Saturday, 14 March 2009

church and children... and Sunday Soup (groups of ten!)

March 6, 2009 (more)

I had sent that quote about the need for the influence of non-relative adults as part of the family of God being part of and impacting the lives of our children, to “our pastor” and he immediately responded with “Amen!!!!” So this morning, slightly tongue-in-cheek (but really dead serious) I sent him a short email wondering if God is giving “our church” an opportunity to explore ways that might work this out (realizing of course, but not coming out and saying so, that it could lead to an awful lot more soul-searching for “our church” … and maybe more “problems” … and changes…), seeing as You don’t seem to be “providing workers” for the childrens and youth “programs” we’d apparently like to get going/ resurrect… hmmm…

Oh, by the way, the quote is:

(Ideas from the Edge" - Why I Don’t Go To Church Anymore! by Wayne Jacobsen)

But don’t our children need church activities?

I’d suggest that what they need most is to be integrated into God’s life through relational fellowship with other believers. 92% of children who grow up in Sunday schools with all the puppets and high-powered entertainment, leave ‘church’ when they leave their parents’ home? Instead of filling our children with ethics and rules we need to demonstrate how to live in God’s life together.

Even sociologists tell us that the #1 factor in determining whether a child will thrive in society is if they have deep, personal friendships with nonrelative adults. No Sunday school can fill that role. I know of one community in Australia who after 20 years of sharing God’s life together as families could say that they had not lost one child to the faith as they grew into adulthood. I know I cut across the grain here, but it is far more important that our children experience real fellowship among believers rather than the bells and whistles of a slick children’s program. (end of quote)

I was telling hubby about the 23rd Psalm/shepherd/pastor thing. And last night I read him parts of the “groups of ten” item from Edgenet…

Church: Simple and Regional Compiled by Gary Goodell

Groups of Tens

The word eser is the Hebrew word for the number ten and represents the smallest division into which Moses put the people of God for the purposes of wise administration. This is the group where everyone talks.

These smaller groups are home-based, intergenerational meetings, where we share our lives on a regular basis, make our needs known to each other, and bear each other’s burdens. This dynamic is experienced through a weekly meeting in our homes around the joy of a shared common meal and the restored richness of the Lord’s Supper, (Acts 2:46).

These groups are not cell groups, or even just Home Groups. They are real churches, complete and autonomous. They have leaders; they receive offerings for missions, the poor, and needy. They evangelize the lost, baptize the converts, dedicate the babies, marry the wed, and bury the dead, and obviously celebrate the sacrament of communion. These smaller groups are not just extensions of the “mother ship” local community church that has a central campus around which all life swirls. They are the church.

………..Smaller, participatory, family-like environments are ideally suited for today’s culture and will assist greatly is helping people to become passionate disciples of Jesus Christ.

……..a kind of Participatory Church, where everybody talks, laughs, eats, worships, in an atmosphere where all learn, all minister, and all grow.

Apart from the intimacy of lovers, there are few human actions that bind people to one-another more closely than what the Romans called, a convivium, their word for a banquet that literally means “living together.” Defenses are dropped, and believers feel grateful to be with friends around the meal. We argue and discuss and quarrel and tease and laugh. In Simple Church children watch their parents and learn about living. From the marriage feast of Cana, to the Last Supper, to His post-resurrection breakfast on the shore of the lake, Jesus loved to eat and drink with His friends. He used the imagery of the banquet for the Eucharist in which He leaves us His abiding presence. Jesus, Himself, was even known as someone who came, “eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19).

………..“Shared meals construct and sustain human relationships. Inviting someone to share a meal powerfully symbolizes solidarity. Indeed, the word companionship comes from the Latin cum + panis, meaning, “breading together.” Meals are social realites of great importance. Because meals express the very texture of human associations, they often exhibit social boundaries that divide human communities. We make decisions about not only what we will eat but with whom we will eat. Patterns of table-sharing reveal a great deal about the way of life, and the norms and commitments of a particular community.

“Within the Gospels, Jesus’ meal patterns receive special attention. Many of his critics observed, “this fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2; Mark 2:15-17; Matthew 1:19). They were shocked and appalled that Jesus welcomed everyone to his table. His behavior indicated acceptance and friendship with those who had been judged unfit for table fellowship: the tax collector, the Gentile, the prostitute. His open invitation, manifested the radically inclusive nature of his kingdom, a kingdom that cuts across the barriers we erect between insiders and outsiders, the saved and the damned, the elect and the outcast, barriers often most rigidly enforced at the table.”

The Mutually Edifying Meal

One of the best passages to help us prepare for a Simple Church meal is the classic Hebrews 10:24-25 text, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (NIV)

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds…” How do we know if our meeting has accomplished what God wanted? We know if people leave being highly motivated and spurred on to love God and others, that they will be able to express that love in good works throughout the week. The kind of meal is summarized in two words: Eating and Blessing. Both activities are designed to “spur one another to love and good deeds.” Both of these prophetic acts are designed to strengthen, edify, and encourage the church.(end of quote)

……. because hubby had heard me talking on the phone to A about Sunday Soup (and how amazingly, looking back, it sometimes was like this description of “Groups of Ten”)… and also about the first day I was in in his home village, the day I met my future husband, and he took me to a number of homes in his village, and introduced me to the nonnies (grandmothers), and everywhere we went we ate some soup from the pot each one had sitting at the back of their woodstoves…. and when I read that description of “groups of ten” it just so seemed to FIT… And I’m wondering, can we start doing something like that again?

(Sunday Soup was lunch every Sunday around 1 pm till whenever, and anyone could come (as few as two, as many as thirty once or twice!), and we’d sit around and eat soup (and whatever else happened to be available/brought along), and we’d just visit, and get to know each other way more, and sometimes we’d end up sharing about the Lord, and/or praying together, and/or singing together… whatever just “happened to happen” as Father led! It wasn’t meant to be “church” … but reading that “groups of ten” description - and the New Testament descriptions of gatherings of the church - I’m thinking it really was!)

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