A Cross-Generational and Cross-Cultural Ministry Seeking to Discern God’s Will, Together!
When I reflect on the mistakes the modern church has and is making (and let’s face it, every church era contains numerous crippling but unintended consequences of decisions made in goodwill), two that remain prevalent are:
- Age and cultural/racial segmentation and segregation, and
- Discernment as personal and private decision making.
At Pillar, we’ve sought to reframe both of these and believe the reframe is essential to the core of any church whose desire is to become a congregation of Christ-centered spiritual formation.
Institutional church structures that allow for and encourage segmentation and segregation are deeply rooted in mainstream American life.
There are multiple (and vastly complex) reasons for the sin of segmentation and segregation, but one reason is connected to the homogenous unit principle. A principle to which I made specific reference in earlier posts.
Pillar is attempting to reverse the trend of this cultural reality by reframing the ministry of Hospitality!
Cultivating Welcome Within Diversity
When I say hospitality I specifically mean at least two things,
- The way we practice and participate in Care in our Congregation, and
- The way we practice and participate in Cultivating God’s good for His glory within our larger community and ministry setting – beyond the four walls of the church!
Pillar began by trying to develop congregational climate that nurtures welcome within diversity.
One way we attempt to nurture cross-generational relationships at Pillar is to include our young people in a significant portion of every service. While we do offer separate classes for children from birth through 5th grade, we encourage our families to worship together every week.
In fact, we begin worship with everyone together and then dismiss our children to classes after we’ve enjoyed a time of singing, prayer, and fellowship with each other.
Another way we nurture cross-generational relationship is by encouraging our adults to engage our young people in meaningful ways during our time of fellowship each week. As I observe this gathering time, week-in and week-out, I am often encouraged by the number of conversations that are happening between people from different generations.
A third way we nurture cross-generational relationships is by including our young people in ministry and leadership opportunities as often as we can. Our children and youth serve as assistants and valuable leaders in our Children’s Ministry Programing.
They also lead us in worship by sharing their musical gifts, reading Scriptures, helping with our set-up and break-down needs, joining in our congregational dialogue and voicing prayers!
Such a climate will experience, at a minimum, cross-generational and cross-cultural relationships in life-giving ways.
We are far, far, from achieving this vision of cross-generational and cross-cultural congregational care (a portion of our vision of hospitality) – particularly as it relates to cross-cultural worship, but we are certainly a people on the way!
In order to understand how distinct we hope to be, you’re going to need to reframe just about everything you’ve ever heard regarding the rhythm of discernment.
Particularly the rhythm of corporate discernment
Rhythm 7: Discernment
Discernment is much more than decision-making.
Rather, it’s practicing or nurturing a way of life that is lived in such intimate communion with Christ (who is always present within us and among us) that one is able to hear and respond to His voice in a moment’s notice.
Yes, respond even in the midst of the crashing chaos that swirls all around!
Pillar’s foundation has been built on discerning the will of the Lord. Before Melissa and I spoke a word of this vision to anyone, we spent a year or more practicing the personal rhythms of prayer, fasting, silence and solitude, and listening – as we sought to discern His will!
Discerning God’s Will Together
This ‘seed of discernment’ took root quickly and bloomed into a rhythm beyond personal or small group practice into one that involves an intentional emphasis on discerning God’s Will together – as an entire congregation.
This rhythm of discernment – and how we practice it both personally and corporately – requires a radical overhaul regarding how we view discernment and leadership within the local congregational setting.
Early on in my ministry I often practiced and participated in a top-down model of decision-making and congregational leadership. This model holds the senior pastor as the primary (really only) vision caster and the people of the congregation as receptors and doers of the vision.
I have much to say about how radical the flip is from the old top-down model to the rhythm of discernment that seeks to bring in and nurture congregational (yes, even in an elder-governed system) participation.
Our efforts to discern the will of God together are filled with the disruptive and dynamic experience of formation!
An Imperfect But Improving Journey
My intention is to spend more time reflecting on this rhythm as I move forward in my writing. I believe this to be the central rhythm of health and spiritual formation for believers today.
There are, of course, rhythms that have been left untouched in this series of posts. I think specifically of the rhythms of Missions and Evangelism. I will write more on those later because they are practiced differently at Pillar.
The difference with those (Mission and Evangelism) might, in fact, prove to be the most significant of them all!
Disrupting to Renew!