I’m one of the “littles“…( a FAN of the Tony Kornheiser radio show). I listen to the podcasts of the show religiously when I’m on the road. It’s funny, smart, snarky and covers topics from sports, politics, movies, culture, food, etc. (frankly whatever “Mr. Tony” wants to talk about). For WAY more information than you really want to know…check out his wiki page). I was scrolling back through some of my past blog posts and rediscovered a post from 3 years ago that featured a clip from his show. (Listen to the excerpt here…Tony Kornheiser on Spirituality. It’s a little over 9 minutes long but worth the listen.)
In my original blog post, I said that I wanted a group like the the one Kornheiser describes (beginning at around the 5 minute mark of the clip). Specifically I said, “…what was so meaningful about [Kornheiser’s golf] outing and what draws most of us toward that kind of experience is the community that allows such a conversation to occur. I want that.”
Something has evolved for me over the past couple of years that resembles the community evident in Kornheiser’s Yom Kippur golf outing. It is what I “wanted” but looks different than I expected. A few months after that blog post, I started a conversation with several friends facilitated through a private blog. It is a group of friends who trust each other implicitly, enjoy spending time together whenever we can, and who are a source of encouragement and challenge that make life better just knowing they are there. We have a lot of things in common, but we differ on MANY things as well…politics, theology, religion, even continents. But unlike many institutional forms of “community”, these differences haven’t seemed to hinder the friendships. In fact, the relationships have probably grown deeper through the differences. More specifically, the growth has occurred through the trust to share those differences out in the open without fear of reprisal. Which brings me to another observation from Mr. Tony’s radio conversation.
Tony Kornheiser and David Aldridge’s skepticism toward religious institutions is clearly articulated. Their experiences of and attitudes toward these institutions are shared by many people in society today. We have all heard those feelings expressed from many of our acquaintances, neighbors and/or co-workers. This is obviously a problem from the perspective of the institution. To address the problem, institutions have expended huge amounts of time, energy, and resources. “Outreach” programs are developed. Books are written. Consultants are hired. Neighborhoods are canvased. Small group programs are initiated. But we still hear of skepticism directed toward the church based on real or imagined stereotypes of church and religion. I’ve come to believe we are not going to create the type of community people hunger for by introducing more programs, or slick marketing campaigns. What to do?
“Start what you need.” I would suggest starting a conversation among some of your friends…a conversation that is based OUTSIDE the doors of the institutions in question. A conversation specifically intended to create the community you are looking for. Don’t force this conversation; allow it to evolve. However, be intentional. Take some risks. Share yourself…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Share the questions and the doubts as well as the definitive portions of your faith. Chances are, you and some of your friends share that same need. I have a hunch that the more community we experience in our personal lives, the more community develops in the institutions in which we participate. It’s a hunch that I’ve experienced personally…both in my friendships and in my church. A couple of years ago, after hearing something that made me write, “I want that”, I started what I needed. It’s been more than I thought I wanted.
3 thoughts on “Start What You Need”
Timely post to keep me thinking. I expect there to be a discussion and possible vote at my church council meeting next week on bringing a consultant in to address growth and outreach. We clearly need and want something to be done. I think the consultant is an easier sell…
check out this website: (http://www.roxburghmissionalnet.com/) I LOVE Roxburgh and what he is writing about mission. His latest book is REALLY good and I wish more churches would read it before they go spend money on consultants, programs, etc. (Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood http://amzn.to/fm3JBq) I’m only about halfway through the book right now but it is a continuation/progression from some of his earlier stuff. The gist is we are beginning with the “church questions” (What can we do to make the church work better? …get people into our church? etc.) We need to be looking more closely at our culture and asking what does the Gospel look like here…in this neighborhood/coffee shop/garage sale/etc.? All of that might not make sense until you read the book. (Get you church to hire me…then I can come visit!) Peace!
I will check these out. I’m so torn on one level of the issue at church. I think that the real role for the consultant would be a permission giver for change–the kind of change you’re talking about. So the question becomes, why do we need that permission from an outside consultant? Why can’t we just start the thing that we need? Certainly there’s been a lot of talk, but not a lot of doing. We just seem so stuck. Anyway, I will check these out and ponder that question about what the Gospel looks like here. That already makes sense to me to shift away from the church questions and back to the people questions. Jesus ministered to people; he didn’t build church programs.
Let me also say, I would love it if you would come as a consultant, and actually thought of that. Of course, you could also just come and visit. Seriously, how many people get to check North Dakota off their states-visited list. You are welcome anytime although I don’t recommend January or spring flood season. 😉