Relationships THEN Rhythms
Every church you and I have every been part of has been event-centric. This is precisely why defining "church" is often challenging for us. Although we understand that a church is a community of people, not confined to a physical place, our language often gives away our mindset. When we say, "we're going to church," what we truly mean is, "we're attending a worship service" or sometimes, "we're heading to the church building where services take place."In the traditional church model, the initial step is usually inviting individuals to a spiritual routine: a worship service. Following their engagement with this routine, the next progression is to introduce these new attendees to a smaller group (home group) or a service team. It's within these more intimate circles that personal relationships begin to develop, and eventually, for a select few, these connections lead to involvement in more personal rhythms and relationships.
However, let's consider a different approach—one that prioritizes relationships over events. Rather than introducing people to spiritual routines right away, let me advocate for building personal relationships as the starting point. But how does this alternative approach function?
We initiate with a personal relationship rhythm. This isn't a spiritual routine but an opportunity to establish connections through sharing names, family details, personal stories, and more.
From here, we progress to a serving rhythm. This could look like working together in the community. It might be taking on a discipleship relationship or establishing a mission together.
Lastly, we introduce the spiritual rhythm, but only after establishing a personal connection. This way, everyone participating in the spiritual rhythm is already interconnected on a relational level.
By prioritizing deep connections, we can genuinely experience the essence of church. Being a part of our church isn't solely contingent on engaging in our spiritual rhythm. The sequence in which we invite people is crucial.
So, what needs to change in your understanding, emotions, and actions to embrace this concept fully?
Understanding: Church centers around relational interdependence, not mere attendance. If attendance becomes the primary focus, the depth of interdependence suffers. The New Testament envisions a vibrant, love-filled community that draws even non-believers. This magnetism originates from the love among disciples. However, if the blueprint for the church emphasizes attendance, interdependence is compromised.
Emotionally: if you're anchored in relationships, you genuinely care about each individual. You're aware of their stories, struggles, and current life situations. You feel connected to their experiences, which is the essence of a true community. When this sentiment resonates with you, you're entering the realm of interdependence.
Actions: the aim is to intentionally connect with each person. When you notice someone engaging in an Open Table or a rhythm focused on building personal relationships, treat them as you would any other friend. Spend time with them, invite them over. Becoming friends follows a similar trajectory: pursuing personal and relational connections. This is how we naturally progress into deeper spiritual community rhythms.
Our goal isn't to amass attendees. Instead, we're committed to emphasizing relationships and nurturing an interdependent body.