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A Time of Transition at Livingroom

1 September, 2007 12:19 AM

Time for an update on LivingRoom - well overdue I know.

Over the last month we've moved into a transition period at LivingRoom as we consider our future as a community in a time of change.

At the beginning of this year V and I let the community know that we were feeling as though it might be time for us to move on from leadership of LivingRoom. We didn't know for sure but wanted the community to know where we were at and what we were thinking so that we could discern what to do together.

After a few months of reflection we felt that the time was right and a couple of months back we confirmed that we'd be moving on from LivingRoom at the end of the year (probably mid December). We did so in consultation with the Baptist Union and LivingRoom's leadership. I've not blogged about it until this time simply because we wanted the group to be able to begin to process the news and begin to explore what might be next before it 'getting out'.

Since that time a smaller group of LivingRoomies have been gathering together with a BUV leader to put together a way forward. This has involved a number of things to this point including a number of weeks 'looking back' at the beginnings of LivingRoom and hearing the stories of other local emerging communities.

The 'looking back' weeks came out of a realization that V and I were the only two members that remained from the very first group of 6 founding members and that we'd had a real influx of new people over the past year or two who hadn't heard the story of our beginnings and how we came to form our values, style and practices.

So we spent two weeks looking first at the story itself (with lots of story telling from different members sharing how they came to join LivingRoom, their first impressions and why they'd hung around) and the second week looking in a more focused way at our core values.

The idea of hearing stories from other communities (we're currently doing this for 4 weeks) is twofold. Firstly it opens up possibilities to connect with these other local groups but secondly it's interesting to hear what others are doing and we hope that hearing their stories will help us to discern some of our own future direction.

Why are we moving on from LivingRoom?

I guess the question that some might be asking is why V and I are moving on from LivingRoom. It's a natural one.

There are a number of reasons:

I guess ultimately we feel it's just time - time for us and time for LivingRoom. A number of things have come together to give us this feeling.

Family Life - We've moved into a new family stage (our little man is now 14 months) and V's gone back to work a couple of days a week. This means that Grandmas are generously helping to care for him on those days which means quite a bit of time in a car. We've also outgrown our home (who knew that someone so small could get into so many things!). We realized that it was probably smarter in terms of family to be closer to our extended family who live on the other side of the city.

Sense of Mission and Ministry - My own personal sense of 'mission' and 'calling' has evolved over the last 2 to 3 years. While I've not updated this blog much in the last year I suspect that some of you will have sensed this with posts on the topic like Thinking about 'Ministry'. I don't like to articulate everything about it in a public setting (for reasons that I mention in that previous post) however in general I'm feeling that my work is actually something that is closely aligned with my own personal call, mission and ministry. I'd be happy to articulate this more clearly to people individually if they'd like.

LivingRoom - Our goal at LivingRoom was always to have a group that was able to largely run itself and not need to rely upon any one person. For this reason we transitioned in the first two years from me in a paid part time position (funded by our denomination), into me leading on a voluntary basis, to last year a small team leading the group to this year the group running itself even more. In many ways much of the leadership for the group this year has been in the hands of others already.

As I look at my gifts and the needs/opportunities of the group I have been sensing for a while that perhaps someone else (or a group of people) could take LivingRoom to the next level more than I could for the last year or two. My passions and gifting are quite 'entrepreneurial' (I'm not sure it's the right word). I love to dream up and birth new things. I always have done this (since I was young) and much of what my role was in the first 3 years was in this. However when it comes to taking things that are established to the next level I'm not great. While I'm not one to give up - I've increasingly struggled with whether I might in fact be holding the group back from growth and development.

The decision was not a particularly easy one on numerous levels. I think most pastors who have resigned and moved on from ministries that they've invested a lot into would know the conflicting feelings that often face them at these times. However there is an increasing sense of it being 'right' for us to do and so we've moved forward with it.

What Next?

So what happens next for LivingRoom and for us?

in many ways there are unknowns in lives of both LivingRoom and the Rowse House. LivingRoom will continue it's process of discernment that I've outlined above. V and I have bought a new house closer to our parents (our new house is precisely between them) and are selling our current one this weekend (hopefully). The question of where we'll do faith in community is a question that we've been pondering a lot but the answer is probably a few months off (I suspect we really need to finish with LivingRoom before we'll really ponder it seriously).

I've been in 'ministry' of one sort or another now (mainly paid) for 11 or so years now and while I can't imagine not taking an active approach to participating in a community I suspect that a break in this type of leadership might be beneficial to me. While I thoroughly have enjoyed it I would be lying if didn't admit feeling 'tired' and in need of some personal rejuvenation as I consider my own spirituality. I'm very much looking forward to rediscovering what it is to be a follower of of Jesus without the tag of 'pastor'.

I'm sure over the coming weeks and months there will be more reflections to share on the process and transition that we're going through.

Please forgive me if I don't blog the ins and outs of decisions being made and directions being explored at LivingRoom (I've always taken the approach to blog about these sorts of things after they've been decided upon instead of as they are happening as I think it's healthier for the community).

Please do pray for us in this time - I'm sure the community as a whole would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers at this time.

LivingRoom and The Trouble With Paris

21 June, 2007 5:20 PM

DvdOne of the things that LivingRoom has been focussing upon in the last few months is a great new resource produced by three mates of mine here in Melbourne titled The Trouble with Paris.

This DVD based resource is fantastic to helping a small group to explore how to live and make sense of faith in the crazy world that we find ourselves in.

