My thoughts: A Sampler

I started this post as a brief sampler, and it “grew in the telling,” as Tolkien said about writing the Lord of the Rings. Maybe your comments will help me see which are the most interesting to you, and therefore the ones I will want to make time to write more about.

  • I continue to meet on Wednesday mornings with three other pastors in town (from Godsong, Northside, and Newberg Foursquare). That has truly been a gift, and is becoming quite exciting as we are feeling God moving us toward unity. Today we committed to our four churches working together to throw a party for the south side of Newberg. The weekend of September 15-17, we envision a big barbecue in the field by Edwards school, a free gift to our neighbors. During the day, we picture all kinds of volunteers from all four churches, offering our services for free to anyone who needs it: free haircuts, school supplies, clothes, bike repair, car repair, maybe a bunch of trucks to go around to houses and take stuff to the dump for free, whatever else people want to offer as a gift to the community. It seems so right to join together as churches and offer something to our community with no strings attached, no expectations to show up at church, just a gift.
  • I’m still reading stuff about Newberg Friends history. From the very early days, I’m absolutely amazed at how the differences between unprogrammed/Conservative Friends and Evangelical/revivalist Friends were resolved because each gave grace to the other, each wanted God to be active, each thought the other had something to bring. (Somewhere in the 20’s, that amazing grace seems to have gotten lost.)
  • This week, I’ve been collecting various mission statements and/or slogans over the years of our church, as well as reading through minutes from long range planning groups over the last 30 years. I’m going to work hard to get a written summary of the common themes of these long range planning groups within the next week or so out for our NFC folks. I’m impressed with how much we’ve accomplished in the last 30 years, and also how we’ve identified the same issues over and over again as struggles. I also think, looking back at these minutes and plans, that I’m centering in on one of the main changes we need to talk through together now. For a very long time, NFC (and many other churches) have thought mainly in terms of how to get people into church. Many lately have called this an “attractional” model of church. The megachurch boom is based on an attractional model, and there are warning signs on several levels about it. It’s largely the Boomer generation that is fueling the megachurch boom; it isn’t reaching the two generations younger than the boomers. It’s fading in numbers overall. And perhaps more significantly, many are raising questions about whether a model which has as its goal simply “to get people in the church” is failing to enable true life change, true deep and transforming “followership” of Christ. I think it will be important at NFC to highlight those past assumptions, and talk about what we’re seeing in our current world that needs a different approach.
  • More on attractional…we’ll need different new ministries, different expressions of God’s Spirit, to truly bring the story of Jesus to a culture that is increasingly distant and unaware of the biblical story. But we will definitely still need what might be called a “traditional” church experience. And when I say that, I think I mean being faithful to our Yearly Meeting community, many of whom retire to our community and have been invested heavily in Newberg Friends over the years. It is our responsibility to honor and serve those who have gone before us. So, how do we have an expression of church that serves people of all ages for whom “new” and “innovative” and “non-traditional” are not desired? Could our “traditional” expression of worship become a growing base of support (financially, prayerfully, with wisdom) for a growing number of new works? Is that a way for us to have unity in vision, unity in service to our world, without feeling like we are “losing” what is important to us?
  • I’m completely amazed at the way in which God is opening new things in my life. It’s like God is overwhelming me with answers to prayer, with deep and profound encounters of God’s presence. God is at work in me, and God is at work in our town. Sometime I’ve got to write about what God is doing at Godsong Community. It’s unbelievable and moving and contagiously encouraging.
  • A lot of what I read from the long range planning at NFC in the seventies, eighties and early nineties was focused not on growing a church through methods, but finding ways to eliminate the barriers to the growth that God wanted to bring (thinking about parking, space for fellowship, Sunday School classes, etc.) The worst expressions of “seeker sensitive” or “market driven” or “if we build it, they will come” thinking has NOT been our history. I’m glad for that. I’m wondering if it is possible to continue to work at eliminating those barriers. Maybe a growth of our more “traditional” model then becomes the catalyst and growing resource pool for launching more and more new works and leaders into our world. Maybe that growth supports an unprogrammed meeting, and house churches, and business ventures and ministries of service to our community. Maybe we don’t try to grow for growth’s sake, but we be more intentional about “traditional growth” as a means to support “alternative growth.” Does that make sense, or am I too tired for this attempt?
  • Did I mention God’s Spirit has been overwhelming me? I can’t even begin to list the ways God has used people to speak words into my life in ways that the people speaking them would have no idea how much their words and their timing are so connected with other things God is speaking to me as well. Did I mention I have an overwhelming hope and confidence that God is powerfully at work at Newberg Friends? Did I mention that part of that life God is bringing seems also to be bringing disagreement and even dissension to us…and that several people are saying that’s good? Did I mention that, at least for the moment, I am not afraid? That I am so looking forward to what God will do in us and in me?

I have hope and vision that Newberg Friends is going to be thrust right into the middle of God’s earth-shaking movement in the city of Newberg. We will join–I think first through confession, then through joyful worship, then through service–we will join other gatherings of Christ’s church here in Newberg in finding that God’s Spirit wants to move powerfully, bringing healing, hope, peace, and justice in our community. No more religion as dead ritual. No more turf wars over what ultimately doesn’t matter.

I see God doing a new thing. I see us facing a choice as a body, a choice of whether we will join the new thing, or whether we will hold on to our own concerns and watch the things of God rush ahead without us. I see us having to hold our thoughts and feelings and plans loosely (I include “me” in the “us”), in order that what God wants to do in and through us might be discerned and acted upon.

There are lots of reasons for this, but I no longer have any doubts that God will be transforming Christ’s church in Newberg in ways that will bring a fresh outpouring of the Spirit’s power and will result in new people experiencing the freedom and peace and love and justice of life with God through Jesus Christ. The only open question is whether we’ll join it, miss it…or be a block to it.

4 thoughts on “My thoughts: A Sampler

  1. Gregg,

    In regard to “dissension and disagreement”…I recently spent a “guys weekend” at Black Butte with 14 other men from our church. In addition to fly fishing the Crooked River, mountain biking near Smith Rock and fightin it out on the tennis court…there were some good informal discussions both corporately and in smaller groups. These are typically fun and interesting discussions…in one such case we covered the topics of lust, the philosopher Levinas and another modern day “philosopher” Chris Farley…would you expect anything different from a guys weekend? Anyway, in one of our discussions Corey pointed out that in the philosopher community disagreement/questioning is more of a complement to another person than agreement because it promotes further discussion, and more understanding as the parties flesh out their arguments on either side. We also discussed the idea of “disagree but commit” which is a concept I became very familiar with as I navigated the corporate shark infested waters over the last 10 years. The idea here being that, “we may not always agree but for the good of the community we need to take a course of action and support it as a whole.” I think you’ve referred to a similar attitude in some of your discussions about earlier days in our church.

    A general comment on the blog…I note a difference in tone recently. I sense a shift from a reactive mindset to a more proactive mindset and I like it. It probably feels better for you too.

    I still think you’re crazy for “putting yourself out there” though…but who am I?


  2. Thanks, Scott, for your thoughts on “disagree but commit.” I think that is an incredibly important concept across the board for groups, whether corporate or private or a church. And you’re right…proactive does feel better.

    Thanks Marta and Robin for the affirmation. We’ll see if I get time to write this weekend!


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