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New Ground

Spirit of Joy is now 15 years old. And just like a teenager, we have major life-decisions to make. What sort of church are we? Where do we belong? Which of our values carry us forward? Who is God calling us to become? How do we prepare for a long, productive ministry together that hears the call of Jesus to bring wholeness to a broken world? 

The purpose of this process: To align our resources with our identity and place them in service of our mission.

On Saturday, September 13, we met as a congregation to reach consensus on the beliefs, behaviors, strategies and actions needed for transformational change. 
  • Beliefs: core convictions, habits of thought, unstated rules, that govern our behavior. Ex.: People are good.
  • Behaviors: deep-seated habits that reflect our true beliefs. Ex.: Listening with respect.
  • Strategies: structured plans designed to achieve a desired goal. Ex.: Move to an optimal location.
  • Actions: specific steps that are used to implement a strategy. Ex.: Decide who we are called to serve.

 Transformational Change

A Pastoral Word about our Congregational meeting Saturday 1/17

posted Jan 13, 2015, 9:56 AM by David Cobb

As pastor of Spirit of Joy I'm grateful for the prayers, the spiritual commitment, and the expertise that have been coming together over the course of this past year as we prepare to leave our adolescence and enter into young adulthood as a congregation. We are 15 going on 16, and in church life-cycles, that means we're about to make some significant decisions that will shape our future.

We know adolescence is a difficult time in our personal lives. We face decisions about who we are, who are friends are, what paths to pursue, which doors to open and which ones to close. We experiment with different styles of clothes, music, and language. We drive our parents a little bit crazy. Our idealism ramps up to fever pitch, along with our judgment of others and ourselves. But at the same time, we feel deeper compassion and tolerance for others than we've ever felt. We become aware of our own limitations while feeling invincible. We feel the deepest betrayals cutting our heart in two while simultaneously falling passionately in love.

It's fortunate that all of us who are adults were 15 once. But it's also fortunate that we didn't stay that age forever. Who could sustain it?

To complicate matters, we bring our own individual coming-of-age to our church community. You may remember we explored family-of-origin issues in some depth last winter and spring, discovering how our own upbringing still shapes our spiritual lives and frames our expectations and experiences of the church today. 

Thankfully, we bring our own adult faith experiences with us, too. We're our own older mentor as our community comes of age. Individually we have walked this path before. We bring the self-reflection and spiritual strength of the older self we know in our 20s, 40s, 60s, and 80s, to walk beside the emerging "self" that is Spirit of Joy at 15.

This Saturday is an important day for us. Thirty-five of us have been directly involved in one of our four focus groups since September and many more have been involved indirectly. The ongoing work of these groups has explored in spiritual and practical matters the main things involved in Selling the Property or staying in it, articulating our Identity and Mission, nurturing Healthy Stewardship, and Finding New Space. These groups will be sharing tonight in Ministry Council and on Saturday at our Congregational Meeting what they have discovered so that we can discuss it all together and reach consensus about our next step together as a congregation.

Here's what we know so far.
  • We have become reluctant to pour more financial or human resources into our building, because it has become an increasingly difficult place to be who we are called to be. If consensus is measured as much by our behavior as by the words we say, we are in consensus that our building and our ministry are not currently compatible.
  • We have also made clear that whatever we decide, we want to stay together as a community. Strong feelings have been expressed in the last year that our future depends on what we decide about our building: 
    • Should we put more resources into our current building to make it a great tool for our ministry? or 
    • Should we find another place that will help us follow our calling more effectively and faithfully?
  • We know this. We are called to be a community that stimulates inquiring minds, nurtures contemplative souls, and engages compassionate hearts in ministry for others.
  • Our financial stewardship is healthy and strong when it comes to supporting ministries that are in line with our calling; but it is weak when our energy is tied up in caring for our building. 
  • We now have a better handle on the costs we face in bringing our building into the kind of shape that supports our mission. We also have some idea of the costs related to moving into new space, as well as possibly sharing space with another congregation.
Ongoing updates from each of our four groups have been included in the weekly emailed announcements for the last few months and shared in worship. An email with a summary of the four group's findings will be sent to all church members this week. Then at our Saturday event, which will be held at Church of the Apostles in Burnsville where we launched this discovery stage of the process back in September, we will discuss our path forward together.

If we decide on Saturday that we are in consensus, our next step will be clear. I look forward to taking it with you.

It's good to be in ministry with you.

Blessings and Peace,

Study Hour 9/28: Who's In Charge Here?

posted Sep 25, 2014, 12:33 PM by David Cobb   [ updated Sep 25, 2014, 1:40 PM ]

Who's in Charge Here? Kyrios and Koinonia

Study Hour Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kyrios is the Greek word for "Lord" or "Master." It ordinarily referred to someone in charge like the owner of a vineyard, or someone who controls his own property. It was used as well for political leaders, supernatural powers, and deities. By using the word kyrios to refer to Jesus, the early Christians were doing something subversive, counter-cultural, perhaps even a bit treasonous.

Koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship, association, communion, close relationship, generosity, participation. In verbal form it can mean to share, to participate, to contribute. The early church regularly used the word koinonia to refer to mutual experiences of blessings, suffering, faith, community, solidarity with the poor, and (more mystically, perhaps) with Jesus.

Kyrios and koinonia raise the question of authority and unity in the church. Who's in charge, and in what way, when kyrios (Lord) Jesus answers his disciples’ leadership question by kneeling in front of each of them and washing each one's feet? How are decisions made by the koinonia, the church fellowship of mutual sharing, where possessions are held and decisions are made not by any one leader or hierarchy but, as we see throughout Acts, by everyone in common? What keeps the church unified when leadership is not about imposing the leader’s will but through mutual service?