The DVD is designed to work over four weeks and include times of discussion, some amazing video reflections, stories and more.

The Trouble with Paris emerged out of a series of talks that Mark Sayers developed a few years back - the talks were originally titled 'How Paris Hilton Made me a Better Christian' and they were responsible for hundreds of young adults rediscovering faith in pretty profound ways.

Bringing the concepts to video was genius and together with Ben Catford (and amazing young presenter) and Room 3 (a video and graphic design studio) Mark's developed something that I'd highly recommend.

It's perfect for young adults - but would be challenging for both younger (teens) and older adults also.

You can check out four of the clips from the DVD on the view page of their website.

I hope you'll find The Trouble With Paris as useful to your community (and your own life) as we did at LivingRoom.

A Christmas Reflection for Advent

13 December, 2006 1:07 PM

On Sunday at LivingRoom our group had a BYO worship time with the topic of Christmas (it seemed appropriate). We had a range of reflections and activities brought to us. Mine was the following two visual presentations which I simply played (with some 'Christmas music' behind them). The first one is a 'Flickr Christmas' and is simply a random selection of images from Flickr that have all been tagged 'Christmas'. The second is a selection of nativity scenes depicted by artists throughout the centuries. I made these with Keynote (powerpoint for mac) and have converted them to video (not the highest quality). Hopefully you get the idea from these videos despite the low quality and lack of audio.

Socks and Everyday Spirituality

19 November, 2006 2:45 PM

LivingRoom has had some great gatherings of late. I've been a little (or a lot) lax in keeping up to date with reporting on what we've done. So I'll try to do a little catch up and describe a couple of resent gatherings.

Last week our Sunday afternoon group had a great afternoon on the topic of 'everyday spirituality'.

Our leader (I'll call her 'E') started the gathering by pulling out a sock (I've never been in a church service that involved socks before). The sock was full of something/s and had a knot in the end of it.

E told us that inside the sock were 13 household items and that we had to pass it around and write down what they were as accurately as possible. We passed the sock around and over 5 or so minutes most of us had a list of 13 things. We've got kids in our group so this appealed to them and they got into it too.

After we'd compiled our lists E got the kids to open the sock and reveal the items and we ticked off what we'd got right and wrong. There was everything from a clothes peg, to a toothbrush, to a coin, to a wine bottle cork, to a phone plug/jack etc in the sock (I scored 12 out of 13).

Then with the 13 everyday household items in the middle of the group E handed out quotes to everyone. The quotes were all on the topic of 'everyday spirituality' and were from a variety of perspectives. Some of the quotes talked about finding God in everyday moments, others talked about how everyday spirituality 'watered down spirituality', others were people's own personal experiences of everyday spirituality.

After reading the quotes we were invited to choose one of the 13 items that represented something to do with everyday spirituality to us. We were then invited to share it and what it triggered for us.

What people shared was great and included some practical ideas on how people found God in the everyday, through to people sharing some of the personal things they'd been going through lately.

The three parts of the gathering appealed to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly they were inclusive of the kids (less so the quotes). We're still learning how to incorporate children into our gatherings and it was a good experiment and engaged with them well.

Secondly while the three parts of the gathering were quite separate they all added to it and engaged people on different levels. The sock exercise wasn't particularly 'spiritual' but it actually conjured up numerous ideas and thought processes for me.

LivingRoom Multiplying Again

14 September, 2006 8:55 AM

LivingRoom is now three groups again.

We've been through a number of versions over the past 3.5 years:

  • We started as a small group of 7 (including 1 child) in February 2003 (our goal was always to multiply rather than grow into one large group).
  • We then decided to test the theory of multiplying in May 2005 and moved into three groups (I think we were 25 in number - including 5 children).
  • Earlier this year we merged two of the groups together as we had a number of people traveling.
  • Last night we made the decision to move back to three groups as we now have 33 people coming along (including 5 kids).

Our groups were chosen this time largely on logistical and relational lines.

The groups are:

  • Two Wednesday night groups - they'll continue to meet in the evenings over either a meal or dessert in a similar style to how we've previously met
  • One Sunday afternoon group - we've had an increasing amount of people with kids interested in participating with LivingRoom but a midweek night meeting just hasn't worked for them. This group will be exploring what it means to do all age worship - trying to create space for interaction between kids and adults, creating space for kids alone and for adults alone.

While we don't generally advertise for people to join LivingRoom we do have people enquire about it quite a bit. If you're one of them (or have been thinking about it) now might be a good time as our groups are new mixes of people and will spend the next few weeks working out their new rhythms and relationships which might make settling in a little easier for new people.

If you're interested - have a read of our FAQ page for some information on who we are and what we do and then feel free to shoot me an email.

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.

@ 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.

Everyday Spirituality Tour of My Life

19 April, 2006 5:42 PM

Tonight at LivingRoom we're doing another Everyday Spirituality Tour and tonight it's my turn to take the group on a tour of my life. For those unfamiliar with the concept I've written about them here and here previously.

Tonight's tour will start at our place and then progress to a local Vietnamese restaurant that V and I enjoy just down the road where we'll have dinner.

After dinner we'll come back to our place for a walk through my daily life - largely focussed around my computer and blogs. I'll be telling the story of how I came to be a blogger and how I've transitioned from a full time 'minister' to a full time 'blogger' and how in doing so I've discovered God at work in some rather unlikely places! The irony is that somedays I find myself involved in more effective 'ministry' than I felt I was doing as a minister!

