Living Room Archives
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7 July, 2004 11:56 AM
I really enjoyed Living Room last night. We were a smaller group than normal with people overseas and interstate but it was still quality stuff. We did another Everyday Spirituality Tour of one of our core group's ('C2' -we have a number of 'C's') lives. (see here for the first one we did).
We had dinner at her place, then walked up the street to a cafe she regularly visits with friends. Then we jumped into her car and she took us on a tour of her life. We saw a centre that she volunteers at, her work place, the hospital she was born at, numerous houses of friends etc. We heard about her daily routine, the things she's passionate about, some of her growing up history, a little about her family and friends.
It was amazing the places that our conversation went as we put her on centre stage and asked questions of her life. We saw a whole different side of someone we've 'done church with' for a number of months now - it was really special.
I can't wait until the next one we do in a month's time.
10 June, 2004 10:12 AM
This week at Living Room we had another session of Godly Play. Last time we played with some parables of Jesus and this time we took at look at two miracle stories of Jesus in Matthew 14:13-36.
We divided the passage into the two stories (feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water) and pretty much followed the same process as last time.
I am always amazed when we do this simple, childlike, exercise as to the depth of the places that it takes us. Having just handed in a 3000 word exegetical essay on 8 verses this is a beautiful and imaginative way to come to the text.
7 June, 2004 2:24 PM
One of the themes that we are going to explore in our Little Community - the Living Room in the next month or so is that of 'The Spirituality of Food'. It emerged as an idea out of our shared love for food (some of our group can't stop talking about sometimes) but also because our local community are majorly into food also. We live in the middle of an area dominated by restaurants, cafes, gourmet food shopping outlets etc - it is part of the rhythm of our area so we thought we should explore it as it relates to faith and Scripture.
At this stage we're planning to do a four week series on the topic and will explore four themes including:
- Feasting - I'm keen to explore some of the feasting passages in Scripture especially that of the Kingdom of God being like a feast. This will be a night of a great feast and celebration
- Responsible Eating - looking at some of the issues of healthy eating, organic food, genetically modified food etc.
- Fasting - we previously have fasted as a group and found the experience very challenging and life giving
- Contemplating Food - I've got an idea brewing in my mind for a contemplative exercise that will involve food tasting and reflecting upon our faith journeys
I'm sure there will be more that we'll unpack as the time come nearer. There are some great movies that pick up the idea of food really well also that we might use.
One of the thoughts is that if we find the series to be fruitful that it might actually be something we could advertise and run in our local community as a workshop series. I'm sure that something along these lines would connect well with our neighborhood especially if it involved lots of eating and hands on experiential stuff. It's food for thought.
If anyone lives in the inner north of Melbourne and wants to come along shoot me an email and I'll let you know about when we're starting.
7 June, 2004 2:18 PM
We had a really nice time down at the beach at Dromana over the weekend. As I predicted in my last post most of what we did revolved around fun, food and relaxation. We got to one of the local wineries (yum) where one of our group has a sculpture he did exhibiting which was fun.
We spent most of Saturday night playing games which was fun. One of the games was 'Assassin' in which to win you have to lie through your teeth - I'm ashamed to say that I have the ability to suck my whole community in - Oh the guilt I feel! :-)
Sunday morning we spent two hours talking through some meaty issues of how we are traveling and where we are headed. It was great to hear the feedback of both new and old members of the group. All in all the feeling is that we're doing well in all of our areas but there is room for us to tweak a number of things.
We reshuffled our Renovare/Micro Groups to accommodate two new people that have recently joined us and also did a bit of planning in terms of some of the themes that we're going to look at between now and the end of the year (will share more on one of these soon). Also we began to think and pray about our future as a group in terms of sustainability and multiplication (birthing a new group/s). These discussions will continue over the next few weeks which will be exciting.
All in all it was a really positive time away.
4 June, 2004 4:45 PM
Winter has hit here in Melbourne with some quite chilly days the last week. What better time for a weekend at the beach!!! At least we'll have the place to ourselves.
Tonight LivingRoom is heading down the coast to Dromana for the weekend. The main focus of the time away will be 'play' with lots of eating, sleeping, visiting wineries and cheeseries, creativity and games. It should be good.
