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Frequently Asked Questions about LivingRoom

20 May, 2006 11:40 PM

Thelivingroom22One of the things that is becoming increasingly common at the moment is for me to get emails from people wanting to know more about LivingRoom. Most of these are coming in as a result of people searching for terms like 'Melbourne emerging church' or as a result of word of mouth.

I guess once a church has been around for a while it can be expected - especially when it has a web presence.

As a result I thought I'd compile a bit of an introduction to LivingRoom to give some basic information on who we are and what we do. Hopefully this will help people to discern whether LivingRoom is a church they'd like to explore journeying with. It will also be a bit of an update for people who've been following LivingRoom over the last year or so from afar.

What is LivingRoom?
LivingRoom is a a group of about 30 people living mainly in the northern suburbs of Melbourne Australia who are seeking to respond to the call of Jesus to Love God, Love one another and Love our neighbor as ourselves. We call ourselves LivingRoom because we want to be a life giving space both for those who are a part of our community but also those who we have opportunity to live among in our daily lives.

Most of us would use the word 'church' to describe ourselves but we've also been called a variety of other things ranging from 'missional community' to 'faith community' to an 'emerging church'. We don't get too hung up on working out what we are or are or even on a lot of the logistics of what church should or shouldn't be like - rather we're keen to explore what being a follower of Jesus looks like in the time and place that we live.

Is LivingRoom a part of a denomination?
LivingRoom is supported and recognized by the Baptist Union of Victoria and was actually planted by them in March 2002. The BUV has been a wonderful support to LivingRoom over the last few years and generously gave us money to get going and has been very supportive and also incredibly permission giving since we started. Our relationship with them has been one where they've allowed us to shape ourselves and have given us space to form on our own - yet one where they've gone out of their way to support and care for us.

Why Did LivingRoom start?
This is a big question and one that would probably be answered a little differently by each member of our community. I can only answer for myself. In short - my desire in being a part of the founding group was to explore what church might look like if it took seriously the central teachings of Jesus in 'the language of the people living in my neighborhood'.

This idea of doing church in the 'indigenous' or local language is something we've learnt as Church to do over the last decades as we think about starting churches in different cultures to our own. When we start a church in a different culture to our own these days we don't force them to teach or worship in our language, we don't make them dress like us, we find symbols and connecting points within their culture to explain the gospel etc.

I guess it was my desire to be a part of a church here in Australia that started with this in mind. What does a church that speaks the language of people living in the north of Melbourne look like? To be honest, I still don't know the answer to that question but I'm sure enjoying finding out.

What do we believe?
We spent quite a few months at the start of the LivingRoom journey asking questions around 'values'. We came up with three pretty broad ones which I explain here. They are not rocket science - in fact they are very similar to what most churches believe.

What do we think about other forms of Church?
This is a question I'm asked a fair bit. One of the sad things about the 'emerging church' label is that some people think that this means we think we're a superior form of church or that we are angry and bitter towards the 'mainline' or 'established' church.

This could not be further from the truth. The original members of LivingRoom were all very positive about church. We had all had both good, bad and indifferent experiences of church at different times of our lives (like most church goers). None of us were particularly angry about church, in fact most of us were very positive about it. Having said this we all also felt drawn to the idea of exploring what a fresh expression of Christian community might look like. This was not because we thought the other expressions we'd been a part of were bad - but rather mainly did so because as we looked around us in the places that we worked, studied and lived we all had wondered how church should connect in these places in more relevant ways. We all wanted to be a part of a community that explored this.

Since beginning we've grown in size. Those who have joined us have brought their own varied experiences of church with them. Some are very positive, some have had little experience of church and others have been hurt through their experience with church. However through all of this we've remained very positive about other forms of church and work at building relationships between us and other communities of all shapes and sizes.

What does LivingRoom do week to week?
LivingRoom currently meets in two groups most weeks. We got too big in 2005 to meet in the one home each week so multiplied (which was always our plan for growing). Our two groups meet in homes (one group on Tuesday nights and the other on Wednesdays) in the northern suburbs (it rotates a little although tends to be largely in the homes of families with kids). We generally eat either a full meal or dessert together to start the evening off.

After dinner/dessert we generally do some sort of activity. This varies from week to week considerably and might range from a bible study/discussion to a reflective or meditative exercise, to a story telling night, to a topical exploration, to a tour of a persons life with reflections along the way on their Spirituality to... well as I say - it varies a lot.

We generally stick to a seven week cycle of gatherings which I've described elsewhere on this site here.

