  1. MLE says:

    In addition:
    You are no longer part of the GU bubble.
    You are no longer part of the Independence bubble. *gasp!* 😀

    This is a great idea for an exercise. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I look forward to others.

  2. Judith says:

    On the lighter note, a couple months ago we incorporated two love seats & a sofa into the sanctuary seating. Demolition & construction caused this relocation. We’ve found that our “goldfish”, youth, & newer members gravitate to them.

  3. Judith says:

    Being here is one step outside my bubble. Raised & active all but three years in Sunday church, CofChrist, nearing 60 yrs. Stepping outside our bubbles, “Yes, it is hard.” Getting in the midst of another culture / lifestyle illuminates some of one’s own basic assumptions of how life is & should be. Assumptions so deep that often we have forgotten that they are inside us. Or they seem so convincing that this must be the only way. A guide(s) through interpersonal relationship with “a goldfish(es)” clears away some of our misinterpretations.
    Ex-President Jimmy Carter has sought out the homeless in Georgia to talk & listen. This reminds me that “a goldfish” joined my congregation a few years ago. I need to engage in more, directed conversation.

    On a lighter note, about those pews. Our building has had moveable, stackable chairs for decades.

  4. I really like this challenge to completely step outside of the bubble… it’s hard! We’ve done a lot of talking in my religion classes about whether our “Westerness” fundamentally affects our ability to comprehend religions originating in east Asia, and your post made me think of a writing by W.C. Smith: “[We] might uncharitably be compared to flies crawling on the outside of a goldfish bowl, making accurate and complete observations of the fish inside, measuring their scales meticulously, and indeed contributing much to a knowledge of the subject, but never asking [ourselves], and never finding out, how it feels to be a goldfish.”
    Of course, here he is talking about religious scholars looking in, but I think the same could be applied to us looking out. We brainstorm and plan and everything to bring people in, but never take the time to really think about what it feels like to have never gone to church, how it feels to be deeply uncomfortable sitting in a pew, and why that may have nothing to do with our strategy and everything to do with a need for personal relationships.

    So, thank you for challenging me to think differently & reexamine my interactions today! Great post!

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