Christ’s Embassy – Critical Mass

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Many of my ideas are applications of research and findings documented in a work by Malcolm Gladwell titled David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.  Jesus directed me to that book when I was wanting advice on protecting myself from evil influences.  The first chapter, which was about playing aggressive defense, gave me some good pointers.

The next chapter, however, addresses an issue of a different nature: misconceptions about the correlation between class size and education quality.  (In fact, the book is more about misconceptions than it is about battling giants.)  What Gladwell says about class size sheds amazing light on why certain churches are successful (truly helpful; facilitating the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and directing people toward an ever-closer relationship with God)…and why others are not.  Maxwell’s research revealed that despite the common misconception that the smaller the class, the more effective the educational experience, there is actually a critical mass necessary for a successful class of adolescent to teen-age students.  (I will leave as an exercise for the student to look up why.)  I will suggest that the same is true for effective BiaFoC Collectives (Believers in and Followers of Christ in Collective).

Mega-churches, by definition, are so big that for logistics sake, the people are separated into groups.  Those groups are usually defined by common characteristics:  age, marital status, with family (or not).  The issues addressed within those groups naturally pertain to (read: are of interest for) those groups.  For example, adolescent-age groups often address  bullying; high school groups address peer-pressure, sexual morality, movies, music, etc. but bullying, not so much.  Single mothers address child support, discipline, parent-teacher conferences, child psychology.  Elderly couples address wellness, senility, travel, living on a fixed income, and death..  Young families address balancing work and family, budgeting, finding time for faith, finding time for each other.

In a mega-church, such groups (which I will call “Collective Subsets”) can have a critical mass of BiaFoCs which engenders good back-and-forth discussion, ‘teaching and learning,’ and moral support.  In a smaller church, typically all adults are lumped into one class and half are bored; the other half are asleep.   If not, there are so few BiaFoCs in the group that no one speaks up…or only one, and that was usually me.  I am sure to you pastors and Christian educators, this is not news.  But I have a solution for those of you interested in starting fresh or willing to try something innovative:  Divide and Pair Up.

Divide into the Collective Subsets and then Pair Up, on occasion.  For example, every month or so, have the Senior men meet with the Young Professionals to help with advice on starting a business, integrity, and finding time for God.  Have the Mature or Retired Couples meet with the Young Families to help them manage budgets, DIY projects, prepare for parenting and discipline challenges, and occasionally take the kids for an afternoon.   Have the Elderly Couples meet with Teenagers to discuss morality issues, spiritual development and challenges, education and career choices, or plan trips together.  (Teenagers can usually talk with their Grandparents when they cannot talk with their parents.)  Young singles can meet with the Elderly Singles to see if they can join forces in running errands, making small repairs, going to plays and concerts, putting together a foursome for bridge.  The Teenagers can run a free Summer Day Care for Young Families and Single Mothers to take advantage of.  Grandmothers can pair off with Single Mothers to give parenting advice, emotional support (proof that one does not die of single parenting), and a shoulder to cry on.

In the typical medium sized church, there is usually one or two single moms who are going under for the third time; no one notices when they stop coming to church. The Elderly feel irrelevant…in spite of their wealth of wisdom and experience; they have a knowledge of spirituality unimagined by the Teenagers.  Mainline denominations probably have rules against combining congregations to facilitate a critical mass.  Would one Collective consider focusing on only two or three Subsets and the Collective on the other side of town focusing on another two or three?  How about a Collective for the Single Mothers of a community or town?

These are just some thoughts….

Next time, I will present the BiaFoC Inverted U…or finding and keeping the right balance of hardships and blessings.

 

(Note: some feel it is too late for fixing churches.  In case it is not, I will continue to pass along what I have been shown. I would like to add that the main reason for critical masses and like-situated groups of people is that the Struggling Christian needs to be with enough people with the same questions, wrestling with the same issues, and worrying about the same things so tht they do not feel isolated and alone…to know that they are normal.)

A Two Step Plan To Reach Your Community

I started to point out the author’s typo (‘Vibrate’ Community should be ‘Vibrant’ Community) however, I kind of like the verb ‘Vibrate’ instead of the adjective ‘Vibrant’….it gives to the Community a sense of Action, not just character…which I think is the point of his post.

There are some bloggers who feel we are watching the demise of the Christian Church. There are even some very spiritual Christians who feel it is about time. And then there are those of us who are not ready to draw up the bridge just yet.

With the help of God and Gladys

You all know who God is…well, to the extent that God can be known, but Gladys is the name I have given the voice of Google Maps.  Those of you who know video games, know I have loosely borrowed that name from “GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) (the) fictional artificially intelligent computer system appearing in the video games Portal and Portal 2.”  (from Wikipedia).

