Living Room Archives

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LivingRoom digs into the News

30 March, 2005 5:42 PM

Tonight at LivingRoom we're going to do something a little different (when don't we) and watch the news together.

Its our 'topical' night and unfortunately the guest we were trying to line up to come and talk to us about abortion can't make it so at the last minute we're switching plans to see what the up to the minute topics of the day are. We'll video tonight's news bulletin from TV and replay it story by story with a pause between each one for a response from the group.

The responses might include any of the following (and more):

  • a time of prayer
  • digging into Scripture on the topic
  • debate
  • time of reflection
  • discussion on values
  • discussion on how we might respond
  • asking where the Kingdom of God is present (or absent) in the stories
  • ethical discussions

We might get stuck on the first story of the bulliten and go no further for the night or we might find its a slow news night and whip through them all really quick (lets hope there are not too many 'firemen rescue kittens stuck up a tree' stories.

The night could go anywhere depending what happened in the world today!

20 Point Easter Sermon

23 March, 2005 11:09 PM

I know this will freak some of my readers out - 3 posts in a day!

Tonight at LivingRoom we did the Easter thing - yes, in one night we did Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday - all in one.

I was tempted to just choose one aspect of Easter but in the end decided to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

I printed off the last few chapters of each of the Gospels from (basically the stories from the Last Supper onwards) from Bible Gateway and then basically cut them up into short bite sized mini stories/passages. By 'cut them up' I literally mean I cut them with scissors.

So tonight after our meal together we all sat around in a circle (it was squashy tonight cause we had 6 new people with us) and in the middle of the room I placed all the bite sized segments from the four gospels - there must have been about 40 of them.

I invited people to choose one or two of the stories to contemplate for the next 10-15 minutes. The invitation I gave was as follows:

Take the next few minutes to quietly read over the story/ies that you've selected.

Read them over a few times and ponder what you hear. Allow your mind to go in whatever direction the passage takes it. You might like to use some of the following questions as starting points.

What words or statements ring in your ears after reading this passage?
What does it leave your wondering?
What does it leave your feeling?
Does it call you to some sort of response?
Where do you see yourself in the story?
What hadn't you noticed before?
What does it teach you about God?
What does it tell you about yourself and humanity?

At the end of the time of contemplation I invited people to read out one of their passages and if they'd like to share where their contemplations led them.

So as people shared we pretty much heard the full account of the last day of Jesus life through to the resurrection accounts (although we did them in a kind of random order - which was quite interesting in itself) along with people's impressions, ponderings, challenges. It was like a 20 point sermon (as there were 20 of us there).

I found the whole exercise quite interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly the reflection on a short passage was an interesting exercise as it really focused me in on one story quite intensely (I looked at the Garden of Gethsemane). But then to step back and hear such a variety of interconnected stories and reflections was quite powerful for me. I was struck by the amazing array of emotions that were expressed by different people featured in the stories - the rollercoaster ride that these few days must have been for Jesus, his disciples and those around them.

BYO Worship - Home

16 March, 2005 10:21 PM

At LivingRoom tonight we had a wonderful night of BYO Worship.

For newer readers of this blog who haven't come across the concept before - you might like to check out two previous descriptions of BYO Worship nights here and here.

In short, BYO worship is where each person is invited to bring a short experience, reflection, story, activity, reading, piece of music, song, art work etc for the group to do - usually on a certain theme. We generally fast on these nights - so instead of each person bringing something to the meal to share they bring something to the worship time to share.

Tonight's theme was 'Home' and I was really touched by the amazing array of experiences that were brought together in a beautiful way. Some of the elements of our night tonight included:

  • Photos of one person's homes over the years
  • A song 'come into my kitchen'
  • Quotes on the topic of 'home'
  • A couple of treasured heirlooms from a grandparent (an old battered cookbook and a fork and spoon) that reminded one person of home
  • A reflection on John 15 - 'Abide in me and I will Abide in you' (or in the Message translation - 'Make your home in me and I will make my home in you'. Followed by discussion on the differences between a house and a home.
  • An exercise on homelessness getting us to think of those who perhaps are without home.
  • A song - 'I still call Australia Home' - with a reflection on one person's journey of moving to Australia
  • Verses on God dwelling in/with us
  • Verses on Us dwelling in/with God
  • One person's Teddy Bear which had symbolized home for that person for many years
  • One person's visitor book which each person that visits their home signs which has come to mean a lot to them
  • A reflection on one family moving out of home temporarily to live with another family whilst their home is being renovated
  • Someone singing us a song written about community

I have by no means done justice to the wonderful array of experiences that we had tonight. One of the things I love about our BYO Worship nights is the way in which the Holy Spirit takes a diverse group of experiences and activities and actually speaks quite powerfully to those there on a topic. It was fascinating to see the common threads running through the night as people shared - it was also really powerful to have each person share so openly of themselves - I think we all came away from the night having felt touched not only by God but also somewhat touched by one another and knowing each other a little better.