Two things that is a little different for some people who come along for the first time that have experience in other churches is that we generally don't sing and we generally don't have a sermon. This is not because we don't agree with these things - rather one of the things LivingRoom started around was the desire to explore new culturally relevant ways of doing teaching and fresh ways of worshipping God.

Also every 7 weeks the two groups come together for a 'big gathering' (catchy name isn't it!). In these gatherings we usually do some sort of vision casting or teaching.

What is Leadership Like?
When we started LivingRoom I (my name is Darren Rowse) was paid (via a gift from the BUV) to be a leader of LivingRoom (part time). This was on a decreasing basis over two years. We did start with the desire to be a very participatory community with everyone pitching in and from the early days this was the case. However when you have a paid person it can become easy to let that person pick up a lot of the leadership (for many reasons - some of them good).

So after two years I moved out of a paid leadership position into a voluntary one. We've also since started a small group of 'representatives' from the two groups. They don't like to be called 'leaders' as such but in many ways they pick up much of that role.

Our 7 week cycle is very participatory and is designed so that different people can exercise their gifts and talents in leading us from week to week.

I still do pick up some leadership roles although have pulled back on the amount of time I'm able to give LivingRoom in the last 12 months to allow others to pick up more but also to concentrate on other work and projects.

What are the demographics of the group?
We range in age fro 2 to early 40's. We have a range of professions from students, to nurses, to lawyers, to small business operators, to electricians, to missions agency workers, to academics, to teachers, to social workers, to artists....

I would say we're a fairly youthful group with a fair bit of energy. We have a number of children in the group who participate at varying levels depending largely upon their age. We don't have a 'Sunday School' but have talked from time to time about how to include our children in what we do. To be honest this is an area we need to work more on and are learning from other groups on.

Do we allow visitors?
This is a question that we're asked a bit. We don't have a building or a sign with our 'service' times on it anywhere which makes us a little difficult to visit but we are open to visitors. You will need to contact us first though to find out where and when we're meeting.

One thing it is worth mentioning however - as we are a reasonably small group having visitors does have a bit of an impact on us. These days it's not quite as big an issue as it was in our early days (when we were a group of 7) but it is worth keeping in the back of your mind that while we enjoy visitors and encourage them that at times its more appropriate than others depending upon what we're doing and what impact it might have.

For example, some nights we do more administrative nights where we talk about issues the group is facing and these nights might not be as appropriate for a visitor as others. Also in the early days we had a lot of visitors just 'coming for a look'. This was a little disruptive for us being quite small.

As a result if we get lots of visitors for a number of weeks in a row we sometimes have 'closed shop' for a week or two just to help us get some momentum and flow back into things. It's not a big issue - but we do ask that if you'd like to come along that you let us know and together we'll work out when will be a good time for both you and us.

If you'd like to come along with the intention of seeing whether LivingRoom might be a community you'd like to be a part of we do try to catch up with you for a coffee first if it's possible. This isn't to check you out (it's not an interview or anything) but simply because we find that if you know some of who we are and what we do that it tends to be a better visit both for you and us. I used to do most of these catch ups but these days I try to refer you to someone to do it. It also means when you come along that you know a face and name which makes the night a little less awkward - we know how hard it can be to join new groups :-)

Contact us
The best way to get in touch is to email me via our contact form. Make sure you include you email address, other contact details and a little about you (where you live, your name and anything else you think might be relevant) and I'll endeavor to get back to you either myself or will ask another LivingRoomie to get in touch. We won't stalk you or anything - but rather would love to chat to you and discern together whether LivingRoom might be a place for you. If it isn't then we might be able to help you find other churches like us in Melbourne.

I hope that answers some of the questions that people have about LivingRoom. I'm sure there will be more and I'll update this page as I think of them. Feel free to ask more.

Love Thy Neighbor

16 May, 2006 11:18 PM

Robert Bruce has written and posted a thought provoking and challenging poem on his blog titled Love Thy Neighbor.

The Da Vinci Code - A Christian Response?

15 May, 2006 10:33 AM

Da-Vinci-Code-2 I'm fascinated by the response of the church here in Australia to the Da Vinci Code.

On one hand there have been a number of 'campaigns' that I've come across encouraging Christians to boycott the Da Vinci Code movie and book. The reasoning is that if we all avoid it we send a clear message that it's not something that we believe in. The fear behind the boycott is that if people do see it that their faith will be rocked and that it will lead people away from the Church and Jesus.

On the other hand I've seen a number of churches who have booked out cinemas on opening night and who are going to see the movie as a group. Not only that, they're encouraging their members to bring along non church going friends and family. They are seeing the Da Vinci Code as an opportunity for evangelism. The theory behind their approach is that people will be going to see the movie whether the Church boycotts it or not and that they think that rather than it being a potential threat to faith that it's one of the few natural opportunities that Christians will get these days to have a conversation about faith, Church and Jesus.