Well, with the help of God and Gladys (or, rather, Google Maps), I am really beginning to enjoy life.  (My brother thinks that should become my motto for 2016.)  There are three things I really like about Gladys; one is she doesn’t mind how often I change my mind or miss a turn, she cheerfully recomputes the best route and keeps me going.  Two, if there is a flood, a wreck, or a traffic jam, she cheerfully, and without explanation, often sends me through beautiful countryside or routes I would not ordinarily choose.  For example, on one brisk fall morning, she directed me to turn onto US Route 178 off of Hwy 11, which I, erroneously, though was the infamous Tail of the Dragon highway.

This is what Wikipedia says about the section of US Route 178 that I drove:

The two-lane road, which is named Pickens Highway, …(runs) parallel to the French Broad River. US 178 turns south,… crosses the river to leave the town, and turns east again to parallel the river. The highway veers away from the mainstem of the French Broad to follow its Middle Fork south then east, then turns south and climbs to the Eastern Continental Divide at Eastatoe Gap between Burnt Mountain and Indian Camp Mountain.  US 178 enters Pickens County, South Carolina, and its name changes to Moorefield Memorial Highway shortly after it begins its curvaceous and steep descent along Eastatoe Creek to Rocky Bottom. There, the U.S. Highway meets the western end of F. Van Clayton Memorial Highway, which leads to the highest point in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain.

(Dizzy, yet?)

US 178 crosses another ridge into the valley of Reedy Cove Creek, then climbs again to Beasley Gap between Rich Mountain and Horse Mountain. From there, the highway has a sharp and curvy descent to the valley of the Oolenoy River, which it follows east to near its junction with SC 11 (Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway) at the hamlet of Holly Springs.

(My trip was in the reverse direction but no less “curvaceous.”) Needless to say, I had a blast.  There was no one else on the highway except an older grey pickup truck that I would allow to pull away from me by a few tenths of a mile, then I would quickly catch up…rinse and repeat.  I do believe God had a hand in Gladys sending me that way because I had started the morning grumpy and sullen.  By the time I reached Brevard, I was exuberant and grateful.

The third thing I like about Gladys, is she is not picky nor is she prejudiced.  If the ‘best’ (read: fastest, most direct) route is through the seediest parts of town, we go through the seediest parts of town…and I love it!  Because of Gladys, I get to see parts of town that have been cut off from traffic because of interstates, new highways, zoning, etc. Often, these all-but-abandoned parts of town were originally the main downtown, or close to it.  Businesses along these routes have failed because of re-direction.  Homes have fallen into dis-repair or have been abandoned, altogether.  The few people I see, seem to fit the surroundings…unkempt and poorly cared for.

If you have been following this website at all, you know I love to bless people …things … situations…and now, places.  I surreptitiously make the sign of the cross as I pass people because I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or fearful that I am somehow cursing them.  I wave, if they look up.  But my car bears the sign of the cross and I tell people that I have angels on my hubcaps…primarily to keep me safe while driving, but I’m beginning to suggest that those angels direct God’s attention to the people, places, and situations I pass that need Him.

There is a lot of sadness and despondency in the world now…a lot of hopelessness and despair.  Everyone I meet has some story to tell of misfortune, illness, injury, or exhaustion from the stress of life.  Even churches are looking for ways to survive the downturn in giving and attendance.  People seem to have less time and less money to give and share.  Ministries and programs are being cancelled.  Salaries and employee’s hours are being cut.   Churches are having to respond like any sensible business would…

Or are they?

Any sensible business, just like any sensible household, would retrench at times like this. But, I say, Christian Churches are not sensible businesses.  I heard it said recently, that it is no wonder life for the Christian is so hard, look what happened to their leader!  Despite what so-called ‘prosperity churches’ may tell you, Jesus never said following Him would bring prosperity or an easy life.  Quite the contrary.  To follow Jesus requires service and sacrifice.  Don’t get me wrong; you can be a Christian and not follow Jesus.  But if you are going to follow Jesus, you need faith that giving, especially when you don’t have it yourself, is the right thing to do.

How many sermons, during stewardship season (you know, September and October, that come just before Thanksgiving and Christmas) …how many sermons have you heard that include the assertion (if not, promise) that if you give faithfully, you will be blessed.  In fact, it is often implied that you will receive, in return, more than what you give.

Pastors and priests need to be reading their own sermons right now.  Now is NOT the time for churches to be cancelling programs and cutting salaries.  WHERE IS YOUR FAITH!?!  Now is when churches should be on the streets making their presence known to the fearful people who feel they are not going to make it.  Christian churches should be advertising, “We are Here.  And HERE is where you will find hope, faith, God, loving-kindness, help, compassion, warm clothes, food, friendship, forgiveness, moral-support…” all those things that people need now.

“Give and you will be blessed.”  That’s what I’ve heard, year after year, from pulpit after pulpit.  Tell me, churches, do you believe?

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