Then we'll take a look at some of the photos I've taken in the last few months (another place I find God moving around me lately and an activity that I find leads me to worship).

Along the way we'll hopefully stop for prayer.

Should be a fun night

.

Podcast about LivingRoom

30 March, 2006 3:12 PM

I spent 45 minutes on Skype this morning with Jon from the Matters of the Heart recording a podcast. The focus of it was LivingRoom and some of the basics of how we run, how we started and how I view other forms of church etc.

Listen to it at Fascinating Approach to Church - Australias Living Room Church (it goes for around 40 minutes - sorry about the echoey recording - might be my microphone).

LivingRoom talks Money

11 March, 2006 1:22 AM

This past week at LivingRoom was one of our big gatherings (where our two groups came together - something we do every 7 weeks).

The night was a first on two fronts.

Firstly we had a sermon/preaching for the first time in 3 years (since we began). Yep LivingRoom is largely a church without sermons!

It's not that we're anti preaching - we're just experimenting with different ways of communicating, teaching and learning. This has largely happened through discussion, dialogue and different methods of creative communication.

Having said that - we decided that this year we'd have a night occasionally where one person would prepare a presentation or talk on a topic in a more monologue (ish) sort of way. This week was our first time).

The second 'first' was that it was the first time we've talked about money at LivingRoom since starting.

We've mentioned it in passing over the years - but this week we spent the night exploring the issue.

The reasons we've not talked about money so far are numerous but the main two are:

1. We've had no real need to talk about money. We don't have a building, we don't pay any staff and apart from an occasional expense have no need to spend anything.
2. Some of us have been part of churches where money became something of an obsession (or a distraction) from time to time. Some of us have also seen situations where money has been the source of big problems in churches - problem manipulation, division and hurt. This is in a minority of cases of course - but is probably one of the reasons we've kept off the topic.

Despite these reasons we've also had a growing sense as a community that money is something that we should talk about. For one it's a topic that the world we live in talks about constantly and so to think about it from a faith perspective seems a worthwhile discussion to have. The other reason is that the more I read the teaching of Jesus (and other passage of the Bible) the more I see that he talked about the topic.

In fact he talked about money and possessions more than almost any other topic (it's second only to 'the Kingdom of God'). Of course his message was very counter cultural and had many layers (not something you can sum up in a night).

As a result this week we began tackling the topic.

I don't have time to type up what I said here right now - but will attempt to summarize it later in the week.

BYO Worship - Lent

1 March, 2006 10:29 PM

LivingRoom tonight (our group at least) was another BYO Worship night where each person was invited to bring something along to talk about or lead the rest of the group through as Worship (more explaining how we do it here).

Tonight we did it without a set theme (ie everyone could bring whatever they wanted) but what we did do seemed to have some themes in it.

Our first two parts were both on Lent (one some teaching on what it is with some Ash being put on people's foreheads and the other being a visual representation of Jesus 40 days in the desert).

The next two parts were both guided imagination/meditation/wonderings from Luke (Luke 19: 37-44 and Luke 5:1-11).

They I shared some reflections on a poe by Edna St. Vincent Millay which Brian Mclaren shared last week at a session I attended (the poem is below).

Then someone shared some Tomato Relish with the group that she'd made (yummmmy) and our last part was the story of how one person is feeling drawn to worship though his involvement with sport, both in playing in a team and the involvement that this has opened up in his life and by an opportunity he has to coach a Cricket team of young kids.

All in all I found the night to be both interesting and challenging. I love these nights - to see what people come up with and how the different elements often come together in very complementary ways.

Next week at LivingRoom is our 'Big Gathering' where both of our groups come together (we do that every 6-7 weeks at present). These nights are always fun. I'll be sharing on the topic of 'Generosity'.

The poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay is below:

Upon this age, that never speaks its mind,
This furtive age, this age endowed with power
To wake the moon with footsteps, fit an oar
Into the rowlocks of the wind, and find
What swims before his prow, what swirls behind -
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts…they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun; but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.

What Does Mission Look Like at LivingRoom?

24 February, 2006 11:50 AM

Just had an email question from someone who came across this site. it's a question that I've had on a number of occasions so thought i'd blog my answer:

'I've been traipsing around your site, (niceely constructed, by the way,) and impressed with both the sophistication and honesty of thought that i find. However as seems to be the case with a lot of emerging church talks, blogs etc, there's a lot of talk about mission and being incarnational etc but very little about anything practical that folks may have done....

I would love to have some practical examples of what real incarnational mission can look like.'

My response:

I think you're right in your observation but I would suggest that the reason why you probably don't see many examples written about (or at least it's why I don't do it) is for three reasons:

1. I don't write about this type of thing because the missional encounters that I/we have are with people that we love and care about who we don't really want to write in a public setting about. ie for me - a lot of my mission is done through my work which is in the 'virtual world'. Work leads me into all kinds of great relationships of different kinds and levels, but it's not really appropriate to talk about them in this setting (or perhaps any).

