We’re All on the Same Team
The last post in this series “What Is (The) Church?” focuses on the ecumenical church. But before I begin, I must confess my predisposition on this subject. I believe in one church, as described in the Apostles’ Creed. At the end of the day, I think many Christians in western societies will concur with that belief… in theory. But, I believe our practice reflects a different belief, at least in part. (I’ll write more about that in the next post.)
As I began discipling these young women, something interesting began to happen. Young men began approaching me, asking if there was anything similar to my group for them. To my knowledge, there wasn’t. (My theology doesn’t lend itself to me leading/teaching men in that context. I will write more on that subject in the weeks ahead, but for now, just know the possibility of me replicating my group in that way wasn’t an option.) However, as the weeks and months went on, the need for SOMETHING was undeniable, so I approached my church with a proposal.
Confession: I’m pretty methodical in my approach to most things in life. (I’m also a 8w7 on the Enneagram, which I find to be a fascinating… and EXHAUSTING… combination!) When tackling an issue like this, I always look that the perceived need, the actual need (which may, or may not be the same as the perceived need), and then a remedy to solve the problem that best suits both the purpose and function of the church. In this case, the perceived need was a place for young men to connect for teaching, fellowship, and accountability. The actual need lined up pretty well with this, however, I began to see an underlying issue.
The church in New England is small. I know of youth groups in the south that are larger than my entire congregation. During that season, there really wasn’t a large young adult ministry outside of college campuses, run by para-church organizations. So, I asked my church to host an ongoing event called “Live It Out!” The premise was simple and ecumenical to the core. Our church, the largest in the area, would host the event once a quarter. I would bring in a worship band from Rhode Island (partly because I missed my friends, but also because their hearts for the Lord and ability to lead worship are second to none). We would always host a meal because food is important to this age demographic and there would always be a teaching component from a pastor NOT affiliated with our church.
At first, many people didn’t understand that last requisite, especially the staff at my church. But, the reason was simple. I wanted to create a space for young adults in the community to hear God’s word (with a message culturally relevant to their season in life), make connections with other young adults in their community… AND NOT LEAVE THEIR CHURCH HOME. The need for community within the young adult community was obvious, but so was the danger in creating a ministry within the walls of one church. A healthy church consists of young and old, men and women and let’s not forget racial diversity. The last thing I wanted to do was meet the need of a small group of people while simultaneously causing a crucial demographic to leave a large number of churches in the community.
Live It Out! lasted for about a year. The first event had 50 young adults. The second had 120. People were taking notice of both the growth within the event, as well as (and more importantly), the transformation taking place in the young men and women who attended. They were becoming more involved in their home churches. They were seeking fellowship with one another outside of the events. Many began volunteering with local organizations. God was moving. Our family eventually left the church, but the seed was planted. Others have come along to water it and there is growth in so many lives because of it. But, most importantly, the church was encouraged (and hopefully strengthened) by it. At a time when it often seems like we’re more interested in lifting the banner of our name (whether that’s an individual name or a the name of a specific church) higher than the name of Jesus, this was a reminder that working TOGETHER in HIS name eliminates so much of the temptation to underscore our own.