Today has been another encouraging and challenging day of conversation, and has left me with some good thinking to do.
Session 5: Mission and Community
We began the day today talking through the idea of mission, and how it plays out in community.
My friend Spence Shelton gave me the opportunity to share the story of The Austin Stone and the strategy we employ of missional communities. After some processing with Mark Howell, I have a stronger appreciation for how the context of our church has dictated our strategy, and that it certainly is not perfect.
On the flip side, it was fun to challenge people with the idea that often our forms contradict our intentions, and in many ways we need to challenge the consumerism that is widespread in our churches. I pray that there would continue to be a spirit of humility and gracious critique between our churches!
Session 6: Measurement
I’m a data nerd, so I always enjoy conversations around measurement and effectiveness. There was a great dialogue on the idea that “metrics motivate your thinking, stories stir the soul”.
Measurements should include both quantitative and qualitative data, and leaders need both stories and data. Stories are encouraging, but are easily used as anecdotal justifications for something that may not really be working. Data, without stories, is to easy to misinterpret or make say what you want it to say.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of the conversation was that everyone struggles to capture stories. The most effective churches at capturing stories were those who incentivized them. Apparently a little bribery goes a long way!
Session 7: Tough Issues in Group Life
This discussion was probably the most spirited that we’ve had, because it dealt with much more personal and sensitive issues for many of us. The specific dialogue centered around sexuality in the life of the church, and how our communities and leaders respond in circumstances of sin with both grace and truth.
The church doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to same sex attraction, so how do we lovingly engage people in the church and those outside the church? This discussion cause me to reflect on Jesus, and how he practically ministered in different circumstances. Specifically, I thought of the woman at the well, and how Jesus addressed not only her sexual sin, but pointed to the unfulfilled longings of her heart that were designed to be met by Jesus himself.
The conversation also brought to mind the woman caught in adultery, and how Jesus dealt with the accusing crowd who lacked mercy and love, but also corrected the adulterous woman by exhorting to go and sin no more. I pray that I myself would minister like Jesus, lovingly yet firmly, and also that our churches would not be like the self-righteous Pharisees, but the gracious Savior.
It was another fun filled day!