of blackholes and sling shots

September 5, 2008

Many of my conversations with other church planters of late have centered around worship services/gatherings. I am usually the one raising the topic as I have been curious to learn from the experiences of others as we shape our strategy for Austin Mustard Seed.

One thing has been significant in these conversations. I’ve talked to several planters who think they started doing their public gatherings too soon, sometimes much too soon. It seems that the weight and the expectation that comes with a worship gathering overpowers the intimacy that existed prior to it. While I have talked to others who don’t feel that way, I have yet to talk to someone who thought that they waited too long before they launched public gatherings.

Some go so far as to not have worship services at all. I don’t fit in that camp, because I think there is something to be said for the collective coming together to celebrate the work of God in a community. I think is it important for all of us to recognize that we are a part of something bigger than we are — bigger than we are able to control or manage.

The question for me has been shifting in emphasis from when to what. In our efforts to do the best possible gathering, it can become a black hole. The gravity of what is required draws resources and energy, and attention is easily diverted from both relationship and mission. The church loses focus on itself as a community, and church becomes something we go to.

Knowing that this gravity exists, I have been wondering how it might be possible to put it to use. When spacecraft are to be propelled great distances, they often use the gravitational pull of the sun or a planet to gain momentum. As they whip around the large object like a sling shot, they are hurtled off in a new direction with greater speed. What might it look like to have worship services function as missional gatherings of this nature? What could it mean to use the large gathering not to draw in all of our resources, but to refocus and hurtle the body back out to be the sent people of God?

I’m sure that few would disagree with my thinking on this. So how does our language or our gatherings need to change? How do we need to restructure of our gatherings to create an outward momentum rather than an inward pull?

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