Sunday morning we have a number of vision and direction items that we're going to attempt to talk through which I'm really looking forward to.
It has been 16 months since we began to gather together to 'do church' and so its time for some reviewing and thinking about how we are travelling. Its kind of like when you take your car in for its 10,000km service, hopefully we'll come home with our engine a little better 'tuned'.
Looking forward to reporting back on some great times on Monday. Have a good weekend friends.
3 June, 2004 12:30 AM
This week at Living Room we had a really great night again. Being Pentecost we had a great discussion on the Holy Spirit, focusing mainly upon the five Paraclete Sayings of Jesus in John 14-16.
One of the things that struck me about these sayings is the active nature of the Holy Spirit - in all of them the Spirit is anything but passive which is a little different to the messages about the Holy Spirit that I heard growing up which were largely focussing upon a peaceful and somewhat stagnant and ghost like presence.
We finished the night off by passing a bottle of oil around the group and one by one anointing each other with it as a tangible symbol of the Spirit at work in and through each of us. It was a nice way to finish the night.
26 May, 2004 11:16 PM
Last night at Livingroom we had our first Everyday Spirituality Tour. 'C' took us on a tour of her life. Here's how it worked.
First we had dinner at her home (like we normally do). After dinner we piled into cars and she took us to a variety of places that she goes to each week and told us about the interactions she has in those places. Stops included:
- First we stopped outside the home of a woman that 'C' is building a relationship with. This woman is going through a bit of a rough patch and 'C' is able to encourage her in this.
- Local swimming pool - where 'C' swims twice weekly with her swimming squad. She's been building relationships with these other local women both at the pool but also in a variety of social settings.
- Work (at a local hospital) where 'C' works. She took us around her ward, showed us what she did, introduced us to some of her work mates and told us about some of the issues that she faced in that place.
It was a really powerful night for me for a variety of reasons. We got to see 'C' in a different light, she planned the night which was excellent and we got to pray for her at work in a quite room. In praying for her we commissioned her for her work there and acknowledged the way in which she was joining in with God's purposes in that place. It was great to be able to stand with her in the setting where she spends the majority of her week and affirm and encourage her.
For me it was a night where I think we grew in all three of our core journeys. We grew in our sense of community as we understood more about 'C's' daily rhythms, we engaged with our individual inner spiritual formation as we looked for what God was doing in some very everyday settings and we caught a glimpse of what God is doing in our local community and were inspired to join him in those places in ordinary everyday missional activities.
We'll definitely be doing this activity again on a semi regular basis.
24 May, 2004 11:59 AM
I had an email from a new reader asking about what I thought about a recent session that some of us had with James Thwaites last month. They asked how what he had to say resonated with where LivingRoom is currently at. I thought I'd share part of my reply to his question.
A number of things about James Thwaites message spoke to us:
1. His main thrust was about living out faith in the everyday places where we live, of family, workplace etc. This is something we are very keen on. In a sense we have reprioritized what we do to try to incorporate this. We have a lot less focus on our weekly gathering together for worship than many churches. It is still important for us, but so is the other 97% of our lives and so a lot of what we do tries to focus upon the rest of life.
2. His ideas on 'what is at the centre' of a church were interesting. Often we tend to put the 'worship gathering' and or 'the leader' at the centre rather than God. We're grappling with this and are working towards an egalitarian style leadership. Whilst I'm 'the leader' at the moment, I work hard to let others take initiative, lead and live our their God given gifts and abilities. I try to foster an environment for the life of Jesus to be experienced, lived out and passed on rather than to dominate the group with me and what I want to do.
By no means have we got these two things 'worked out'. Most of us come out of many years of church which were quite focused upon Sunday worship gatherings and a charismatic leadership being central - it takes time to re examine paradigms and discern what God is saying and as I say we're only 18 months into it.
12 May, 2004 11:21 PM
Tonight at LivingRoom we looked at personality types using a Myers Briggs test.
It was interesting to see what the test indicated about individuals (it explained one or two things!) but it also got me thinking a little about the personality of our community as a whole...as well as wondering if there might be any difference in the average personality type of emerging church goers in comparison to church goers on the whole...and then in comparison to the whole of society (there is a masters in that probably).
