I'm just back from a stimulating church weekend away with a neighbouring church. I was leading the conversation on how we live as Christians and do church in Mcworld. As well as me talking, the church worked in groups applying the message from Philippians to their local situation.
So much, so common - it happens at church weekend up and down the land.
But I started wondering half-way through the weekend - in the light of the discussion on this blog about membership and church meetings - how this process differed from a regular church meeting where God's people gather to discern the way ahead.
Stuart from Kirkintilloch Baptist Church (hi Stuart - really nice to hear from you - greetings to everyone there!) points out that church meetings are more than a check and balance. They should be places of creativity and insight. He suggests that leaders ought to be creating a culture of participation and teaching participation as a spiritual discipline (I like that phrase very much).
I think the spiritual discipline of participation was on view over the weekend I've just returned from. People seriously and intelligently wrestled with what the Scriptures were saying to them in their particular context. And it was not just general stuff. Some of the feedback from the groups indicated that people were really seeking to apply insights to decisions the church has to make about its future direction, structure and organization.
It was like being at an exciting, extended church meeting.
Of course we were away for a whole weekend, eating together, walking and playing together, laughing over coffee and chocolate late into the night. Out of these relationships came honesty and engagement. That can't be replicated in an hour on wet Wednesday in the church's back hall.
But the group work part of this can. What if church meetings become just part of a consultation process that also includes home groups and other small group gathering where people share out deepening relationships. Creativity and insight can be encouraged there far more easily than at church meetings. Participation can be taught and modeled over a long period of time. People cane share in the security of knowing they are doing so among friends (sadly, not always true at church meetings).
Perhaps no important business relating to the direction or the mission of the church should come to church meetings until it has been thrashed out in home groups over a couple of sessions. Would that improve participation and decision-making?