Friday, December 09, 2005

May it stay for evergreen

Got this email today from the elders at Evergreen and just knew it was worth sharing

As we finish off 2005 and approach the end of our second year as a community, some thoughts from the Elders...

We want to take a moment to draw our attention as a community back to the reasons why we meet together... Not only are there reasons for gathering, but good reasons. What's at the heart of us gathering together as a community? As has often been said on Sundays, we get together to do with others that which we can't do alone... to pray with others and worship with others and learn with others in ways that are different than when we pray, worship and learn on our own. We get together to give to others, to take care of others, to look others in the eye and ask them how they are doing.

But most of all, we get together for God.

We come to be present as a community to God, to worship Him and seek Him through our prayers, through our time spent listening to Him speak to us through the Scripture, through the Holy Spirit, through the voice of others in the community. We sing songs of praise, songs of longing, songs of worship. We give our time, our money, our attention and focus, our thoughts and ideas... we come and lay all that in front of God and ask Him to do with it what He will. We bring ourselves, whether full of faith and confidence or filled with doubt and anxiety... we bring ourselves and all that we are to our community and together to God.

Probably the best known passage in Scripture that not only describes the early church but provides us with a helpful agenda for our community is Acts 2:42-47

They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord's Supper and in prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

While we see this as more descriptive than prescriptive, it's a great starting point for a community, a great centering passage.

They devoted themselves to
meeting together constantly
The Lord's Supper (Communion and probably for them, the meal they shared with it)
generously sharing what they had with those who had needs
worship and praising God
sharing meals together

And the result?
They saw God move in and among them, even to the point of the miraculous, and this led to a deep sense of awe
They enjoyed the goodwill of the people around them
More and more people came to know God through their communities.

We are excited that this already describes much of what we do on Sundays and other times. We see Evergreen sharing... sharing your money, sharing your time, sharing even your homes with each other and with those in need. We pray together. We devote ourselves to the Scriptures and to learning and hearing what God has to say to us. We worship together. We hang with each other and share our lives with one another ("fellowship").

As elders we want to encourage you:

Keep going. Open yourself up, as you are able, as you learn how, to doing even more of these things. If you don't hang out with us after the Sunday gathering for a meal, consider it. Consider not going to other locations to eat, but eating at the Lab with your community as a discipline, as something you do not only for yourself, but for others. (If you need to for financial reasons, take the 5 bucks + tip that lunch usually costs out of the money you put in the offering!)

Come on Sundays to worship, to pray, to learn, to give of yourself to God and to others and so to be filled yourself as others do the same. Even if you find yourself in a place of doubt and questions, trust that answers will come through seeking God in community- through praying to this God who troubles you in community with others who often feel the same, through worshiping this God you doubt but can't quite seem to get away from, through giving yourself to people who are praying for you, love you, and are for you.

At our last elder's meeting we talked a bit about a visual metaphor... we spent the first year as a community pushing seeds into the soil, just planting them. We've spent this last year as a community watering and preparing and even fertilizing the ground.
We don't claim to be prophets, but we think there's good reason to believe that this next year will see a flowering, a sprouting as some of those seeds start to push out of the ground... We're hoping we'll begin to see more and more results from the foundational work we've doing together these last two years.

What does that look like?
More of us sharing meals together, and people just living life with and side-by-side each other whether through meeting in home groups, or even living in community houses, or just plain being involved in each other's lives.

More people feeling a freedom to share the questions they wrestle with and more people feeling freedom to share the answers they've come to.

More of us expressing our heart for the poor and inviting others into what we are doing and learning and teaching our community through our experience.

But most of all, what we hope to see is this
A community saturated with learning about God- on the forum, on Sunday mornings and in discussions at home groups/theology pubs, etc.

A community saturated with the worship of God- again, on Sundays and other times, gathering to focus on God and speaking and singing of Him and to Him.

A community saturated with prayer to God- for ourselves, for others and for the world.

A community dead set on being the hands and feet of God to a world oppressed, tired, poor and hungry.

We believe if these things become more and more true of us, we'll see the same things those early Christians did... God moving in and among us, even to the point of the miraculous, and a deep sense of awe... The goodwill of the people around us and more and more people coming to know God through our community.

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