2. The other thing is that most of the mission LivingRoom people do is very 'ordinary' and 'everyday' type relational stuff and I suspect this is true for many. Perhaps the idea of writing about the coffees we have with people or the bbq we put on or the food we drop around to someone etc are not very 'bloggable' in most people's minds. It's a tricky one I guess because in a sense incarnation is about 'doing life' with those around you and sometimes that doesn't make very exciting reading :-)

3. Probably the third thing that I'd say is that to this point LivingRoom hasn't really engaged in any formal or program oriented missional activities. For us mission has been much more about the everyday. We're not anti programs, and have talked about doing mission in this way, but to this point we've had a different outworking of our outward journey of faith. Perhaps this is really the same as point 2 above, but I think it'd be easier to write about a program than actual relationships - maybe?

For these reasons I don't really have too many stories to tell.

What does mission and incarnation look like in practice? For me and most of LivingRoom mission is about friendship and relationship. It's about letting our world's collide with each other and getting to know each other's friends. It's about being aware of our community and the issues it faces and challenging ourselves to look for what God is doing around us and to find ways of joining in. It's about going about daily life attempting to find God in the everyday stuff of life - it's about living with 'holy intent' to coin a phrase a friend of mine uses a lot.

In practice this means coffees, bbqs, emails, IM conversations, talks over the fence with neighbors, getting involved with the local sporting club, parties and many other aspects of normal life.

Summer Days

18 January, 2006 11:31 PM

Today was a fun day.

The Australian Open (Tennis) is on and I spent the day with a mate in the sun enjoying some hard hitting.

I took along my camera and had a great time testing out it's zoom (I've posted a handful of the photos I took here).

Tonight was LivingRoom and we went to the Night Market at the Queen Victoria Markets. It was packed (being the balmy summer night that it is).

The night market was full of food stalls, stalls with all manner of handmade goods, entertainment (bands, clowning etc) and a section with an array of new age/spirituality/holistic health stuff going on (lots of Tarot, Readings, All kinds of Massage therapies etc).

I'd prepared a reflective exercise to do but due to the large crowds it didn't quite seem to fit the mood of the evening so we just wandered around, ate, shopped a little and had one of the best sorbet's that I've had for a long time. It was good to see a few of the group who've been away for a while.

I've included a copy of the reflection that I had prepared for us to do for those who are interested (below in PDF - click to enlarge). It was a bit of a rush job so please forgive that - but the basics are that it's something I've used before with groups to consider how God might be interacting in a place that might be seen as 'secular'.

I guess the challenge is to practice spotting what God might be up to around you in the everyday.

Market Prayer Walk-3

Christmas at LivingRoom

22 December, 2005 7:00 PM

This week at LivingRoom we had our Christmas celebration. The night was a good way to end the year.

Each of the three groups came prepared to lead the rest of us through a reflection/activity on Christmas. Our group focused in on Christmas Carols and had some discussion around what resonated (and didn't resonate) for us in a variety of carols. Another group brought a reflection on Christmas in the wider community and then looked at an acronym for the word Christmas (you can read it at Kitty's blog). The other group showed a visual presentation of images from around the world (places where many in that group have been traveling lately) with a reflection on Isaiah 61.

After that we had a thanksgiving time where we reflected upon the things we were thankful for in 2005 at LivingRoom.

Lastly we shared a Kris Kringle gift swap (I got an icecream shop voucher - wooooohoooooo!)

Now LivingRoom has a few weeks off as many are away for their Summer Holidays and the three groups are getting together in January as one larger group for some semi-social nights. We kick off again properly at the beginning of February.

Talking about LivingRoom

15 November, 2005 11:18 PM

Tonight I went along with one of the LivingRoom groups to visit another church - Eltham Baptist - to talk about LivingRoom and the past two and a half years of doing community in the way we've been exploring it.

It was a great night of meeting new people - some great food - and sharing.

One of the things that talking about LivingRoom always does to me is to force me (us) to think through what we do, why we do it that way, who we are and how things are going.

It also always reminds me just how hard it is to put into words what your community is and how it operates.

All the questions we were asked tonight were asked graciously, insightfully and with a lot of thought and love - however sometimes it's just hard to find words to describe LivingRoom (I guess it would be hard to describe any church in an hour).

All in all though I'm really excited about the opportunity to connect with a more established larger church.

One of the things I've heard numerous newer emerging churches saying lately is that they feel they'd like to interact with other churches more - so tonight was fun and refreshing.

Passion - BYO Worship

28 October, 2005 10:14 AM

This week at our LivingRoom group we did a BYO worship night.

Bring Your Own Worship is always a meaningful night where each person is invited to bring something to share around a particular theme. This week the theme was Passion.

The idea is that each person considers during the week what they could bring to the group to do for 5-10 minutes (depending upon the size of the group) on the theme. Previously we've had people sing songs they'd written, brought bible passages, brought things that meant something to them, get us doing something hands on and creative, read us passages from books, played us bits of video/cds, taken us on walks around the neighborhood or lead us in meditative exercises.

This week we had a variety of things including:

- A time of complete silence
- A discussion on Food
- A reflection upon Paul's passion in Acts as well as some video footage of Ephesus
- A reflection upon some of Paul's words in Timothy to 'fan the flame'
- A time of communion and reading of the Lords Supper
- Reading of a short article by Henri Nouwen titled From Action to Passion

I always love BYO Worship nights - they tend to be nights of surprises and nights where God's Spirit moves through the variety of reflections and personalities of the group.

Incarnation

22 September, 2005 11:40 AM

Last night at LivingRoom we continued through the Ignition course that we've been doing and I was struck afresh by this quote by the author - Mark Sayers on the topic of Incarnation.