Admin Night at LivingRoom

11 March, 2005 12:00 AM

Good night again last night at LivingRoom. We had a night talking through 'admin' issues including reworking our micro groups, talking about how we grow (it looks like we'll start a second group soonish) and reviewing our new cycle of gatherings (I think we're all enjoying the variety of themes and also people in leadership). We also talked through a number of other logistical issues and did a little planning for an upcoming weekend away.

One of the things we decided to do was to have a 'host' for our Wednesday night gatherings. One person each week will be given the role of keeping things moving and helping the night to run well. In a sense we've taken the idea from Cityside and Mark Pierson's 'Worship Curator' idea.

The nice thing about the current situation that we're in is that we're continuing to grow and seeing new people enquire about our group. Of course this brings with it new challenges but overall its a nice 'problem' to have. I'm looking forward to the new developments as they unfold.

Radical Living

3 March, 2005 11:15 AM

Last night at LivingRoom Rob led us in a bible interaction. He got us into two groups which had the task of pulling apart and arguing either for or against the following quote from Geoffry Magrasse.

'We can only be radical if we start with God. We cannot get involved with all the political issues of today. What we've got to do is try and make the journey we are making as Christ would make it.'

One group had to argue for the quote and the other had to argue against it - but using Scripture as a primary source for their discussion.

The groups then came back together and shared what they'd discussed - listened to each other and then reflected back what they liked about what the other group had said.

The discussion was rich and took us in a range of directions. It tackled some big issues like Christians in mainstream politics, the politics of everyday living and questions like can 'we start with God' or does 'God start with us'? Discussion went late into the evening and I'd be doing the group a disservice by trying to sum it all up here.

LivingRoom Gatherings for 2005

6 February, 2005 3:53 PM

One Wednesday night at LivingRoom we met to discuss the way we want our weekly gatherings to look this year. There have been a number of changes that have impacted the way we meet. For starters we are now regularly over 20 in number - if everyone were to show up at once it would be over 25. Secondly, some weeks we now have up to 5 children with us. Thirdly we're still toying with the idea of starting a new group and want to minimise the the amount of time and energy that goes into preparing for the time together (in my experience of church too much energy is often put into weekly gatherings that could be put into other areas). Lastly I've gone back to a voluntary leadership role and have scaled back how much time I have to offer the community and we've moved to a more group led approach.

As a result we decided on Wednesday night to trial a cyclic approach to our gatherings where each week will have a different focus and be lead by different people. Our cycle will be of 7 weeks which takes us through a variety of different nights. Of course there will be overlap between the different styles (for example we'll pray and read the bible most weeks but in different ways depending upon who is leading and what the focus is. The 7 weeks are as follows:

Week 1 - Spirituality Tour of the life of one of the members of the group. In these weeks we meet for a meal at the person's house and then get into cars and they take us to places that are part of their everyday existance which might include, work, uni, school, caf�, gym, the park, place where they volunteer, friends houses etc etc etc. They tell us about those places and what they do there - who they meet etc. They share the rhythm of their life and we pray for them along the way or at the end. I've written about these here, here and here.

Week 2 - Reflective Night - These nights will be more reflective in nature and led by a different person each time - or perhaps a few people together. They could range from simple nights reflecting upon an image, verse, quote to using reflections/meditations that we've done before like Examen, Lectio divina etc. They might be individualistic or corporate. Really depends on who is leading and what they feel they'd like to lead us in.

Week 3 - Bible Focus - again this could cover a range of things from a bible study, to a 'Godly Play' exercise to some teaching etc. It might focus on a passage or be more of a topical survey of different passages.

Week 4 - Vision/Logistics/Review/Planning nights - From time to time I've been aware that we probably are not putting enough time into thinking through our direction and being intentional about what we do. I don't want to become overly rigid but perhaps from time to time it might not hurt to be a little strategic and to think through direction. These nights might be anything from thinking through an issue of 'giving' or 'how do we multiply/grow' through to planning topics/themes for the next term through to talking about the nitty gritty of our food roster, micro groups etc. These nights could also include having some guests from other communities come and share how they do things.

Week 5 - Real Life Spirituality - from time to time we have done nights that simply give each other opportunity to talk about what has been going on for them in terms of their 3 journeys. Particularly we've focused upon our 'outer' journey in these times and shared about the opportunities we've had to join with God in what he's doing in the world around us. Maybe we could also make these nights a 'BYO worship' night where everyone is invited to bring something for the group - whether it be a story of their week, a short reflection, a short reading/bible focus, etc. Its an opportunity for us to each listen to what God might want us to bring to the group in a very informal way.

Week 6 - Topical Night - We've done a few of these over the two years and they have ranged from hypothetical topics through to topics like Food and spirituality, to Refugee issues, to sexuality etc. They could be a range of formats from visiting a debate/event on an issue to someone doing some teaching/bible study through to a guest speaker. Again the topics would depend upon the person putting up their hand to run them and the desires of the group.