Michael Armour and Don Browning, in Systems-Sensitive Leadership: Empowering Diversity Without Polarizing the Church, speak of the special need to work for unity in diverse congregations. "We must regularly hold up the ideal of unity. And we must do so in countless forums, not just occasional ones. In effect we are trying to create a heritage that says, 'We don't fight here. We find more responsible ways to handle our differences.'" (127)

Unity doesn't mean uniformity, of course.  Everyone doesn't need to have the same opinions, passions, or ways of understanding or articulating their faith. Unity doesn't mean merely tolerating differences, either. Who wants to be someplace where they are merely tolerated, after all? Toleration and indifference are hard to tell apart. And neither is very welcoming.

Unity does mean working to understand each other. It can mean deference to something I don't find meaningful but someone else treasures. A particular hymn, prayer, or theological conviction may be a core part of someone else's faith and not be part of mine. I don't have to agree with them. I can even argue with them about it. But if we each choose to approach our differences with humility, gentleness, patience, and love, then we can disagree without disrupting our relationship. Deference is a form of respect. In all but the most extreme cases where behaviors or beliefs foster injury or harm, there is a range of discomfort I can accept in order to honor and respect someone else's needs.

Armour and Browning write:

One of the authors works with a congregation that knew it would encounter some resistance when they began to blend contemporary music with what had been a very traditional style of worship.

Within their own ranks, therefore, the church tacitly adopted the motto, "We're the church that sings each other's songs." They made this a rallying cry around which they could defer to one another's tastes.

"You know how much you want everyone to really sing the songs you like," the congregation was regularly reminded. "Well, it's our duty as brothers and sisters to really put our heart into the songs that others like."

Soon, whenever there was a need for deference in the congregation—not just in worship—you would hear people saying, "You know, we sing each other's songs around here." Now singing one another's songs has become a metaphor for deference throughout the entire congregation.

Questions for discussion

  1. "Jesus is Lord and Savior" is an early Christian confession of faith. Given that one of Caesar's official imperial titles was "Lord and Savior" what do you think the early Christians meant by it, and what risks were they taking when they used Caesar's title for Jesus?

  2. There's a sense of koinonia, participation or equal sharing in all things, among the first Christians. How does that compare with the way we make decisions in church today?

  3. Unity can come from sharing a common beginning, being made of the same stuff, pursuing a common purpose, or obeying the same limits or rules. What sort of unity seems healthy to you? Unhealthy?

  4. What would it take for Spirit of Joy to become a church where "we sing each other's songs"?

Summaries of initial/important steps

posted Sep 25, 2014, 11:57 AM by David Cobb

On Sunday in Study Hour we continued clarifying and focusing the steps for each of our four new groups. Some people have already made initial commitments to participate in a particular group. Attached are the notes from Sunday with the proposed ideas and people committed so far. Consider which group you would serve on, and on Sunday the groups will be able to set us their first meetings so they can get to work.

Strategies and Actions

posted Sep 16, 2014, 7:47 PM by David Cobb   [ updated Sep 17, 2014, 10:21 AM by Spirit of Joy Christian Church ]

Strategies are structured plans that are designed to achieve a desired outcome or goal. Strategies are made up of specific Actions. If we were seeking incremental change, we could begin right away with the development of strategies and actions without regard to our core beliefs and behaviors. But to make sure we are engaged in strategies and actions that really matter, we are constantly aligning them with our core beliefs and behaviors and aiming them at our goals.

On September 13, by far most of the strategies we identified had to do with our building and location (23), while others had to do with increasing financial health (6), youth ministry (4), growth (3), worship (3), marketing (2), and other ministries. The complete list that is attached below. 

On Sunday, we categorized these into four main areas, each of which will be addressed by a new ministry group in the church:
  1. Identity and Mission
  2. Locate New Space
  3. Sale of Property
  4. Healthy Stewardship
In coming days and weeks, these ministry groups will take shape and begin their work in earnest.

Beliefs and Behaviors

posted Sep 16, 2014, 7:24 PM by David Cobb

Transformational change requires us to become aware of our core beliefs and behaviors. Beliefs are our core convictions, habits of thought, and unstated rules that govern our behavior. Sometimes they are explicit. Often they remain unspoken and unconscious. Behaviors are our deep-seated habits that reflect and express our core beliefs.

Sometimes our stated beliefs aren't consistent with our behavior. We may believe we aren't prejudiced, for example, but still we display less trusting behavior around someone whose skin color differs from our own. This may indicate that we don't really believe what we say. Identifying beliefs we need to discard allows us to identify beliefs we may need then to adopt in order to develop good habits of behavior that will lead to transformational change.

On September 13, we identified Beliefs and Behaviors to Discard, as well as Beliefs and Behaviors to Maintain or Adopt. The full lists we came up with are below. As we move deeper into the process and continue our discussions, we may add, subtract, or clarify.

Seeking New Ground at Spirit of Joy

posted Sep 16, 2014, 7:06 PM by David Cobb   [ updated Sep 16, 2014, 7:08 PM ]

The method we are using to reach consensus at Spirit of Joy is based on the work of Bob Chadwick, author of Finding New Ground. Chadwick understands that decisions can be difficult. But if every person speaks the truth they know and listens with respect to others who are doing the same, the decisions we reach will transform us and change the world. Two summaries of Chadwick's process are below, along with an outline of our New Ground event from September 13.

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