The goal of a thriving church is to transform lives, remaking us in God’s image. You can tell churches that are truly alive because we see signs of transformation. For this to happen, we venture outward beyond our solitary selves, even beyond our familiar daily circle. We gather with others and invite the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this is in standard “churchy” ways, other times in human ways.
As we come together sharing a common purpose, to connect with each other and support each other in this hyper-individualistic society, we know that God smiles. This is how God equips us to cope with bad times and celebrate good times. We easily lose track–imagining ourselves self-made—how much we need each other.
God calls the church form these essential connections by creating community and modeling that the church is where we look for comfort, support, and a sense of belonging. Actually, we have been working on this at FCC, Darien since last summer, and even now see the fruits of it already beginning to appear among us.
Sally Bassler, Mandy Teare, and Mariann Bigelow spent most of last autumn go-ing up to First Congregational, Ridgefield to learn about their use of small groups. We have all been in conversation to apply what that church does to our setting. We have been rolling out what we are calling small group Connections where we can be together, where we might also invite many who don’t already attend here.
You’ve heard us mention groups like men’s fellowship, gardening, films, novels, sharing faith journeys, ladies’ fellowship, young mother support, and still others. We hope this is just a start in creating gatherings for us to know and be known by each other, and to invite newcomers into accessible and appealing groups where they might become caught up in the energy of our church by knowing its people.
The truth is we live in a forever changed world. The mainline church has been slower to come around and respond to this new era. Just stomping our feet and wondering why others aren’t coming to church the way most of us came is not good enough. If lots of us found our way into these Connections groups–some explicitly sharing the faith, others not so much—it would energize our church life.
Would you let yourself enter into such a group? Would you consider creating one where you affiliate, get caught up in other people, and let God at work with that?
Like this, we start where we are to move deliberately toward where God calls into the future. The beauty of Jesus is how he accepts each of us wherever we are on life’s journey. He accepts us just as we are, but he doesn’t leave us there either.
If we have been wondering about and praying for a vision for our church, it might begin in ways as humble as this. It’s fitting to lift this up at Pentecost. After all, the mainstream church is certainly at a crossroads moment, just like Acts chapter 2