Week 7 - Mission and the Outer Journey - These nights are more focused upon the Outer Journey of mission, justice and the world we live in. They might range from actually going out and engaging in some activity in the community around us, to a guest from another faith journey, to a sharing night on what God's doing around us in this area, to some learning/study/teaching on the area.

The 7 weeks might seem a little rigid but they are not intended to box us but rather to stimulate our thinking and help us to be intentional in cycling through the values that we've identified as a group.

We've done some planning on the first 7 weeks and each of them have been allocated to a different person to lead. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they unfold and go.

Children in Emerging Church

3 February, 2005 3:01 PM

Barb points to this helpful article on Children and the Emerging Church which I'm going to keep on hand to point people to when I get asked about the topic (every few weeks it seems). It is written by one of my heroes - Neil Cole. He writes:

'In order to have a spontaneous church multiplication movement, we must not confine expansion with controls. For this reason, I dont recommend that there is only one way to take care of kids in a simple church. In fact, we usually give two or three options and let churches decide for themselves. My experience shows, however, that there are better ways than others. Integration in church life has proven more powerful than segregation based on age....'

I think Neil is onto something here - we have 5 kids that come to LivingRoom from time to time and its something that has been on my mind for a while now. We talked again last night in our planning time about the idea of integration with kids and came to a decision that to do a specific kids ministry/Sunday School type thing was not where we were at. Instead for us we want to be very very intentional about our relationships with our kids - love them and make a real effort to engage them over our meal and community time. We make a conscious effort to do all age friendly activities from time to time but at other times are fine with the idea of the kids going off by themselves to have a play and be themselves with one another while we do what we do. One of the insightful comments a parent made last night was that if we work on the relationship that the kids will want to stay with us, even when we 'talk adult' together and that this is probably the best integration we can do.

Tithing and Giving at LivingRoom

17 January, 2005 12:45 PM

One of the questions that has been sitting in my inbox for a while now from a reader is on Tithing/Giving. A reader asks:

One thing that interests me is tithing. I've read some of your posts about money and the emerging church, and I wonder, how do you think tithing fits in the emerging church? If there's no building to maintain and no full-time staff, is a strict 10-per-cent-per-paycheck still the go? No quibbles that giving money per se is important practically as well as being an antidote to materialism, of course.... How does LivingRoom do things?

Good question. Actually giving is an area we're currently working on (and so the following is largely my own opinion and guesswork as to how we'll move forward). To this point its been very relaxed (perhaps too relaxed) and we've left it up to individuals to give as they feel led to do to whatever they want. If they want to give to LivingRoom we have an account that they can directly debit money into. But we rarely talk about it and we rarely spend it! I know individuals are very generous with other causes - giving to the LivingRoom account to this point has been quite small - probably because we have not pushed it at all.

I actually would like this year to have it higher on our priority list - not that we talk about it all the time or pressure people to give to LivingRoom but that we raise the profile of being a generous and giving group of people.

We don't and probably won't ever have a bowl that we pass around but I suspect that we will probably just talk about it more and talk about where we might give the money that is given more.

We don't actually have any expenses as a church - I don't draw a wage and we have few, if any overheads - as you say - no building, no staff, no expenses. This is exciting to me because it means that any money we get we are looking to give to other groups, ministries, community groups etc - especially missional stuff. This year we may use some of it to run some of our own missional projects.

So in answer to your question - its not a big deal for us and perhaps should be more of one (without becoming dominant).

My personal opinion on tithing is that 10% isn't really what God is after. He asks for everything and so we need to learn to live more in an attitude of that whether it be in our formal or informal giving/generosity. I'm not anti tithing or churches that practice it but would much prefer to see individuals seeking God as to how he wants them to use their resources (financial, time, possessions etc) and then responding to that. I'll keep you up to date here on the blog as to any decisions we end up making in the coming weeks/months on this area.

More Living Rooms Emerging

12 January, 2005 12:20 PM

Lucas from ::my four walls:: just emailed me to say that they're starting a little church where he lives in Texas and that after using some material from this site and chatting over it as a group that they've decided to call themselves 'The Living Room'. Wooohooo another one!

By my counting this brings the total number of new LivingRoom's that I know of in the last two years to five.

It is really exciting to see these little communities springing up all over the world (not just the one's named Living Room). I'm constantly amazed by the way that so many of them seem to have common threads and strands yet how diverse they can also be.

Our little 'Living Room' church has been on summer holidays from meeting face to face for a couple of weeks. Some of the group have been away on holidays, others have caught up informally and others have just taken a little break by themselves. I love that we're flexible enough to morph and change in this way.

Lucas asked in his email how big our church is and I thought I'd answer here.

