Monday, August 20, 2007

The Joy of Mini-Church: Part 2

Uncontrived intergenerational community is another joy of the mini-church.

The bigger the church, the more the crucial realities have to be programmed. Crucial relationships have to be turned into "goals," "objectives," and "measurable standards" with someone responsible to see the program succeed. Nothing "mega-" happens naturally. "Mega-" must be "visioned" and "staffed" and "budgeted."

Thankfully it's not that complicated in a small church.

Meet Ray. He's an older Dutch man with white beard and hair. His rich, sonorous voice stirs us all as he reads the Psalm for the morning. In the Netherlands during World War II he served in the underground and led clandestine assaults against the Nazis. When Ray tells me what he did to survive those horrendous months of war I sense that I'm at the edge of a suffering and pain that I'll never really comprehend. Ray deeply loves "Gott." To hear Ray's passion as he ends the corporate praying of "the Lord's Prayer"--"...and the power and the GLO-ry forever"--sends chills down your spine.

And the following Sunday, there is 11 year old Shelby, blonde hair, blue eyes, 'cute as a bug' as they say, reading for the congregation the Psalm of the morning. Her voice brings to us the 'voice of God' just as Ray's did the Sunday before. I've met Shelby's two younger sisters and I know her mom and dad. Shelby is sharp. She's already a seasoned trial lawyer in a little girl's body. I know from inside sources and I've seen proof.

For a small church, we've got the generations covered end to end. I baptized little baby Nathan on Mother's Day and I recently did the funeral of Mark who died unexpectedly at age 53, leaving a widow and four children and four grandchildren.

Nothing is contrived. We aren't trying to be intergenerational. We just are. Young voices and old, aches and pains, giggles and diapers, walkers and hearing aids, game-boys and hair-ties. We've got bald babies and bald old men. We've got young adults (like Julie and me...don't I wish we were still 'young adults'). Children have a place and space with the adults, and yet have their own space as well. We have singles, and widows, we have marrieds and remarrieds. We have war veterans and postmoderns. Most of all we have a common love for Jesus Christ.

As the pastor, I want people to know that God's voice sounds like the voice of everyone in our community. Not just mine, or Ray's or Shelby's. Even out of the mouth of infants our God speaks.

Life, intergenerational life happens in mini-church. What a joy!

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25 Comments:

At 8/20/2007 10:10 AM, Blogger flyawaynet said...

It does sound beautiful. I can almost imagine the sounds of the voices in my head from the old to young, showing Gods depth to His purity.

I don't normally say this but I enjoyed your writing style on this particular post. It made me imagine things until I felt I could see exactly what you were describing. God bless and thank you.

 
At 8/20/2007 10:23 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

flyawaynet,
It is beautiful...but nitty-gritty, too.

Thanks for the kind words about the writing style. I'm encouraged.

 
At 8/20/2007 11:25 AM, Blogger Gord said...

John, this is an amazing post. The church you describe sounds more like a family than a church, which I believe is the way God intended it. I think once a church loses that family feel, component, or dynamic, whatever you want to call it, then we have transitioned into something that is farther from God's heart than what was originally intended by him. The church that operates like a corporation rather than a family will have a repelling effect rather than attracting non-believers to Christ. To me, this is a sobering thought. I am not intending to bash bigger churches but I just want to say, "God bless mini-church." Amen.

 
At 8/20/2007 11:30 AM, Blogger ben said...

John,

Reminds me a lot of Andi & I's church out here in Oregon. That was one aspect of the church that I fell in love with when we moved out here...how intergenerational it was, without even TRYING. How cool!

In chapter 7 of Kenda Creasy Dean's "The Godbearing Life," she talks about the circle of friends that is necessary for spiritual growth and formation. She mentions the need for "invisible friends," or the pastors/teachers/etc. that we are (sometimes paramountly) influenced by, but our relationships are overwhelmingly one-sided since personal communication with these invisible friends rarely happens (reminiscent of your words about Hollywood pastors in the previous post.)

Our culture tends to gravitate to spiritual formation through the influence of invisible friends...as if the only way to grow in the spirituality was to watch the latest Nooma flick.

I look forward to the upcoming posts in this series... It is an encouragement & challenge to me to make sure that my "circle" is made up of not just invisible friends...but also mentors, companions & soul friends/amnchara...all of which can be found within the mini-church.