Quite a few people have asked me over the past year or so what I think about the Da Vinci Code and whether I'd read it or not.

My own opinion of the book was that it was not particularly well written in a literary sense but that the story was a good one from an entertainment perspective. I read it as a novel and not as non fiction (as it's been intended to be read). I don't understand why anyone would read it in any other way.

I didn't feel my faith or beliefs were impacted by the experience in one way or the other but do see it as an interesting discussion starter on the issues that are contained within it. In fact I've had a number of conversations with people who have read the book that have led into what I call 'God moments' where people seem to have new encounters and understandings of God. I believe that God used the Da Vinci Code in these conversations to do something significant as people were stimulated to ask questions and search deeper as a result of the themes that were raised in the book.

I think the second approach (of churches actually engaging with Da Vinci Code and seeing it as a connecting point) is a great one. I've seen similar approaches work really well when people have engaged with children around Harry Potter.

I find that in the culture that I live in that there are not a lot of things that cause people to talk about the deeper issues of life (this is especially the case for men).

Movies (and books) are things that people still do talk deeply about (some movies more than others of course). Rather than purposely stepping out of the discussions that people will have about Church, the Jesus story and faith I think we need to intentionally step into it.

I believe that God uses all types of things to draw people to himself. Some of these things we might classify as 'Holy', others might be more unexpected. The question I guess we need to answer as Christians is whether we'll join him in the unexpected places to be a part of his work?

Digital Photography School

12 May, 2006 2:47 PM

I've been working on a new blog that some of you might have some interest in if you're interesting in improving your digital camera technique.

It's called Digital Photography School and is a blog with regularly updated tips for getting the most out of your digital camera.

At present I'm writing a series on Travel photography but there's plenty of other tips in the archives. I hope you enjoy it.

Measuring Emerging Church as a Trend

12 May, 2006 2:27 PM

Yesterday Google announced a new tool - Google Trends which is great for tracking how many people are searching Google for different keywords.

The term 'Emerging Church didn't really appear on Google's tracking until about three quarters through 2005. Following is a graph that shows it.

I'm unsure why there is such a leap at the start - I suspect that they just were not tracking it (other terms were tracked since the start of 2004).

So over the last 6 or so months the graph is pretty steady.


As an update to give some perspective of the numbers of people searching (Google trends just graphs it without measuring) I thought I'd compare 'emerging church' (blue) with 'Hillsong' (a large contemporary worship church here in Australia). The results are... interesting.... to say the least:


Also interesting with Google trends is that they plot where in the world people are searching for these terms from.

With Emerging church the biggest regions where people are searching for the term are (in order):

1. United States
2. Australia
3. Canada
4. United Kingdom

(no other countries registered high enough volumes of traffic to register)

With Hillsong the biggest regions of the world where people are searching for the term are:

1. Philippines
2. Australia
3. Singapore
4. South Africa
5. Indonesia
6. Malaysia
7. New Zealand
8. Brazil
9. Chile
10. Colombia

@ LivingRoom

5 May, 2006 1:22 PM

The last two weeks at LivingRoom have been good fun.

Two weeks ago was our 'big gathering' where both groups come together. We had Kim Hammond from Forge Victoria come along to share his story. Kim is a great guy who has taken on Forge Victoria's leadership and is helping it as a network to continue to grow into new areas. He's also a church planter of a church called The Junction which is quite similar to LivingRoom but meats out in the South Eastern areas of Melbourne in a number of groups.

Kim shared his story of growing up, coming to faith and some of his more recent discoveries of thinking through mission and emerging church. Kim's actually heading to the US in the next month or so so if any readers happen to have an opportunity to hear him speak it's well worth while.

Then this week at our LivingRoom group we had a night on 'Everyday Spirituality' where one of our group led us through some reflections on different people's spiritual rhythms. He had asked us to do a little research on a prominent person's faith and how they connected with God in their every day lives. People presented on all kinds of people from contemporary musicians, to sports people, to philosophers, to family members, to prominent Christian writers to old monks from centuries ago. I found it fascinating to hear the variety of things that were brought to the table. It brought home to me the diverse group of people we've got in our little gathering.

World Cup Football News and Results

1 May, 2006 2:17 PM

If you're into the World Cup and want to find a couple of blogs that will be following the latest World Cup News and Results during June when the World Cup is being held in Germany you might be interested in a couple of blogs that b5media have produced at:

Soccerati - World Cup News and Results
The Footie - World Cup Football News and Results