So … if I’m now referring to my initial twelve-week odyssey of congregation visits as “Phase One”, it clearly implies there will be a Phase Two, right? So I’ve been praying about what form Phase Two will take.
One thing I’m sure about: it WON’T be another long stretch of dropping in cold on congregation after congregation. And thank Heaven for that! Not that I’m angry at God for sending me in that direction, or sorry I obeyed. But it was surprisingly tiring – especially when you’d get a couple of congregations in a row that were off-base theologically and/or relationally, it could be a wrenching, exhausting experience. Even if I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to start that again (and I don’t), I don’t know if I could do it right now; I’d need more time to get my strength back.
So if not that, then what is God guiding me toward? Well, mostly following up on the visits I’ve already made. Here are five steps I’ll be taking in the next few weeks along those lines:
1) Continue to visit Reality Stockton. That was the service I visited back on April 5th, and the home group on the 9th. This is a congregation that really seems to be trying to break out of the standard evangelical mold and have a positive spiritual impact on the city, and their members are really friendly once they get to know you. I’m planning to spend at least a couple more weeks with them, both in the Sunday service and the home group, and see how things develop. I don’t know that (as one of my responders has speculated) I’ve “found a new home” … but I won’t deny it’s a possibility. And even if it isn’t, I expect I can learn a few things while I’m there. I just have to remember not to blab so much in the home group – I may have overdone it a little. (Hey, it was my first time, lol.)
2) Make further contact with some of the other congregations I visited. Half of them, to be exact. Remember, one of the original goals for the Congregational Journey was to find places where I could use my skill set to help them. Of the twelve visits, six were at places where there seemed to be no open door for me, so I’m letting those go. Of the other six, I’m planning to drop by the Wednesday night activities for two of them, and hope to make appointments with the pastors of three others. With the sixth, I’m only going to be dropping some literature by this weekend – a link to the blog entry of my visit there, and a copy of “A Call to Re-examination” – with an invitation to dialogue about them if they like. All very low-key, not setting anything in stone but making myself available for whatever opportunities arise. (And yes, I plan to keep you, my readers, posted on how things go – watch this space!)
3) Try to find and visit a house church or two. I mentioned in my post on the Reality Stockton home group how much I’ve been reading about house churches, how many of them are trying to conform more closely to the style of meeting and worship found in the churches of the New Testament. So I’d like to see if I can discover a couple and find out how well they’re doing on that score, whether they’re managing to progress spiritually and relationally beyond what can be found in the more institutional congregations.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, since you have to find them first – and the obvious disadvantage a house church would have over an institutional congregation is visibility. An institutional congregation usually has its own building, with a big sign out front, and a phone number listed in the Yellow Pages. A house church may have none of those things, meeting in someone’s home with no signage or dedicated phone line, and people coming in largely by word of mouth. This will take some research …
4) Pray for the pastors of all the congregations I visited. This should go without saying, I suppose, but … I’m saying it. I’ve written before about how pastors have an impossible job description, and that they even succeed to the extent they do is in my mind a clear miracle. Nobody should have the kind of pressure put on them that a pastor does. So yeah, I’m going to pray for each of them – for strength on the journey, for good health, for sufficient rest, and for anything else God gives me regarding them. They need all the support they can get, IMNVHO.
5) Keep my eyes and ears open. Because if God will call me to do something as seemingly daft as what I was doing for the first three months of 2009, Heaven only knows what He’s going to toss at me now that I obeyed him!
So pray for me too, ‘kay?