 
At 8/20/2007 3:58 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

gord,
One intent of the series is to encourage pastors who've been in the small church longer than me and who may feel like the grass is greener elsewhere.

Thanks for the affirming comments.

 
At 8/20/2007 4:01 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

Ben and Andi,
Thanks for the reference to Kenda Creasy Dean and the insights about "invisible friends" versus flesh and blood, one on one mentors.

Like I said, this will be a meandering series.

 
At 8/20/2007 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

first I need to say that bugs are not that cute, unless of course you look at them as gods creation. Still bugs are not cute so I'm not as cute as a bug because bugs ARE NOT cute! Second I just want to thank you for being so nice to me and the whole church family.(This is a smiley face):)

Shelby

 
At 8/20/2007 6:45 PM, Blogger John Frye said...

ANONYMOUS SHELBY,

So how do you like my Jesus-the-Radical-Pastor website?

I am glad that YOU and your family are part of FCC.

As far as bugs being cute is concerned, cuteness is in the eye of the beholder! Come on! Isn't a lady bug cute?

 
At 8/20/2007 7:33 PM, Anonymous elisha said...

ok, your 7th comment...

...sweetest thing i've ever read.

elisha

 
At 8/21/2007 5:31 AM, Anonymous Jay Piper said...

Great post, John! It is great worshipping with our family every Sunday morning. It really makes me feel loved getting my bear hugs from little Brianna to the hearty handshakes from my buddies, Jack and Harvey. God has really blessed me!

 
At 8/21/2007 6:26 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Elisha,
You've got to meet Shelby when you're in town and visit FCC.
Love,
Dad

 
At 8/21/2007 6:27 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Jay,
I wholeheartedly agree. You and Carol make FCC feel like a loving family, too.

 
At 8/21/2007 10:52 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

John,
you are SO blessed...

 
At 8/21/2007 11:20 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Susan,
With that kind comment I am both encouraged and commissioned...to be blessed is missional---blessed to be a blessing! True?

 
At 8/22/2007 8:14 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

SO true!

 
At 8/24/2007 7:18 AM, Blogger grace said...

John,
A little off topic, but your writing today brought back such warm memories for me. I learned about "Gott" at the knees of my Dutch grandparents. I still have the cards and letters from my grandmother, who looked and sounded so much like Corrie Ten Boom, encouraging me to know the Lord. Also, one of my strongest memories is of my white-haired Grandpa at the Sunday dinner we always shared with them. When he read the Bible and prayed after the meal, his voice always dropped an octave to a deep, reverent tone reserved for speaking of and to God.

Your series has stirred my appreciation for the family church in which I was raised. Interesting that perhaps the movement toward simple or house church is actually a movement back to small, local, family church. I wonder though what that looks like in communities that don't have deep roots or shared history.

You are such a blessing to the body of Christ!

 
At 8/24/2007 9:56 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Grace,
Wow, what a heritage you have. I think we must recover the missional energy of family smaller of the church. Thanks you for your kind words. You, too, are an incredible voice during these liminal space years

 
At 8/27/2007 9:15 AM, Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Wonderful post, John. So glad for your experience over there.

I too agree that it's simply a joy to have a kind of home-spun, natural good time together in Jesus. Sharing with each other as we sing and are in the word. We do so as fellow strugglers and travelers together, in Jesus.

I like the way you point out how God speaks through everyone.

 
At 8/28/2007 4:47 AM, Blogger ::aaron g:: said...

My theory:

The more structured a church becomes, the less it is actually a church.

 
At 8/29/2007 10:25 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

ted,
the multi-faceted voice of God in and through a faith community is a miracle and a joy!

 
At 8/29/2007 10:26 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

::aaron g::,
I think there may be something to your theory.

 
At 5/25/2008 8:04 PM, Blogger Fr. Sean said...

Thank you. I am a priest in the Celtic Catholic Church (www.Celtic-Catholic-Church.org), a very small denominatin composed of very small congregations. We are very small for a variety of reasons, but mostly because we believe in it. When it gets too big, it ceases to be what we recognize as a church. Once in a while I find myself embarrassed when somebody asks, "So how many people you got in your church, padre?" I know better, but I forget. Thank you for the beautiful reminder of what I already know and believe. Thank you for giving me new eyes to see my congregation through.

in Christ,
Fr. Sean

 
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