“Jesus in order to complete his mission on earth chose to live amongst us. He lived the life of a human man in a particular time and place, he spoke particular languages and he lived in a particular culture. The gospel writers apart from his first and last few years see his life as so ordinary for that time and place that they do not even record it in any detail. When he begins to preach in his hometown people are shocked, and see him as only the carpenter’s son.”

The challenge was to consider how this might not only be the way Jesus went about life, faith and mission - but how it might shape our approach.

Podcast - Core Values of LivingRoom

26 August, 2005 4:01 PM

I'd like to introduce my first podcast (or sorts) to LivingRoom. The MP3 file below (just under 4MB and 16 minutes long) is the first in a mini series of recordings that I've done with a good friend of mine - Mark Sayers.

Mark is a local guy that I've come to know and respect in the past few years that is involved in the starting of a new network of churches here in Melbourne called 'Red'. Red emerged out of a church named South Melbourne Restoration Centre (South Melbourne Church of Christ) which has had an amazing influence upon our city over the last decade or two under the leadership of Alan and Debra Hirsch.

Anyway - Mark's a brilliant thinker so when we stumbled upon the idea of recording some interviews with one another talking about our lessons of planting LivingRoom and Red I thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

This first recording is Mark interviewing me about how the Core Values of LivingRoom. We explore a little of how we came up with our Values and how we reinforce them etc. In part II of this series I ask Mark some questions about Red's values. I hope you enjoy this - it's pretty basic in terms of quality but we'd like to do more of them if people find them useful. here it is:

Core Values of LivingRoom.mp3

LivingRoom Ignites

3 August, 2005 11:03 PM

I really enjoyed our LivingRoom gathering tonight. We decided a couple of weeks ago to go through the Ignition course again. I say 'again' because it's a course the original LivingRoom group did 2.5 years ago as founding members. Only V and I have ever done it from out group though so it seemed appropriate to go back and do it again.

For those of you who are not long term readers - Ignition is a 12 week course that walks a small group of people through the book of Acts. It looks at principles of Mission and gives a framework for participants to look at their own missional context by identifying a 'missional exploration or experiment' to reflect upon as they read Acts.

Each week there is a little reading and a reflection to do as individuals before coming together to discuss a different missional principle.

I've done it twice now and found it incredible helpful - especially as a new group meeting together and forming identity as its essentially an extended reflection on the first church and how they formed.

Sharing

27 July, 2005 11:30 PM

Tonight at LivingRoom we continued to share our 'time lines'. It was V and my turn to share the significant moments of our lives with the group.

It's an interesting idea to walk through your life and to share the highs, lows, epiphanies and lessons from life. In doing so you revisit moments you'd put aside, confront patterns in behavior and hear others reflect back to you what they notice about your sharing.

It's also a real privilege to hear others stories and have your own heard.

It makes me realize just how little in our world people actually take time to stop and listen to the stories of others. It's a real honor to be heard like that - but also unusual and at times an uncomfortable experience - something I'm not used to in a sense. In a world of small talk to share deeply about your own life can at times be something we find ourself out of practice of.

Maybe it's just a male thing, maybe it's a minister thing (we tend to get good at asking others questions and avoid revealing much of our own lives) or maybe it's just a human thing for the time and place we live. Whatever it is it felt good to break through it a little tonight.

Labyrinth @ LivingRoom

12 July, 2005 3:33 PM

I'm looking forward to tomorrow night at LivingRoom when two of our groups will be doing the Labyrinth with eddie from breathing space. Despite doing many similar activities over the years and recommending others go do it, I've not done it myself yet. Should be an interesting and meaningful evening.

Call to Prayer - LivingRoom

7 July, 2005 12:19 AM

Tonight at LivingRoom we got together for our first 'big event' where our three smaller communities got together for the first time since multiplying. It was nice to see everyone (including my own group who we've missed gathering with since being away in June). We also had six visitors along which is always a nice thing.

We started the night off with a couple of people sharing stories from their life (we call it a minute with 'insert name here' - although it generally goes longer than a minute). We also fare-welled and prayed for a family who is going away for six months to Oxford on study leave (very sad).

After those stories we had dinner (soup, bread, wine, tart, salad) and caught up. After dinner each of the three groups talked about their first 5 weeks of meeting separately. The reports were generally positive although the groups being smaller now has both positives (more intimate and participatory) and weaknesses (it's hard when people are away to get things done). The groups have largely been doing some of the things we did when we first started LivingRoom 2.5 years ago. In particular one of the main things we've been doing is 'time lines'/storytelling of our lives to one another. This has been most enlightening for some.

After this sharing time we briefly talked about leadership and then had a time of reflection which I led.

I reflected on being in Turkey and hearing the call to prayer 5 times each day. I actually found the call to prayer to be a very meaningful thing whilst over there (as I have on previous trips to Islamic Countries). The idea of a daily rhythm of prayer that permeates each day is one that captures me every time I consider it.

I've been reflecting upon my own daily rhythms since returning home and wondering where the calls to prayer are in my own life. The calls to stillness, the calls to relationship with God and others, the calls to healthy living and life.

Coming home from holidays is an ideal time to think through one's daily rhythm and to make some changes.

After sharing on this for a while I played an Islamic call to prayer (one of these mp3s) and asked the group to reflect on their own daily rhythms. I also showed them an english translation which I find quite challenging in and of itself.

To hear something like this five times a day from before sunrise until after dusk could be a very meaningful experience that could really help draw one to God - I wonder how I could do something similar in my own day.