ENFP (for those of you that know Myers Briggs) is the predominate type of our group - that translates to Extrovert (5 out of the 9 of us), Intuitive (again 5 out of the 9), Feeling (7 out of the 9) and Perceptive (also 7 out of the 9). Personally I'm an INFP.
It was a fun and insightful night.
11 May, 2004 1:05 PM
I've been thinking the past few days about everyday faith - especially faith in the places where we work, socialize and live. It seems that everyone I talk to is thinking or working on the same thing, from my Dad, to LivingRoom people to emerging church colleagues.
I think that there is a need for us to put a renewed emphasis upon the workplace, the home and the places that we socialize as being as much legitimate places where we know and experience God as the places that we gather for worship at church.
I just keep coming back to the amount of money and time that we throw at worship services and wonder what would happen if we put as much effort into resourcing followers of Jesus to connect with and respond to God in their every day lives.
I'm thinking of taking LivingRoom on the road over the next few months to actually have us take an Everyday Spirituality Tour of each other's lives. We'll all pile into our cars and visit one person's work place (even if we just sit in the carpark), go to their sporting clubs, to their local pub where they hang out and then visit their home. Along the way we'll hear stories about those places, maybe even meet a few friends and work mates and we'll pray for and commission the person for the places that they go.
Just a thought - will update you as we go.
6 May, 2004 3:08 PM
Last night at Livingroom we had some more rich discussion on the topic of mission (outward journey). One of the questions we've been tossing around and grappling with is that of corporate mission. To this point we've very much focused upon our existing networks of friends, family, co-workers, fellow students, neighbors etc. We've been a little intentional over the past year about allowing our worlds to collide a little and being involved in each others networks (ie through our experiments with redemptive parties).
On one hand I feel strongly that this is the way to go - its very much an every day missional spirituality.
On the other hand I constantly find myself wondering if God might be calling us to other levels/types/ways/models of mission. If we completely focus upon the above model do we only end up interacting with people 'like us'? If so is this a bad thing?
As I read Acts I see room for the above approach, however I also see times when specific people were called to (or thrust into) other cultures that were not part of their existing 'networks'.
One of the ideas we've been toying with is to adopt a local bar (or bars) and to make a commitment to be there at the same time every week or fortnight to become a part of the rhythm of the place - I guess its about incarnation and building relationships in some of the natural gathering points of our area.
I think the conclusion that we're coming around to as we grapple with some of this is that there is no 'set way' or 'model' of engaging with our world. We're called to 'be the light', to 'make disciples', to serve, stand up for injustice etc. For us this largely happens through our own natural relationships but some of us will begin to explore ways to do it a little more intentionally together.
15 April, 2004 3:59 PM
This afternoon I spent a bit of time making a very simple information site for our little LivingRoom community.
It isn't flash - the object was for it to simply communicate who we are, what we are on about and how we operate. We can pretty it up later.
24 March, 2004 8:43 AM
Last night at Living Room we had a guest (Paul, a local baptist minister) come and lead us through a contemplative exercise after our great cannelloni dinner.
The process was quite a simple - Paul got us to push all our chairs back to the edges of the room, creating a big space in the middle - he then laid out 100 or so black and white photographs. The photos were of a variety of everyday subjects - many of them were scenes of people, others were landscapes of varying types.
The exercise was to look at each one and to choose one that made us react in some way. Then for the next 15-20 minutes we sat with the photo and contemplated what it was saying to us. Some of us journaled our thoughts, others just contemplated in their minds.
At the end of this time Paul invited us to share the picture and what had gone on in our time of contemplation. As we shared he gently probed our ideas and encouraged us to make connections between what we'd been thinking and what was going on in our lives and where God might be in the process.
It was a powerful exercise despite its simplicity.
We finished the night with a great cheese platter.
21 March, 2004 9:40 PM
A few people in the last few weeks have asked if they can support the work I'm doing with Livingroom by purchasing advertising on this site. I'm not too keen to clutter this blog up any more than it already is with banner ads but I have signed up with Market Banker.