I'll resist the normal emerging church response to this question of 'its not about numbers'. Whilst I agree that numbers are not the best or only measure of a church's health I have come to a point that its still not the evil/bad/misguided/unaskable question that some seem to think that it is. Numbers are important to me not to measure our success but because numbers change the dynamic of a group and can help give a picture of where a group of people are at. They can also (but don't always) give an indication of energy - ie one could say that a group that goes from one hundred to thousands (like on the day of Pentecost) might have something going on - there might just be some energy there that says something about what God is doing there. Having said this a small non numerically growing group of people can have incredible energy and God's movement going on in it also.

Ok - have I said enough qualifying statements to the most simple of questions?

How big is the LivingRoom. As of the end of 2004 our core group numbered fifteen people. This doesn't mean there is 15 there each week - our gatherings vary from half that to more than that depending on what is going on with people that week. We quite often have visitors and people are quite often away. There is also somewhere between 5 and 7 people on the edges of the group who are about to either join in the new year or who are 'checking us out'.

The dynamics of the group have changed as we've grown in the past (almost) two years. When we started initial core of 7 (all but one remain today) our gatherings happened around the meal table and were more intimate by virtue of being so physically close to one another. Now we are too big for any of the tables that our group has in their homes so we tend to spread out around a LivingRoom to eat and for our activities. Its also common now to leave our time together not having talked to everyone as deeply as you did when we first started. Of course there are positives to a larger number of people (the meal is usually easier to organize) and its a nice feeling to have a full room of diverse people.

2005 will likely see LivingRoom multiply for the first time. This is partly just for logistics but there also just seems to be energy in the group for a new one to emerge around a number of people within our core team. How this looks and the way it will happen is yet to be made clear but I'm looking forward to seeing where the conversations we're having will take us.

LivingRoom Wedding #1

13 December, 2004 8:52 AM

Yesterday was the first LivingRoom wedding. Two of our much loved core group tied the knot in a really beautiful morning ceremony in the sunshine a couple of hours outside of Melbourne. It was a wonderful afternoon - very relaxed - very creative.

As I lay on a picnic rug at during the reception - nibbling on some wonderful organic vegetarian food and having myself a very nice organic beer - I looked around me to see a wonderful example of what community could be. There were 100 or so people there from all different parts of the happy couple's life - LivingRoom people were just one of many groups that included friends from school, previous churches, family etc. It was nice to see different groups connecting throughout the afternoon.

Instead of a sit down reception they decided to have a picnic where people were invited to come dressed 'as you are' - very relaxed. People brought their dogs and kids and sprawled out on picnic rugs and fold up chairs.

People were also given with the invitation to the event a small square piece of card which they were asked to make/draw/create something to represent a small gift for the couple. It was fascinating to see the variety of creative ideas that people brought.

It was a wonderful cruisey afternoon. Bring on some more LivingRoom Weddings - I could certainly do with that kind of afternoon a little more regularly in my life.

LivingRoom - Working/Dreaming Groups

14 October, 2004 12:35 PM

We had a really interesting and worthwhile gathering at LivingRoom last night where we spent the evening talking through some of the issues that we face as a community.

We talked through four main areas and then set up working/dreaming groups for each to make sure that we move forward and don't just talk the talk. They will take the conversations we had last night as a basis for their more intentional thinking, dreaming, planning, researching and come back to the group with some ways forward.

The areas that we're thinking and praying through at the moment are:

Multiplication - How do we grow? What will be the benefits, risks, pain, excitement, logistics of starting a second LivingRoom type group in 2005? How will it work? Who will lead it? What will the relationship between the two groups be? Will it be a clone of what we currently are or a fresh expression? Do we base it around new people or existing people? What does leadership look like? What will my role be in the new and existing group? How do we decide who goes and who stays? What will be the impact of the move on the existing group? These are just some of the questions we've given to the working group in this area to tackle and work through - they'll hopefully come back to the group with some suggestions and ideas on how our multiplication will look next year and even looking further down the track for future mulitiplications.

Giving - I told the group last night that next year I do not need them to pay me anything and that I will continue to give a day or two (depending on the feeling of the group) to the work of LivingRoom. This releases us to give financially to other opportunities including mission projects we might want to run, seeding new communities, interns, gifts to other mission and community projects both locally, nationally and overseas etc. This working group will be thinking through some of the issues surrounding this and will come back to the group with some suggested ways forward.

Gatherings - This group will take a look at our Wednesday night and Micro Group gatherings and do some evaluation, planning and thinking about how we can make them a more enriching part of our journey. We don't want to be defined by what we do when we gather and don't want to be consumed by planning and running events but we do want our times together to propel us into our Core Values. We also realize that if we're multiplying that it might be useful to have a rhythm of gathering that is a little less reliant upon one person preparing and is more self sufficient and able to be led and sustained by a group working together.

Mission - We've talked over the last year and a half about mission a lot and to this point have not really done much on a corporate level. So far mission has very much happened as an extension of our lives. This group will do some thinking about corporate mission again and hopefully come back with some opportunities, teaching and ideas on how we can be more dynamic in our outward focus.

All in all it was a good night. We raise a whole heaps of questions and came up with some interesting ideas and thoughts that I'd not considered before that will give our four working groups a launching pad into some interesting dreaming and work.