Multiplied

1 June, 2005 10:14 PM

Tonight was the first night that LivingRoom met in its new multiplied form (three smaller groups meeting in separate homes). It feels a little strange not seeing the whole group but also quite exciting to recapture some of the intimate aspects of a group of a smaller group. It's sort of like starting again.

It'll be interesting to see how the next few weeks unfold and how things are when we come back together as a large group in five weeks.

I wonder how the other groups went...

Multiplication Decisions

19 May, 2005 6:34 PM

I wrote a week or so back about how at LivingRoom we are testing our theory of Multiplication. When we first started as a group we wanted to grow by starting new groups rather than growing into a larger one - the time has come for that as a result of some numerical growth over the past year.

The question we were left with was not one of 'should' we multiple - but one of 'how' do you multiply?

After over two years of journeying with each other we find ourselves in an interesting place - a rich mix of people from different walks of life who've been sharing a few hours together each week in order to resource them for the rest of their lives together.

In thinking and praying about this dilemma I began to realize that the process of choosing how to multiply could become quite complicated. The choice of 'how' to form new groups could be based on many factors - but three main ones seemed to emerge in my thinking.

Decisions-4Logistics - whilst we all like to be postmodern and liquid in these types of communities the fact remains that sometimes we need to consider the life situation of people when making decisions. It's not very sexy I know - but factors like where people live, families (sometimes its easier to meet at the homes of families with younger children) and time availability come into play.

Relationships - there are a range of relational factors to keep in mind. On one hand people would like to be with people they feel comfortable with, that they share interests with, that they are in similar life circumstances to. People like being with people like them - I guess its part of who we are as humans. On the other hand we don't want to just split into homogenous, comfortable, like-minded groups. One of the things we've enjoyed about the journey so far is that we are a bit diverse - by gender, age, work situations, students, families, singles, marrieds etc. We all expressed a desire to find a balance between having diversity but maintaining relationships.

Mission - a couple of weeks ago we had a conversation where people shared their missional heart - the places that God was stimulating them to join him in. One of the suggestions that we've been playing around with was about forming communities around some of these passions, ideas and interests.

So two weeks ago I shared these three areas with the group and we began to sort through the different issues associated with each. The general initial feeling was that all were important, but that most of us were probably more leaning towards the missional and logistical side of things than the relational. I guess we realized that two years ago when we started we didn't know each other as a group and the relationships looked after themselves over time.

That night we came up with three draft lists of possible new groups to think about for a couple of weeks. In the mean time I invited people to give feedback and reactions to these groups via email or in person.

Last night I brought the feedback to the whole group and we tweaked two of the groups to align them even more towards along missional and relational lines. We now have three pretty firm groups!

So - I'm excited, apprehensive, curious and really looking forward to how it all goes.

Next week is our last week before splitting up - at which time we'll move into a new cycle of meeting separately most weeks and then coming back together as a larger tribe semi regularly (maybe monthly initially and then transitioning to every 6 or so weeks).

We still have to address some issues of leadership - but as I look at the three new groups I'm really excited about the mix of people in each. We've managed to keep an element of diversity yet some threads of commonality in each group and each group is made up of wonderful and capable people - each of whom could lead it in their own right.

Multiplication - the Theory is Tested

5 May, 2005 9:48 AM

Last night at LivingRoom we met to talk about how we should grow.

Since starting just over 2 years ago we've grown numerically from a group of 7 (including one child) to a group of 25 (including up to 5 children).

The dynamics have obviously changed in this time - we've gone from meeting around a table to meeting around a lounge room. We've gone from an easy to organize meal to something that requires a roster. We've gone from an intimate group where all can quite naturally find a space to be heard to one where some personality types find it more difficult to speak.

These changes are not necessarily bad - they're just different and have led us to go back to rethinking some of the founding values that we started with.

This week I went back through the notes we made when we first started meeting and was interested to discover that we'd actually named 'smallness' as a value.

Ok - it never made it into our three core values - but it was talked about a lot early on.

I shared last night a little of why we initially valued smallness and as a result named right up front that we wanted to grow by multiplication (starting new groups) rather than by growing into a large group:

  • Previous Experiences of Large Church - We were all pretty honest about our previous experiences of church in the early days. While most of us had had pretty positive experiences of churches of all sizes - one of the themes that emerged early on was that we'd seen things in larger churches that left us thirsting for something different (including some of the following). I don't think any of us were (or are) 'anti' large church - we just wanted to experience and try something different.
  • Intimacy - We all desired to be in a group that was connected and able to share on a deeper level.
  • Community - There was a real sense that people longed for an experience of shared life
  • Local Focus - We all initially lived reasonably close to one another and had a real heart for the local area
  • Commitment and Participation - Whilst we were keen not to let 'church' dominate and take us away from the rest of our lives - we also desired to be a community committed to one another - to participation (not just attendance) and to unashamedly growing in and exploring our core values.
  • Accountability - The group felt that out of the intimacy, community and commitment would come a level of accountability between one another.
  • Logistics - There was a desire that we not become a group distracted by the logistics of staff, buildings, resources etc. 'Simplicity' was a word that was used early on a bit.

These things are not impossible in a large church - and they are not guaranteed in a small one. However our theory at the time was that perhaps in a small setting these elements would be a more natural thing. It was an untested theory - but it was something we wanted to test and out of it we made a decision to be a multiplying group.

Nice theory - but is there any truth to it?

