Overview: New christian community

Think your friends won’t enjoy church? Surprise them! “Church” doesn’t have to look the way you think. It can appeal to people who have been put off by “church” as we know it.

STARTER

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GUIDE

 

Imagine you’ve found a friend, discovered simple ways to love people round you, built friendships with them, and shared your faith.

  1. What next?

Maybe it won’t work to invite those coming to faith to an existing church – at least, not yet.

Instead, form a new Christian community where people are.

Meet regularly to:

  • Discuss the Bible
  • Pray
  • Worship

And ask God to help you.

  1. Introducing worship can be easy

Continue with Discovery Bible Study described in 2. Share faith /Guide.

Then, for example, light a candle, play some Christian music, let people sing in their hearts, and have a short time of prayerful silence. You don’t have to sing or pray out loud.

If you use music, find types of worship music that match the culture of the people you are with.

When you encourage people to pray, why not use a well-chosen scent? Revelation 5.8 likens prayer to incense. Fragrances have long been used in Christian worship.

Encourage gifts within the community. Invite someone:

  • To enrich your worship with photos expressing God’s greatness or highlighting issues for prayer
  • To contribute a poem (their own or published)
  • To bring an object they have made, or an object from home that speaks to them
  • To write Christian lyrics to a pop song

If possible, meet over a meal and include planning in your worship. Mix together study, prayer, worship, fellowship and organising.

During the Last Supper, Jesus and his community ate and worshipped together, but also did some planning – “after my resurrection, meet me in Galilee,” said Jesus (Mark 14.28).

Take worship into life through a WhatsApp group. Through the week, community members can “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3.13) and share prayer requests, answers to prayer and instances of God at work.

Remember three golden rules:

  • Keep worship simple
  • Keep it natural
  • Keep it relevant
  1. Connect your community to a local church

Let the community be a new congregation, group or worship service of a local church or congregation.

Forge mutually enriching relationships between the new community and the original congregation or church:

  • Social events can draw old and new Christians together
  • Small groups of new and long-standing believers can explore a shared interest, study the Bible, or organise an outreach activity (e.g. a bereavement support group)
  • Some people may want to worship both in their new community and in another congregation or church they are linked with
  • Leaders of new communities can meet with a church leader for peer-to-peer learning, encouragement and accountability.

Rather like the Trinity who are three persons united as one, a local church can be made up of multiple groups, communities, or congregations that are joined together.

  1. Remember the “mixed economy”!

New forms of church are not better than older ones. Nor are existing churches better than new ones.

In a “blended” or “mixed economy” church, each can enrich the other. New communities can reach people untouched by existing churches. Existing churches have centuries of wisdom that new communities can draw on.

Worried that a new Christian community will drain resources from the existing church? Instead, think of the opportunities. True, Christians involved in new communities may have less time for activities within an established congregation.

However, by reaching new people, these communities will bring fresh gifts into the church. And this is the long-term answer to dwindling resources.

  1. For example

A new Christian in Knit and Natter attends her new community on Tuesdays. She also goes to meetings of a conventional church on Mondays and Fridays. Perhaps one day she will be a key volunteer in the older church.

An Alpha congregation of people from outside the church started contributing to the finances of its parent congregation – music to a church treasurer’s ears!

If your community does not have links with a specific local church, connect with other churches in the area, perhaps through local arrangements that bring churches together.

Or consider exploring links with one of the dispersed new (or traditional) monastic orders – e.g. Northumbria Community, Iona Community, Contemplative Fire, Franciscan Tertiaries.

  1. Advantages

  • There are big advantages in starting a new Christian community rather than inviting people to an existing church:
  • Individuals exploring Christianity can grow in faith where they are, rather than attend a church with unfamiliar people and practices.
  • What happens can be tailored to new believers’ interests, questions, and where they are at.
  • They can more readily share their gifts and help lead the new community, strengthening their commitment and spiritual growth.
  • They can acquire habits of Christian behavior that fit their specific context. Rather than selling out to culture, new and existing Christians can discover how to live like Jesus within their culture.
  • Connections to the wider church will resource new believers’ growth in Christian maturity.
  • If the new community comes to a natural end, these connections will offer pathways to another Christian gathering.
  1. Afraid these new communities will divide the church?

Remember: if a congregation insists that everyone worships together, it will face the even bigger danger of excluding lots of people.

If you doubt this, watch the animation. Who decides when and where Christians worship, the type of music, length of talk and so on? Christians – us. Then we invite our friends. But the invitation is to come to church on our terms.

Why should people come? Even if they do, how can our church become their church?

  1. So make the church inclusive

Prayerfully start a new Christian community at a time and place, with a style and agenda that works for people who find the existing church inaccessible.

Jesus came for everyone. As his body, the church must be for everyone too.

Stories

Andrea stresses the importance of discipleship and worship matching the culture of the people you are with.

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Action

Bible

  1. Read Matthew 18.19–20. Spend time prayerfully reflecting on the phrase, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Share any thoughts that come to you.
  2. Imagine you invited some of your friends to the Sunday worship of a typical local church (it might be yours!). What would they find surprising, helpful, and off-putting in the way that these Christians “came together in Jesus’ name”?
  3. If these friends decided to follow Jesus, what would be a natural way for them to worship? For example:
  • Might they prefer a sermon/talk, a podcast/video, a discussion, or some combination?
  • Might they find it helpful to sing Christian songs/hymns or listen to some Christian music? What type of Christian music might they prefer?
  • Might they value combining worship with a meal or keeping the two separate?
  • How might they pray – through spontaneous spoken prayers, written prayers, silent prayer, reflecting on a piece of Christian art, or some form of ‘action prayer’ (such as writing letters on behalf of Amnesty International, for example, and turning these letters into prayer)?
  • What else would they find helpful?
  1. In learning how to worship, what New Testament principles might they be advised to follow?

For discussion

  1. Might you learn more about new Christian communities? For example, might you or someone in the group:
  • Read one or more stories about a new Christian community (see 2 below), and report back to the group?
  • Select one of the Fresh Expressions videos for the group to watch?
  • Invite someone leading a new Christian community to talk to your group?
  • Identify a new Christian community near you to visit?
  1. Download the free fresh expressions-stories app (from Apple or from Google Play) and post a question. For example, ask if anyone can help you with the above bullet points?