More Church Planting Lessons from the LivingRoom

11 October, 2004 1:33 PM

I just had a good MSN chat with a fellow explorer of all things church and he asked - 'any more wisdom to share concerning house churches?'

I'm not sure how wise I am - I'm a newbie to this planting of churches thing and am learning as I go along. I sprouted a few things off the top of my head that I thought I'd keep a record of and float here publicly for your thoughts, experiences and comments. By no means is what I'm sharing here definitive or universal - its just a little of what I'm learning in our context. It's not rocket science - but here goes:

1. Go Slow - It takes time to build relationships with each other and with the wider community. I've seen a number of people start churches who have gone in with guns blazing and the up shot of it was that it didn't last.

We spent a long time getting to know each other as a core group of people, spent a lot of time working on our values/dna and whilst I was a little frustrated at the time at the slowness of our growth (we had one new person in a year!) I'm really grateful for the strong foundations of values and relationships that we now have.

My online buddy asked me at this point about buildings and how early to start talking about them. I responded:

'I'm not against buildings - but I think they should emerge out of the dna and the opportunities that arise and that takes a lot of time to discern. If we'd got a building when we started it would have been the wrong building for where we are now.'

I'm not sure if or when we'll have a building - at the moment I doubt that we will - but if we do I'd hope that it emerges out of our missional activity rather than anything else.

2. Make it as connected as possible to people's real lives - We've really tried hard to ground what we do in our weekly gatherings in what people do in the other 98% of their week. I think the temptation when you are involved in a little group like ours is to hide away and be all 'spiritual' and 'holy'. So we don't do just 'spiritual stuff' - or rather we've widened what we see as 'spiritual stuff' and talk a fair bit about real life - work, friends, social issues. Our recent 'food' series was good in this way.

3. Don't just meet in Houses - This is related to the last one I suppose but I have been pondering it today. I think we can begin to break down the wall between the 'holy huddle' mentality that its easy to fall into the trap of and the 'everyday spirituality' that I talked about above by actually shifting the gathering space to an everyday space on a regular basis. I've documented some of our attempts to do this on this blog and I find it to be an incredibly rich experience every time we do it. I think its easy for a church to be defined by the building it meets in (house church, pup church, cafe church) and think its useful to mix things up a bit and to find other words to describe what you do (the reason why I rarely describe LivingRoom as a 'house church').

4. Don't let Church Dominate Life - Again this is related but its been such a big lesson for me personally. Its so easy to let Church become an overwhelming dominant thing in one's life. Now I've got nothing against church - as far as things go its probably on the good end of the spectrum of things that you could allow to dominate your life - but as a minister I think I've been guilty in the past of expecting my congregations to give every spare moment in their week to the programs and ministries that I run for them. In the process I created a monster that consumed people's lives. In the process I ran the risk of disconnecting them from their families, work places, social clubs, friends, neighbors and personal hobbies and interests and what God was doing around them in their natural rhythms of life.

I'm learning that if we allow people (and ourselves) time to live a little that they actually become much more effective in mission and that they find God and grow in their understanding and relationship with him in some amazingly surprising places!

Again - I have nothing against programs or ministries - but I think that we need to really take our time and ask some big questions about them before we rush into adding another expectation into people's lives.

5. Be Shaped by the Outsider - I'm reading a business book by Seth Godin at the moment called 'Free Prize' and today he talked about how when developing a new product you should focus your attentions NOT on your satisfied customers but those who were dissatisfied and who had a need. There is no point in developing a new product for your existing happy customers because they will probably buy it anyway - the way to expand your customer base is to focus on the dissatisfied ones. Now I'm not wanting to say that those who attend church are 'customers' - but it made me wonder who most churches spend most of their time and energies focussing upon.

I've got a friend who once said to me - 'What we do in our church is defined not by who attends it - but by who doesn't attend it.' In saying this he was advising me to spend time thinking about my culture, my neighbor, my work mate and allowing who they are to help shape what we do as a church. I think there is some real wisdom in those words. Not that we forget about those in our community when thinking about how we are shaped as a church - but that we also allow those on the edges and outside our community to shape it also.

I'm sure I'll think of more things as the day/week progresses as I'm in a bit of a reflective mood these days. Again - these are not meant to be definitive or 'the answers' but just some lessons learnt so far for us. Interested in others thoughts and experiences.

LivingRoom Review - 20 Months

9 October, 2004 5:43 PM

Well I have refrained from blogging too many details of LivingRoom for the past few months apart from some descriptions of what we've been doing in our weekly gatherings.

I haven't done this intentionally (although I don't really believe in publicly documenting every thing we do, decide or talk about - not because we're hiding anything, but just because so much of what we do is about relationships and the struggles of life) but rather have not had a huge desire (or a lot of time) to document it. Having said all that I thought it might be worthwhile me making a few comments on the place that we as a community find ourselves now after over 20 months of grappling with responding to the call of Jesus in the context that we live.