Last night we had some good discussion around this question and the general feeling was that as we've grown, these things have become more difficult. Of course as we've grown other wonderful things have happened (there is a sense of momentum, variety, freshness, diversity etc) - however there are some costs to these things also.

So the decision has been made to multiply.

I'll post at some point in the next few days about the dilemma of 'how to multiply'.

Another Spirituality Tour

21 April, 2005 12:02 AM

Good night tonight again at LivingRoom. We did another Everyday Spirituality Tour of one of our community's members. Going from home, to local shopping strip, to child care centre to work place for a tour of where he spends his days.

I am always amazed at the things that these little tours reveal about people who do them that none of us would ever know without them.

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 don’t 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.

Everyday Spirituality Tour III

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.

Godly Play Revisited

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.

The Spirituality of Food

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.

Our Weekend in Dromana

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.

Living Room's 10,000km service

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.

Pentecost at the Livingroom 04

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.

Everyday Spirituality Tour II

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.

Reflecting on James

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.

The Personality of LivingRoom

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.

Everyday Spirituality Tour

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.

Grappling with Mission

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.

LivingRoom Information Site

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.

Contemplating the Everyday

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.

Sponsor the Livingroom

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.

BYO Worship

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

Corporate Evangelism

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.

Slide1.gifWhat 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.

Slide3.gifBoth 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'.

Slide4.gifI 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.

Slide5.gifIf 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.

New Faces

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.

Livingroom Beginnings - Part 1

21 January, 2004 7:17 AM

Blogathon - Entry 19

Michelle asks
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.

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Renovare at Livingroom

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?

Living Room - Defining Times

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.

Living Room Is Better than Church

29 December, 2003 1:20 PM

You heard it here first!

Yesterday around lunch we were talking a 'church songs' and V mentioned the song 'Father Abraham'. Everyone immediately knew what song she was talking about except 'Yol', the youngest member of Livingroom . Her dad explained to her that we were talking about 'church songs'. Then he said - I guess you havn't been around church too much.

Yol immediately came back with the statement - 'Oh, I like Livingroom much better than church!'

Makes you wonder about what we're doing - and about what her experience of 'church' is....hmmmm. Glad we're appealing to the 10 year old demographic!

Sing, sing a song

22 December, 2003 7:28 AM

On Sunday night V and I went to my old church to drop off the presents from last night. It was really nice to go back. They did a little interview with me to hear a bit about how Living Room is going. They also generously gave us a gift which was a complete surprise and greatly appreciated. The church there has a lot going for it and are very supportive of new things.

It was a strange feeling to be back in a 'contemporary worship' service (full of Christmas Carols) after 10 months of Living Room. It is only the second time I've sung a song corporately since February. I personally don't mind singing (although Carols are not my favorite) - I even used to worship lead occasionally - but I realized tonight that I haven't really missed it much at all. In fact it is quite refreshing to be a part of a community that has deliberately chosen to find other creative ways to worship.

By no means have we found all the answers when it comes to worship. We need to grow a heap more in it and will continue to experiment and explore - but I'm enjoying the journey.

Living Room Christmas Party

21 December, 2003 9:39 AM

candles.jpgOur 'redemptive party' last night went really well. About 30 friends of Living Room showed up from a variety of different places - some were churched others not.

It was an informal night of great food (V cooked up a storm), good music, interesting conversation, lots of laughter and a chance to reflect upon the birth of Jesus.

We invited people to bring a gift for a child in need. Tonight I'll take about 40 gifts over to an organization who works with refugees, families affected by drug dependancy and homeless people.

We also set up a place on our landing for people to reflect upon Jesus as 'the light of the world' - basically it was a spot to light a candle and read poems/prayers. It was really nice to see people taking time out from the party's center to light a candle.

Lastly we had a series of projected images shot up onto a wall where people walked in that picked up the Christmas story as depicted in art throughout the centuries. It was the thing that seemed to grab peoples attention the most.

I had some great conversations with a number of people on the edges of our community - one of whom has just decided to become a follower of Jesus after years of relationship with two members of the Living Room. Its been really exciting to be able to share some of her walk over the past few weeks since making that decision. Its brought a real life to the group as a whole.

Overall the night was a lot of work - we are very tired this morning - but well worth the effort.

Now....back to the cleaning up process!

Christmas Imagery

18 December, 2003 5:01 PM

Today among other things I've been putting together a visual display for this Saturday night's Christmas gathering. I want to have a series of images and videos rotate throughout the night on a projector that give people reason to reflect on Christmas. I want to put together a variety of traditional, modern, abstract, realistic etc images. They focus is Jesus - but not all of them have to depict the Christmas story as such. I'm not wanting to create a somber mood with them as it is a party - but rather to add another element to the night.

In searching for images this afternoon I've been a bit disappointed by the lack of variety. There are heaps of cheesey nativity shots with glowing faces and haloes. Even the donkeys and cattle look positively heavenly in some.

Apart from that I've not found much.

Does anyone have any images or video that they've used or seen? Its getting close to Saturday - I've got the skeleton of a good presentation - but do need a few more images to flesh it out. If its video it needs to be small enough to download via dial-up. Thanks.

Christmas Preparations

16 December, 2003 6:55 PM

Today I've been getting ready for Living Room's Christmas Celebration/Party which is his Saturday night.

As I said in the previous post we're hoping to make it something of a redemptive party by encouraging people to bring a gift for a child in need and by giving people some opportunities for reflection in different parts of our house during the night.