If you go there you'll see an opportunity to add your link and a short description of your site to the sidebar of this blog at varying costs depending upon the length of sponsorship. The cheapest rate is $US1 per day. In doing so you support my work with Livingroom and get your link seen by 800 or so visitors a day.There is a limit to 5 sponsors at any one time. Hope that makes sense - contact me if you want any clarification.
3 March, 2004 12:13 PM
Last night we had a great night at Living Room. We were fasting so didn't have dinner for the first time ever on a Tuesday night. Instead of all bringing food as we normally do we decided to all bring something to share with the group. We left it very open for people to do, share, say what they wanted for around 10- 15 minutes each on any theme at all.
It was very interesting to see the variety of things that people brought to the group. One sang some amazing songs she's written, another shared of the birth of a neice and a psalm, another played a song from a CD and related it to Scripture, another led us in a time of intentional prayer and listening to God for one another, another shared some highlights from the week from their family, another shared some of the burdens they were facing - followed by prayer for them, another read us a short story and then led us on a prayer walk through the neighborhood where we prayed for the local community.
It was one of those special nights where I felt the group really rising to the occasion and taking real ownership of what we do. There was no leader or expert who prepared what we would do, but rather each person played an equal and important role in the direction of the group - it was very empowering.
In the midst of it I felt we went a little deeper both with one another in community but also deeper into God, particularly in our commitment to listening to Gods Spirit and allowing him to shape and heal.
I suspect that we'll incorporate these sorts of nights into what we do quite regularly in future.
Update: here are a few other posts on some BYO Worship Nights that we've run.
More BYO Worship
BYO Worship - Home
BYO Worship - Passion
9 February, 2004 11:53 AM
A couple of days ago I blogged about a talk I did on building community. In it I gave my topic headings. Some have asked for my notes of the talk - unfortunately I don't speak from detailed notes but instead just use headings and points.
A couple of people have asked about the heading 'Corporate Evangelism'.
No I'm not talking about heading into the central business district of Melbourne and handing out tracts to corporate types. Rather I'm using the word 'corporate' in the same sense that people might use it if they were talking about 'corporate worship' - or worship that we do together.
One of the challenges we've felt God give us at the Living Room in the past year has been that 'Evangelism' is not just something for individuals to engage in in isolation from each other. Rather we believe it is something that we're called to do together (I've blogged about this before somewhere I'm sure - update: I talked about it here a little).
Now I'm not talking about going door knocking or handing out tracts 'together' - but instead am talking about building relationships with those outside our community as a group.
Let me attempt to explain using an illustration of an associate - Michael Frost (click on diagrams to see them enlarged).
Jesus called his disciples to become 'fishers of men'. What does it mean to fish for people? When Jesus first said this people fished with nets not single fishing lines. They would take their boats out - throw out their nets and then draw them in towards the boat to be sorted.
What might a Net symbolize? Michael talks about how the net is like the relationships we have between one another.
I have a strong and growing relationship with fellow Livingroom member Rob. We meet each week to hear each others stories - to pray for each other - to learn together - to have fun and to build our friendship. Our relationship is like one of the strands of a net.
Both Rob and I also have growing friendships with Clare and Jane and others who are a core part of Livingroom. Again we meet together - we care for each other, we share life together. We are intentional about growing friendships that are deep and growing. When we symbolize these relationships with lines they form quite a 'net'.
I also have another friend - Sam. I value my friendship with Sam in the same way as I value those with Living Room members. Sam is not be a member of our community and doesn't call himself a follower of Jesus - but I still pray for him, I call him up and see how he's going, I share life with him and am building a relationship. Not because I want to 'convert' him, but just because - he's a good friend.
If I allow my worlds to collide and I introduce Sam to my Livingroom buddies and they are intentional about getting to know Sam and forming relationship with him then there is potential for Sam to become caught up in and even to become a part of the Net. He may not 'convert' but he actually can become a part of the community of relationships that we have. In doing so Sam will see the way Rob and I operate in our friendship. He will hear the conversations we have about our faith. He will hear about and even be invited to join in our gatherings. He will be exposed in numerous ways to the person of Jesus - both in word and action.
The choice remains his as to whether he will move towards Jesus through this process - that is his business and there is no forcing him, but rather its about creating an environment for building genuine connections, sharing life and building community.
