My Lost Comment on Carlos Whittaker’s Blog

He asks if online community can be considered church. I posted the following a couple times and tweeted at Carlos to troubleshoot the issue, but still no public comment. So I’ll throw it out on my blog:

Shane Hipps made some really interesting observations about virtual community a few years back:

I view any communication that happens online as correspondence. Really fast, media-rich correspondence.

Did Paul stop belonging to any of the churches he planted when he moved on to the next town? Paul corresponded with brothers and sisters in other places. He also spent months at a time in prison.

Pretty sure the Romans weren’t big on letting prisoners out for weekly church services.

Those letters of correspondence, along with the believers that visited him and brought him food, were his church for a season.


6 Reasons to Prayer Walk

From the time we’re very young, many believers are taught to prepare for prayer with these instructions: “Fold your hands, close your eyes, and bow your heads.” It’s a great way to keep kids quiet for a moment while you bless a meal, but it’s not the only way to pray. In fact, I’ve found that doing the exact opposite is a great way to pray, as well: stand up, open your eyes, and walk around the neighborhood. Here are some reasons why:

1. Walking is good exercise. Staying active is vital to physical health. Praying is vital to spiritual health. Why not do both at the same time?

2. Walking engages the mind. A walk is great for inspiring creativity, including creativity in prayer. I think better when I’m moving rather than sitting still. I’m able to focus my thoughts and keep them focused for longer periods of time than when sitting. Others don’t necessarily think better when they move, but their minds work differently from when they sit, opening up new possibilities to tune in to God’s spirit.

3. Walking can make prayer more social. Walking and talking seem to compliment each other really well, and when you include God, they get even better. I frequently walk with someone else, whether it’s my son riding along in his stroller, or another believer that shares a similar interest in praying for our community. I’m able to be an example for my son of how to talk to God, and I’m able to learn from other believers as they speak the prayers God has put on their hearts.

4. Unexpected things can happen when you walk. God reveals himself surprisingly quickly when we go into the community and talk with him. It’s almost like he’s been waiting for us to join him in our neighborhoods, and when we do, he jumps out and yells “Here I am! Look what I’m doing over here! I want you to get in on this!”

5. God can make you the answer to someone else’s prayers when you walk. Sometimes as I’ve approached people on the street during my prayer walks, I’ve felt God prompt me to talk with them, leading to some pretty cool conversations. I’ve even been able to pray with them right there on the street.

6. “As a man prays, so he is.” AW Tozer was on to something. Sometimes, prayer can feel like a repetitive chore to check off the religious checklist for the day. Walking puts a different spin on prayer. As a friend of mine put it, “I believe there is an intentionality to getting out of your routine and location that moves us from religious repetition to relational conversation.”

There’s really no wrong way to prayer walk, but it can take some practice and some patience. It’s okay to test it out by yourself a couple times to get a feel for the right pace and distance. It can also take some time to get comfortable praying out loud while you walk around with your eyes open. Give it a few tries and see if God does something powerful through your prayers.

Too Long; Didn’t Disciple

Some interesting ideas here from David Murrow on what a church might look like if it were built around spiritual coaching, but I wonder if the whole thing could stand up under it’s own weight. Turnover is also a reality in discipleship, and this model seems to rely on some amount of consistent critical mass to attract disciples to the “league”.

Also, I don’t think it’s wise to assume that women and children will just magically follow Jesus and experience body life because their husbands and fathers are in a discipleship program. I do believe that a committed man is the most influential factor in raising a Christ-centered family, but a man isn’t the only person that needs structured discipleship.

Of course, God demonstrates his wisdom in variety, and this kind of church would definitely demonstrate a different facet of his wisdom.

Community Without Relationships

Alan Knox explains one risk of the Sunday morning ministry machine:

“A few years ago, Margaret and I were part of a children’s ministry. I was director of this ministry, while Margaret was one of the teachers. We had several other teachers and leaders and helpers that served within this ministry. In the eyes of the church leadership, this ministry was “successful” because we involved large numbers of adults and served large numbers of children.

But, in reality, looking back, we did not have strong relationships with either the adults involved in the ministry or with the children that we served. (We did have a strong relationship with one family, but that relationship existed before we served together in this ministry.) Why were we able to serve “successfully” without relationships? Because the structures propped it up. We each had a position and a job description. We did what we were supposed to do. It was fun and rewarding for the kids, so they came.”

All believers bear the responsibility of initiating and nurturing relationships, but we can set ourselves up to succeed or struggle by what we choose to repeatedly do.

Tired of Being Lonely and Anonymous in Church

More from David Murrow on coaching churches:

“One of the biggest drawbacks with church planting today is we start at Acts 2. We gather a few families and open our doors, trying to attract a crowd. Our very first offering is a public worship service. We build not upon the foundation of men who’ve served Jesus together, but upon the foundation of the pastor and his ability to deliver inspiring sermons.

Staging this weekly music-and-preaching event takes so much time, effort and money that there are few resources left for personal discipling. From day one we train people to become worshippers, not disciples, because worship is what we do.”

David suggests that the Gospel of Luke includes a more man-friendly model of ministry focused on personal coaching, rather than large group teaching. He admits there’s a lot to flesh out, but the fundamental proposition is pretty exciting:

“So what if we planted churches based on the model we see in the Gospel of Luke? The church planter(s) would build the congregation not around a weekly preaching-and-music event, but around weekly coaching sessions with small groups of men.

In other words, the men of this church don’t “go to church” on Sunday. Their church would be their weekly time of coaching.”

Where do I sign up?

Just Get Everyone to Think Exactly Like You and You’re Set

I like the questions Jennifer asks, and it’s fun to rethink the assumptions of Western ministry models, but don’t expect the rest of churchianity to join you. Instead, we need to encourage believers to establish new ministries along side the old, and we need to encourage camaraderie and collaboration among the institutionally inclined.

Truly disruptive innovations don’t replace old paradigms wholesale, they displace the old paradigms slowly as markets change.

A Few Highly Committed People

Neil Cole:

“Too often, in our desire to keep people, we change church to accommodate bad soil and end up with larger fruitless congregations that want all their needs met and have no desire to serve others. Open the back door!”

I wonder how many pastors are facing the realization that they can grow a church or reach a community?

We Are Not Called to Cater to Customers

Ed Stetzer:

“Too many churches love their comfort more than their mission.

The fact is, your church probably needs to be less focused on what makes it happy and more focused on what pleases Jesus. This is an easy trap to fall into because it happens very subtly.

The fact is that most churches have worked very hard to get to a place where congregational customers are happy–their needs are met. The problem is that we are not called to cater to customers. We are called to equip co-laborers.”

The problem is that customers pay money. Co-laborers are not a dependable income base.

You’re Probably Not as Good as Francis Chan

Neil Cole addresses a key question for professional ministers considering the validity of organic church:

“No matter how good you are at preaching (and lets face it, you’re probably not as good as Francis Chan), you need to weigh your own personal fulfillment against the fulfillment of the ministry of the Saints in the body.”

We Need a Sustainable Christian Lifestyle

Actually, this already exists. It’s called “listening to Jesus and doing what he says.”

We need to ween ourselves off of systems and formulas and role models and tune in to Jesus’s real-time leading.