Starting from Scratch
Becky and I have had several individuals/couples reach out to us over the last couple of months asking about gathered church. In each case they moved from one place to another and are having trouble connecting with like minded followers of Jesus in their new environment.
Each conversation starts with a discussion around connecting with churches in the area, but for one reason or another [values, schedule, distance] things never really shift into a thriving rhythm. We typically bring the conversation around to one of 3 thoughts the Lord gave us a few years ago that we have continued to use as our compass for our rhythms with him and with those journeying with us — be near to me, love my words, love your life.
Rhythms around the table [be near to me]
One of the things we often bring into the conversation is our family rhythm of Sabbath dinners. This has become a center point in our rhythms together as a family and with those close to us. Our dinner begins when the kids run around the house turning off all the lights. Becky lights the dinner candles and welcomes God’s spirit to be with us as we share our time together. Then she prays a blessing over our family and our guests. Wine [juice for the kids] and bread [gluten free when needed] are passed around and I lead us in a time of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, his life for ours.
We dive into our meal and conversation, sharing thoughts of all shapes and sizes. We talk about God, ways he has met us in desperate places. We talk about funny things the kids have said or done in the last week [or in the hour leading up to our dinner]. Mostly, we enjoy the company, the conversation, and just relax. This is an important rhythm for us, because it is a guarded time of deep connection with God and one another.
Rhythms with God’s words [love my words]
Another key value in our family is to love and to know God’s words — both in scripture and in the present moment. God what are you saying to us through your written word? In our circumstances? Within our relationships? Through individual time of meditation and prayer?
While this value can be explored during a Sunday morning church service, it’s not limited to this venue. Where we are exposed to God’s words is less important to our family. It’s the depth and regularity that we’re after.
Workout what fits best for your family in a particular season of time. Our family reflects on and loves the words of God together though our Sabbath dinners and through reading scripture together as a family — with the age of our kiddos, this looks like reading a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible and sharing what we liked about it]. Becky and I will also, from time to time, talk through a particular teaching podcast we were impacted by.
Rhythms of refreshment [love your life]
Go do stuff you like. What do you enjoy? If you had more free time, what would you find yourself doing? Find regular rhythms with people [or a person] who like those things too. If they know Jesus, invite them into your family rhythms of following Jesus together. If they don’t know Jesus, invite them into your family rhythms and let them participate in whatever way they feel comfortable.
But, if there aren’t any Jesus followers in your city that you connect with deeply, that’s okay. It may just take time, or others may not be on the same path that you are. No need to force anything! In the mean time. Why not connect with people you already relate to deeply — FaceTime, Skype, google chat, phone call, texting… these are great ways to connect across lots of miles. No reason not to make use of the digital world!
Rhythms take time
Rhythms take time to develop. And this is okay! If it takes 4 months to find a rhythm of gathering naturally around the dinner table in a way that feels like your family, that’s great! When after week 4 your rhythms of loving God’s words together don’t feel normal, but still feel forced, no problem. If it takes you 6 months to determine what you actually like to do, not an issue. This is not a 3 step process. This is building life together over time.
What’s important is that you continue working out the values of following Jesus without feeling bad that you may need [want] to work these rhythms out differently than those around you in a [every?] particular season of time. Jesus never said to attend a church service every Sunday morning. But he did say love my words and put them into practice. It’s the putting into practice that we’re working through here. So, if you find yourself in a new place asking God how you are to move forward, begin with the values and find your way from there.
Any of this resonate? I’d love to continue the conversation and hear your thoughts.
Thanks for journeying alongside,
Oh yeah, and if you resonate with this article, consider joining the conversation more regularly! I send out a super helpful [I think it’s helpful] short email with  highlights of content over the last month [or so], my 5-things email — meaningful content for the religiously disillusioned [or spiritually tired] seeking to practically and authentically follow Jesus in real life.