Multiplication - one of the things that we all agreed on when the LivingRoom first began to come together was that we wanted to be a group that multiplied rather than became one large church. I don't think this was because anyone in our group has anything against larger churches - in fact most of us have had some positive and life giving experiences in them - however we felt that a smaller group setting would perhaps be a more appropriate one for our mix of personalities in the missional context we found ourselves in.

Up until now that has been a rather nice theory or ideal - but will it work? We're getting close to finding out as our numbers have continued to grow to a point where meeting around a table is pretty much an impossibility and even our larger livingrooms are getting a little small. So in the next few months, high on our agenda, is a focus on working through how our group will become two groups. Of course this will be a challenge on many levels - amidst the excitement of growth and new people is the pain of change, uncertainty as to how to manage the transition and a little fear as to what the impact will be. I'm excited by the possibility but wanting to proceed carefully and waiting for God to reveal a way forward.

Publicity - I'm not sure that the group as a whole feels this as much as perhaps I do, but I've definitely felt more eyes upon us in the last few months. Every week there are enquiries from people interested in knowing more. Sometimes it is because they want to explore joining in, but mostly its for other reasons. People wanting to find a model for their own context, others wanting to network, others just curious and wanting to learn, others wanting us to come and share with their own communities/churches and others who are somewhat concerned about what we're doing and want to lend their wise counsel.

I really enjoy most of these interactions and find that in most cases people are very supportive and gracious as I share and listen. I take every opportunity I can to share and learn from others and am keen to respond to as many as possible as it is a big part of shaping who we are as a group (and hopefully its a life giving experience for those we're interacting with as well).

At the same time I often feel awkward having this sort of attention upon us. You see despite the labels that are put upon us (like 'Emerging, Organic, Liquid, New Form, New Model') I personally don't see that what we're doing is particularly new or special. Don't get me wrong - I think its special in that as we've waited on God and moved forward that this is what he seems to wanting to do with us - but in terms of us being a model to look at - I think that what we do is pretty basic stuff and not at all 'sexy' or 'new'. In fact most of what we do at our core is pretty similar to many other churches, except that we attempt to do it in a language and form that is relevant to the suburbs we live in and the subcultures that surround us.

Anti Mainline? - I guess the other criticism that I'm hearing more and more about churches like ours is that we see ourselves as better than, superior to or in competition with or anti the 'traditional' or 'mainline' church. This is a growing frustration for me as it could not be further from the truth. I (and I'll only speak for myself despite suspecting that everyone in LivingRoom feels the same) LOVE the church - not just the bits that look or operate like we do - but all of it.

In fact if there is a segment of the church (and I don't like to segment it) that I seem to being drawn to more and more these days in my work outside the LivingRoom it would be the 'mainline' church who I have increasing opportunities to share with, learn from and build relationships with.

I don't particularly care if churches or people are Emerging, Traditional, Contemporary, Orthadox, Liberal or Fundamental - whether they choose to meet on Sunday mornings in a building with a steeple, Wednesday nights in a cafe or a home around a meal, Saturdays every second week at midnight in a night club or on a Monday morning around the water cooler at work - whether they sing hymns, songs, chants or choose not to sing at all - what I care about is that people are moving closer to God and that they are doing their best to help those around them to do the same (sorry for the rant).

I guess the question I'm left pondering is 'how do I (we) break down the misconception that we're anti church or are suggesting that WE are the only way forward? Or do we just keep getting on with the job at hand and ignore the critiques?

Everyday and Naturally Rhythmic Spirituality - I'm feeling more and more convinced that God seems to be doing something among us that is in the ordinary everyday lives that we lead. I find it hard to describe or put my finger on - but much of what we end up focussing upon at LivingRoom tends to come back to real life issues and how we hear from and respond to God in them. This was a strong thing in our recent focus upon Spirituality and Food - is very evident in our Everyday Spirituality Tours and regularly surfaces when we meet in our Micro Groups. I think we could do more to foster this exploration but am finding it to be a very refreshing learning experience.

Self Sufficiency - Most of you know that our denomination gave us a two year seeding grant which has contributed to my living expenses/wage over the past 18 months. I've written before about my worry and concern about what happens when that money runs out and in the last 6 months have worked hard at finding new income streams to allow me to continue to work with LivingRoom. The amazing thing is that it looks like the work, prayer and creative thinking have paid off and that I'll be able to offer my time to LivingRoom next year for free. I'm excited about this for a number of reasons (in addition to being able to pay the rent and put food on the table) - mainly because I'd really love the form of church that we have (and are planting through multiplication) to be able to sustain itself in future. I'm also excited because it will release the finances of the group for some exciting missional opportunities.

I'd always felt uncomfortable in previous settings that so much of the churches giving ended up being spent on caring for those inside the community (my wage as a pastor) and so little actually had an impact on those on its fringes. Whilst I don't have an issue with ministers being paid - I'm excited that we're in a position to be able to funnel more dollars into mission.