What does it look like in practice? This will vary from community to community. For us it means going to each others parties, meeting in each others homes, visiting each others work places, having dinner parties etc. It was also the reason behind some of our thinking on Redemptive Parties - in particular our Christmas Party.
The statistics show us that in previous decades and centuries people believed in God before they belonged to churches. ie they got their heads around faith before they entered into communities of faith.
Things have changed. Today people come to faith the other way around. More and more people are coming to know Jesus after they already belong to a community of believers. It is out of multilayered relationships that they hear about and explore faith.
If we keep our worlds separate and see evangelism as the task of the individual we actually might be decreasing its potential effectiveness.
The other exciting thing I see about 'corporate evangelism' is that it allows different people to play different roles. Some of us are great at meeting new people. Others are great at making people feel welcomed and part of groups. Others have the ability to take things deeper in conversation and know how to ask the right questions. Others know how to help new Christians. If we do this together there is less need for us all to be all-rounders.
Having said all that - the diagrams make it look quite structured and even orderly. This could not be further from the truth. In fact it is a chaotic, messy and unordered thing - as messy as any relationships can be.
update: Have been thinking some more about this today - the more I think about it the more I believe that smaller clusters of people are important in such a process. For it to be effective you need to have quality relationships with those in your community. Unless you're pretty amazing relationally its difficult to do with with more than a few people. I think small churches or churches with good small groups are positioned ideally for this.
update 2: People who fish with nets spend 90% of their working time repairing their nets and only 10% of their time actually fishing. If our relationships are the net we need to invest significant time into cleaning and repairing them. Its not something to enter into half heartedly.
Interested in others thoughts - sorry for babbling on for so long.
2 February, 2004 5:12 PM
How do we integrate new people into communities of faith? What impact do they have and what might assist in the transitions?
The Living Room Community has been gathering for almost 11 months. For most of that time we have had a core group of 7-8 key people who have met every week for a meal, prayer, learning and community building on Tuesday nights.
In that time we've had a few visitors (mainly friends and overseas visitors) and one new core member, but we've largely been the same faces each week. This has enabled us to build community and have some great times of sharing and encouragement.
Tomorrow night could be the beginning of something new with 3 new people all coming to our weekly gathering. Each one has heard about Living Room by word of mouth and all are keen to see if they connect with what we're doing.
It is an exciting prospect yet also one which is a little daunting.
I think we are all looking forward to an injection of new people, ideas, stories and experiences into what we do - but at the same time to increase in size by 42% is going to have some significant impact.
This is one of the issues that I'm thinking through at the moment with small churches.
We have intentionally chosen as a community to remain small. If we grow we will multiply (start new groups) rather than grow big - however the cost of this decision is our 'fragility'.
We really notice if one or two people are away from week to week. We also really notice it if an extra person (or three) come along. We notice the good things that they bring, but we also know that even just one person can change the culture of the whole.
I'm not opposed to the Living Room change - I'm all for fluidity - yet at the same time we have spent a lot of time working on the DNA and values that we feel God has called us to. It is going to take some time for others to come to a similar place in their journey.
How have others found integrating new people into their small emerging communities of faith? Any tips or suggestions?
I'm leaning towards making this next week about telling stories to help with the process but am very interested in others experiences.
I'm looking forward to the experience of integrating new people into our community, it will definitely bring some challenges but also has the potential to bring real freshness and life.
21 January, 2004 7:17 AM
Blogathon - Entry 19
How did you know you were meant to go start a house-church? Was it an order from Above (God) or above (your church authorities)? How did you make the decision to say yes and what did you do to prepare? What did family & friends think of the idea and your involvement? How did you actually get going on the project?
Big questions Michelle, I'll try to answer them briefly.
In short I felt 'called' to start it. When I was a youth pastor at an old church 10 years ago someone was praying for me and they felt God say that I would plant a church. I had never heard of the idea before and didn't give it a second thought.
A few years ago I left that job and toured around Australia managing a Christian Rock band. The year was a great one and a hard one. I came home quite disillusioned with the state of the church in Australia. So many churches seemed so impossible for young people or 'alternative' type people to relate to. For example in one town after a week of working in High Schools we had 30 kids make decisions to commit to relationships with Jesus. But when we took them to the local church they were told to take their hats off, sit quietly, and sing hymns. We heard only weeks later that none of those kids had continued with their faith and that many of them were even further away from God than when they started. That church was more of a hindrance than a help. Very sad.
