On Monday night, I went to [re]generate, with Steve Taylor sharing about his experiences with church and mission. I really like the model of church they have at Opawa Baptist – many congregations under one umbrella. They have a shared seven practices, as opposed to shared doctrine, which along with mission activities, teaching opportunities, and shared meals for the congregations and/or leaders, give a sense of  ‘unity’ as one person at dinner tonight put it.  

We talked about the need to shift the understanding of the congregation about what church growth is – away from the idea that the church is growing if there are more bums on seats on a Sunday morning, towards the idea that the church is growing if the people are growing in their faith, their relationship with God, their discipleship; the church is growing if those who attend worship are engaging in the mission of God in new ways, are discovering God in the world outside, sharing this experience with those who worship in their congregation and those who don’t; the church is growing when more congregations form, offering authentic worship, teaching, expression and nurture of faith, and community to more; the church is growing when we send more people out, thereby losing bums off seats, but offering hope, healing, community to those who do not find their way to church, because we should not expect people to find their way to church in order to find God, to find healing, to find community – God is with people where they are, so we should go and be with them also. That is where Jesus said he would be, with the sick, the poor – when you feed them, clothe them, visit them, you do this for me. Some of this we didn’t actually talk about tonight, I’m just going on with my thoughts. 

The approach I am taking for the Esther Project is similar to, follows similar patterns and trains of thought, to that of Steve at Opawa. Through the Esther Project there will be many opportunities to connect, many ways to belong: dinner group, production teams, sponsorship partners, interfaith dinners, Friends of the Esther Project. Looks different to Opawa, but of course it does. That’s what emerging church is supposed to do, be unique to each context. Through conversations, I was encouraged that this is a community that belongs in Adelaide – with its festivals, such a community is likely to be an authentic community for our context. Hadn’t looked at it from quite that angle. 
Food is an important way to gather, and that is how we will gather. 
Steve works part time, all their staff are part time, intentionally. I would like to unpack that further, so perhaps I’ll email him some time. The very quick explanation tonight was that they don’t work, their work isn’t all about Sunday. Opawa has mission happening within and without its walls all week. They don’t pay anyone for worship coordinating or music or whatever, for the Sunday service tasks – their congregations are not just about the worship event. They ask questions of each congregation – how is this about God, about people/community, about mission? And each congregation needs to address each circle in its life, not rely on other congregations to do that for them. Small groups might be attached to a larger congregation, and therefore only with the whole congregation fully address all three circles, but to be a congregation is to be about connecting with and learning about God, building relationships, engaging in mission. 
And that's all just a small snapshot of the conversations we had over dinner. Much the best way to share ideas about God, faith, life. 


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