I think I might stop there. There is a lot more I could write - and I may do so in the week ahead before I head off on holidays next Saturday. I don't want to present LivingRoom as being all together, rosy red, the perfect model. Its not. However these are some of the things we're working through at the moment and I thought it would be worthwhile putting them on the blog with the hope that it might connect with others and that you might join in praying for us as we seek to move forward. I'd especially appreciate your prayers in the next week as we'll be getting together on Wednesday night to talk through some of these very issues as we look to 2005 and beyond. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Writing Prayers

7 October, 2004 6:50 PM

Last night at LivingRoom we spent the night writing prayers. Up until this point we've been a group that has very rarely read or written prayers - our prayer has been much more of a meditative/contemplative or free flowing spoken nature. I guess growing up I reacted against the few experiences of liturgy or written prayers that I experienced and have rarely gone back to it until recently when I've begun to hang out with and be impacted by communities that have a very rich experience of God through it.

Anyway - last night we spent some time as individuals writing prayers on a variety of topics. At the end of the time we came back together and some of us shared what we'd written. I was quite amazed by the diversity of themes and styles of prayers written. It was quite a moving experience for some of us to hear what had been written, knowing the roads that people have and are traveling. We're going to collect the prayers that we write and begin a prayer scrap book so that we can look back on them and at times pray them again. I suspect prayer writing nights will become a more regular part of what we do from time to time.

update: Writing Prayers is a helpful resource for those wanting to explore the topic. I used the article in introducing the exercise last night.

More BYO Worship

1 October, 2004 9:00 AM

This week at LivingRoom we had another night of BYO Worship. These nights are always interesting - you never quite know what you'll get. For those of you who haven't heard me talk about them before - BYO worship nights are nights where in stead of everyone bringing an element of the meal that we normally share together at our gatherings - everyone brings an element of the worship time. No one knows what anyone else is bringing and spends time during the week preparing a 5-10 minute exercise, meditation, reading, teaching, poem, contemplation, story, prayer, creative project etc for us all to do.

We fast on these nights which gives us time for everyone to share/lead something.

This week we had a couple of stories, a Bonhoeffer reading, a writing exercise about encouragement, a reflection on a quote that led into thinking about Art and Spirituality, a couple of readings from the Gospels that led to a time of prayer about our missional contexts, some more reflections and prayers on our food theme, a meditative creative exercise on the Bigness of God and some time of silence.

It was interesting to see how a number of the things we did related strongly to one another. I love these nights because it is a truly participatory and interactive time of learning and worship. There is no leader in the centre, no expert, no passivity. We wouldn't probably do it every week but its a valuable part of the LivingRoom experience.

Jesus, Food, Mission and Learning

16 September, 2004 10:36 AM

Last night at LivingRoom we took a look at the topic of Jesus and Food (as mentioned a couple of posts ago). I ended up going with the messy/chaotic/overwhelming approach of tackling 25 passages of Gospel Scripture on the topic rather than just picking out one or two to examine. The way we did was to divide into groups of three and to divide the following list of passages up. Each group read their passages and spent a few minutes on each teasing out the implications/meaning/themes as a group. The groups then came back together to share their musings which we noted on a big sheet of paper or two. The passages we looked at were:

Jesus and Food
- Temptation Story – Matthew 4:1-4
- Salt of the Earth – Matthew 5:13
- Do not worry – Matthew 6:25-27
- Jesus Questioned about Fasting – Matthew 9:14-17
- Parable of the Yeast – Matthew 13:33
- Feeding 5000 – Matthew 14:13, Mark 6:30-44
- Yeast of the Pharisees – Matthew 16:5-12
- Wedding Feast Parable – Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24
- Sheep and Goats – Matthew 25:31-46
- Lords Supper – Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23
- Matthews Party – Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-32
- Lord of the Sabbath – Mark 2:23-27
- Unclean Hands – Mark 7:1-23 - Feeding 4000 – Mark 8:1-13
- Jesus Anointed at Bethany – Luke 7:36-50 - Beatitudes – Luke – 6:20-26
- Fasting – Luke 6:33-39 - Glutton and Drunk – Luke 7:33-35
- Jesus at a Pharisee’s House – Luke14:1-14
- Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15:11-32
- Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10
- Jesus Turns Water into Wine – John 2:1-10
- Samaritan Woman at the Well – John 4:1-26
- I am the Bread of Life – John 6:25-59
- Jesus feeds his Disciples Breakfast – John 21:1-14

I was interested to see the discussion that unfolded after our time in smaller groups. I won't attempt to summarize it here (do the exercise with a group and see where it leads you) but a couple of things stick in my mind today...they are related to one another...

1. Food and Mission - A number of times last night I found myself marveling at how Jesus used food/eating in his interactions with people. From feeding the 4000/5000 and turning water into wine (no wonder people followed him - free food and drink!) through to his interaction with Zacchaeus who turns his whole life around in a pretty staggering way simply because Jesus invited himself to dinner (we noted there is no recorded 'preaching' advice from Jesus to Zacchaeus to do what he did - just a meal. I've always known the power of eating with and providing food and hospitality to others - but I wonder if we're just scratching the surface - especially in the area where we live which is one of the foodie centers of our city.

