Let’s Get Real (and messy)!

Let’s Get Real (and messy)!

I know it’s a ‘buzz phrase’ but I still like it. I took a meeting last night at the church as we look at reshaping and restructuring our Small Group networks. I set my peeps a couple of questions:

Small Group A meets and spends most of the meeting talking about the Bible text and what it means. There is usually a little time left at the end for prayer requests.

Small Group B spends a lot of time catching up on everybody’s news. The Bible study can be a little bit rushed and the prayer time is left until the end of the evening too.


Some of the feedback was fascinating and one comment in particular. I am not writing this to belittle the individual who made this suggestion but rather because it got me thinking about how Christians view the concepts of change and renewal. Anyway, the response was, ‘Why don’t we move the prayer bit to the beginning and mix it up a bit.’ Sounds reasonable right? The issue I had, and shared with those present, is that this might change the meeting but it certainly would have no impact on the ‘heart’ of those present.

In Christian circles if things are becoming a bit stale we tend to either stick our head in the sand and ride out the ‘day of small things’ whilst we sink into oblivion, or we ‘change the services around, play louder music, or funk Sunday up a bit’ in an effort to stir things up. But what’s really changed? If things are becoming a bit stale and lifeless in a church, in any meeting for that matter, then may I suggest that the root of the problem may be us and the state of our hearts. Maybe the thing that needs a shake up is us and how we are viewing and interacting with God, one another and the world.

Another response was, ‘why don’t we meet up more than once in the week.’ Again, a reasonable solution, although I could almost feel the silence groans of many thinking, ‘my life is just so busy for this.’ Yet, would imposing another meeting get to the heart of the issue? I don’t think so. Why is it that we feel the answer to everything is to have another meeting? Why do we do that?

What I was trying to get people to see and understand is that unbelievers (at least in Niddrie) don’t want to give up their network of friendships and be saved into a community of people who only meet together because it (a) is what we do at NCC or (b) it sounds like a good idea. People are looking for genuine connection. In Ephesians 3:10-11 we discover that God’s manifold wisdom is made known in the world through the church. And this church is not about shared meetings but shared lives. This is the example Paul left to the church at Ephesus when he met with the elders there in Acts 20:18.

The point is that our missional intentionality ought to be about how we live out our lives together as God’s redeemed people in community. Small Groups ought to be a microcosm of Christian living in Niddrie. So, we need to be working harder at working out what that means in our context. How do our groups make the change from being ‘meeting oriented’ to genuinely sharing in one another’s lives on a daily basis? These are some of the questions we are still wrestling with.

That’s the challenge for us as we seek to build a community of believers that encourages one another in an unforced and heartfelt concern. A dynamic community (and small groups) that meet together spontaneously without looking at the clock and checking the diary to ‘fit life in’. Messy communities that deal with the realities of our lives and struggles and failings. I know it sounds all rose-tinted and utopian and maybe I am an optimistic fool but I just know people in Niddrie and formality does not cut it. They know when people really care for one another and are not just playing at ‘fellowship’. I guarantee you that people respond more to flawed reality than a polished presentation of the ‘facts’ with tea and biscuits afterwards. If we are unable to really share our lives with one another, then no wonder people struggle to share their faith today in the UK.

Pray for us as we continue to ponder and pray and a body together.