I came home from that year quite disillusioned with church and unable to find one where I was able to express some of my concerns and find answers. So I began to mee with two friends once every few weeks for dinner. Those dinner conversations became my experience of church. We ate, drank wine, shared our discoveries of God and prayed. I slowly realized that this was more like church than I'd previously experienced.
Also at this time I met some people who were into training people for church planting and mission. The cool thing was that they were not interested in planting 'normal' churches or clones of what most churches already look like, but they were interested in planting churches that non church goers might find God in. To cut a long story short I did a year long internship with this group and gradually felt more and more excited about the possibility of starting a church in the area I love — the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne.
Ideas began to come and I began to share them with others. We applied for a grant from our denomination to help us get started — they said yes. I asked a few people to join, some said yes others said no. We began to meet and now here we are. The Living Room was born last March.
My wife V and our families have been very supportive. My family have been very involved in church life for generations so they are very open to it. Our friends have also been supportive. I'm sure some of them wonder what it is we are actually doing. I actually find our friends who don't have much experience of church are more open to it than some of our Christian friends.
Hope that answers the questions ok Michelle, feel free to ask more. It is good for me to think through and reflect upon. I'll expand more later on as others have asked similar questions.
14 January, 2004 9:01 AM
I mentioned last week that at Livingroom we'd decided to take some new directions in the coming months.
One of the decisions we made was to not only meet as a whole group every Tuesday night - but to also meet in smaller groups (of 3) on a weekly basis for sharing and prayer. It is by no means a new concept - people have been doing it for years. Some call them accountability groups, others prayer triplets, others life transformation groups or even discipleship groups. We haven't really got a name for them - but have decided to base the groups around a series of questions that will help us to keep accountable to the core journeys that we've committed to as a group.
Tonight we looked at this great collection of questions that different churches have used over the years when they met it such small groups. It is a great collection with many excellent and challenging questions.
As a group we decided to use the Renovare questions. We probably won't follow the method as outlined at the Renovare website strictly - however we'll use it as a base.
The questions that we will use as a base are:
1. In what ways has God made his presence known to you since our last meeting? What experiences of prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading has God given you? What difficulties or frustrations have you encountered? What joys and delights?
2. What temptations have you faced since our last meeting? How did you respond? Which spiritual disciplines did God use to lead you further into holiness of heart and life?
3. Have you sensed any influence or work of the Holy Spirit since our last meeting? What spiritual gifts has the Spirit enabled you to exercise? What was the outcome? What fruit of the Spirit would you like to see increase in your life? Which disciplines might be useful in this effort?
4. What opportunities has God given you to serve others since our last meeting? How did you respond? Did you encounter injustice to or oppression of others? Were you able to work for justice and shalom?
5. Has God provided an opportunity for you to share your faith with someone since our last meeting? How did you respond? In what ways have you encountered Christ in your reading of the Scriptures? How has the Bible shaped the way you think and live?
6. In what ways have you been able to manifest the presence of God through your daily work since our last meeting? How has God fed and strengthened you through the ministry of word and sacrament?
I'm interested to hear what other people have tried in such groups? Have people tried Renovare before - what advice would you give us as we enter into this new phase?
7 January, 2004 12:35 PM
Everyone was there at Living Room last night for the first time in a couple of months! With Christmas holidays, end of semester break, people travelling etc it has been a long time since all of us were in the one room at the one time.
It was so nice to have everyone together. We spent most of the night talking about how we felt we'd gone last year and what our hopes were for the group in 2004. We all expressed that its been a great year but that we feel it is time to 'step things up' to the next level.
There are a few new directions that we're planning on taking in the month ahead and a few new people that have recently expressed interest in joining us. I'm very excited about the year ahead.
We also spent quite a while sharing on a personal level and then praying for one another. I really felt it was one of those defining nights where we moved forward in some really tangible ways - especially as we prayed. Much more to report - but my time at the library (which is incredibly slow today) is up.
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