2. Food and Learning - One of the things that I read someone yesterday in my preparation for last night (it might have been in the article below) was the way in which in New Testament times the meal/table was often a place of learning. A dinner party was not always just a social get together but a time for sharing of ideas. Jesus would have been invited to many of the meals we see him at not just to be polite to him but as something resembling our modern day 'guest speaker'. It was the done thing to have a rabbi or expert in some field to come and espouse their latest ideas/theories etc.

We got talking a little about this last night and realized that in different settings this is still a relevant thing in today's culture. Apart from bible college most of the learning sessions I go to these days (whether for church or business) incorporate food and drink in some form or another. Most of the meetings I go to happen over a meal - a cup of coffee at the least. The way we do church is around a meal and I always find it to be a great environment to explore ideas and learn.

We didn't really flesh this out last night in terms of implications or ways forward but I think I sensed that some in the group were interested in exploring ways in which we could have times of more public/outward focused learning over food. I've often toyed with running a series workshops in a local cafe - not overtly Christian in their nature but rather focussing upon some kingdom values that connect with issues that our immediate context is grappling with. Issues like organic food, justice issues (refugees/environment), creative arts and even on meditative techniques and nights on spirituality.

I guess I've avoided these sorts of 'events' to this point because we've been much more focused upon our established networks and relationships in terms of mission - but perhaps we're moving towards exploring something along these lines.

Anyway - the night last night has continued to stimulate my thinking in a number of directions Jesus' eating transgressions and social impropriety in the gospel of Mark: a social scientific approach is a good online essay on Jesus and Food in the book of Mark that was good background reading for the night. I read a couple of paragraphs from it as an introduction to the discussion.

Jesus and Food

14 September, 2004 7:01 PM

food.jpgAs part of our 'Food Spirituality Series' at LivingRoom (I have mentioned it here havn't I?) tomorrow night we're going to be taking a look at 'Jesus and Food'. When I started thinking about it earlier in the week I naively thought it would be a pretty simple and contained topic - but of course I should have known that nothing is that easy. This is one of those topics that gets bigger and bigger the more you pick at it.

Jesus talks about food (it permeates his parables) - he performs miracles with it (handy - you'd never have to pack a lunch with him as your mate) - he uses it to describe himself (bread of life) - he eats it (perhaps too much - described as a glutton and a drunk) - he prepares it for his disciples (fish on the BBQ on the beach) - he attends feasts (weddings, parties, anything) - he's tempted with it (stones into bread) - he teaches about it (fasting/cleanliness of food) - he got into trouble over it (he ate with the 'wrong people' constantly) - and he uses it to help his disciples to remember him (Last supper).

And that's just scratching the surface. Question remains - how does one tackle a topic this big in an evening? Hmmmm

Food Ethics

8 September, 2004 11:54 PM

Tonight at LivingRoom we did a little excursion to Melbourne's 'Food and Wine Festival' to see a panel discuss the topic of 'Food Ethics'. We're currently doing a series on the 'spirituality of food' and this panel came at the perfect time. Last week we had a similar discussion as a group around issues of organic food, chemicals in food, biblical references to diet (mainly in Genesis and Daniel) etc.

It has been a really rich topic to explore and one which is particularly relevant to our local context where vegetarianism, organic food and healthy living is hugely popular in our area. Next week I think we'll be

A Dervish's Du`a' meets LivingRoom

27 August, 2004 12:39 PM

At LivingRoom this week (did I mention we've moved to Wednesday nights?) we had a really wonderful time with a couple of special guests. Maryam from the A Dervish's Du'a blog came along with a friend (Waleed) and shared her faith story and aspects of what it is like to be a Muslim living in Melbourne Australia.

It was a real privilege to hear their stories (you can read Maryam's conversion story here) and to understand a little more of Islam. Maryam and Waleed both have a real gift in communicating really beautifully their understanding of faith, God and the particular issues and opportunities of life that they have. They were particularly gracious in the way they shared and open to pretty much any question we threw their way.

The only downside of the night was that it all ended so quickly. I think it left most of us as a group thirsting for more interaction with these two wonderful people.

Viral Mission

22 July, 2004 8:20 AM

Tuesday night at LivingRoom we had a night of storytelling and sharing of our missional contexts. We each simply talked about the places we have proximity each week, the people we're growing relationships with and the opportunities God is opening up to join him in his life giving process. We put our thoughts down on a communal piece of paper and then spent some time praying about what we'd shared. Very simple but good to get back to that aspect of our community.

While we prayed I had a sense that if the Gospel was a virus that we'd be an ideal way to spread it as God sneezes us into our week of living beside, sharing life and rubbing shoulders with literally hundreds of people of people each week.

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