Tonight marked the first night of my "Spring Session," a fancy title for this semester's bible study, which I'm blessed to host at my apartment.
The last couple weeks my co-leader, Bryan, and I took some time to refocus ourselves. We had attempted starting a home church in 2011, but weren't having very much success with attendance. We realized that a short hiatus was necessary, and I'm very glad we took one.
In that time, I was able to reflect upon what I truly wanted out of this experience. I'd led groups before, but both were established. Both had the ground work laid out. This group, however, doesn't have a "feeder" system.
It isn't affiliated with any local campus ministry, nor is it a part of a local church. We're starting from scratch.
This isn't bad. In fact, I like that we're doing "our own thing."
It's important to reinvent. Sometimes, it's incredibly necessary to take a step back, and to ask yourself what you truly want from an experience, before trying to create it.
This is what I came up with:
These are things that, I hope, our community can create for anyone who attends.
Authenticity: An environment that isn't airbrushed. A place that isn't a cliche' cutout of Christian culture. Many groups strive tirelessly to achieve this kind of environment.
So often I see small groups pray, try to memorize Bible verses or use certain types of language/jargon...well...because you have to. And while things like prayer aren't bad, necessarily, I do think ritualism can definitely cheapen the act itself. The significance of prayer doesn't lie in its regularity. Just because we pray every week to open and close the study, doesn't mean it's the real thing. If we pray, we pray for real. If we memorize, it isn't out of compulsory feelings, but will be a personal/group choice. You can't manufacture authenticity.
Action: That we would, first and foremost, preach with our lives before we preach with our mouths.
One of the most important aspects of a Christian's lifestyle is their drive to alleviate the world's sufferings. This can take many forms. Not every Christian will work in a refugee camp, or spend time at a homeless shelter, but my personal prayer is that we can create a community that is continually looking to change the world, one act of random kindness at a time. Giving someone a ride, tutoring a struggling peer, being there for friends in the midst of personal tragedies.
We are never at a loss of opportunities to make the world a better place.
Doubt: Probably one of the rarest values that I've found emphasised in Christian small group world.
"One can never fully realize their own convictions, until they've been challenged, questioned and have learned the art of doubt."
Doubt is essential to faith. Questions lead us to admit that we don't know all the answers. Challenging doctrines, ideals, and traditions rather than face value acceptance leads to study, and a deeper knowledge of these elements.
Application: A conscious knowledge that the Scriptures aren't merely dusty old texts, but real, living, breathing applications. That there is life in the letters, and that God can truly speak to us through them.
These are the four things that I hope will define our new little community. As I said, tonight marked the first of the Spring semester sessions, but now with a renewed approach, I'm confident and very excited to begin a new kind of journey with my brothers and sisters.
Community is a hard thing to create, but it's worth it!