I'm looking for readings, poems, prayers, pictures or simple exercises and meditations that people might be able to engage with. Does anyone have any that they've used or written? I've got a growing collection of ideas, but am open to suggestions if anyone has anything that might be useful.

Advent at Living Room

3 December, 2003 9:53 AM

Last night at Living Room we had another rich time.

Rachel and Regan came and after main course (vegetarian BBQ) shared a little bit about their journey and especially their last year of going to Graceway. It was interesting to hear about a church that seems to be on a very similar journey to us - except that they are 9 years into it and we are only 9 months along the way. I found it really encouraging to see some very common threads.

After that we did a simple Advent meditation. Here is a brief outline:

- Brief Explanation of Advent
- Silence - people were encouraged to reflect on their day/week - in the style of Examen
- Reading - John 1:1-18
- Silence
- Reading and Prayer - 'The Great Reversal' from (p15) Sharing of bread and wine
- Prayer for one another

We then shared the rest of our meal together (fruit platter and peppermint tea) and continued to chat. For me the talking after it was all over was best - filled with surprises and evidence of God at work in the lives of Living Room members and their friends. God is so Good.

Sermon on the Mount Mtt 5: 17-30

26 November, 2003 8:21 AM

We had another great discussion last night on the Sermon on the Mount. I think we are all challenged by the way Jesus spoke in this passage. His call goes beyond the way Christianity is so often presented.

Sometimes I wonder if we water down the gospel for today and gloss over some of his central teaching.

Can't talk too much at the moment as I'm off to a day of important meetings - would value your prayers today. Big decisions to be made (not Living Room related) - might be able to share more soon.

By the way - thanks for your questions a couple of posts back - I am looking forward to answering them - feel free to add more!

Living Room Redemptive Party

19 November, 2003 7:34 AM

Last night at Living Room we continued our discussion on parties. We decided to have a Living Room Christmas Party.

Our hope is that it will be more than just an end of year breakup but that it will something of a Redemptive Party.

There are three main ways we want to be intentional about this:

1. We will be inviting those on the fringes of our group in an attempt to let our world collide a little. We hope this will help us to get to know one another's friends and allow us to explore more of what it is to do evangelism as a community and not just individuals.

2. There will be a simple reflection/worship experience for party goers to participate in at their convenience during the night. This will probably take the form of a candle lighting ritual (around the theme of the 'light of the world') and perhaps some reflections (both written and artistic) to be posted around the party rooms for party goers to be stimulated as they party.

3. Party goers will be invited to bring a gift for a child. These presents will be donated to a Melbourne organization that works with refugees, the poor and displaced people.

It is unlikely that there will be any formal time where the party will be stopped so that we can do anything planned corporately - rather its hoped that the above elements will enable the night to not only be fun but a meaningful and life giving experience to all concerned.

Interested in your thoughts.

A Salty Metaphor

18 November, 2003 1:20 PM

Tonight at Living Room we are continuing our series on The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) by looking at Mtt 5:13-16 (and maybe Mtt 17-20 if we get time).

The words 'You are the Salt of the World/Earth' have struck me afresh as I've contemplated the passage this morning in preparation. A number of things are buzzing around my little head:

1. We don't get any choice in the matter - we are Salt. The choice comes in how (and if) we express this saltiness.

2. We are the Earth/World's salt. Our relationship to the world is central to Jesus in this description.

3. Salt is useless unless it interacts with another substance. On its own it does very little. It cannot enhance food's flavor or preserve food (as it was used in Jesus day) unless it comes into contact with that food. As Salt we are useless unless we interact with our World (or as some have said - get out of the salt shaker).

4. My memory of chemistry is that salt is a stable compound that can't lose its 'saltiness' by itself. The only way it can lose it's taste is to be diluted and mixed with other compounds. (water, dirt...anything) The danger in 'interacting with our world' is that we become diluted as we mix into it.

5. As I look at how many Christians interact with the world today I wonder if many fall into two camps. Either they remain in the 'salt shaker' (or their holy huddles) and don't interact with the world they live in for fear of being contaminated or they become so mixed up with the world that they become somewhat diluted. Instead of having an impact on the world the world dominates them and they lose their saltiness. I guess balance is sometimes hard but so much of Jesus message calls for it.

Thoughts?

UPDATE

I really enjoyed tonight's discussion on Mtt 5:13-16 (yeah we only got through the four verses). Some really great things came out of our discussion - here are some of things we discussed:

In addition to the above we talked a lot about the struggle that all of us have to find that balance between losing our saltiness and removing ourselves from the 'earth' altogether. Its all very nice in theory but when it comes down to living it its bloody hard.

A few other things that came out of our discussion:

6. In the context Jesus was speaking into both salt and light were very valuable commodities. Salt was even used as currency and was seen in ancient Greek culture as divine. When we hear that we are 'salt and light' I think we miss some of the significance of what that means as we take both for granted.

7. Similarly both salt and light were essential components of life in Jesus day (as they are today). Those listening to Jesus would have known the implications of a life without access to them. Without salt they would not be able to preserve food - meat would rot within hours. To say to his followers that they were the salt and light of the world is actually to say to them that they are to play central roles in the world. He bestows on them (and us) an incredible honor, privilege and also responsibility.

8. When added to food salt gently permeates it and brings out the flavor of what is already there. When you serve up the meal you generally can taste the effect of the salt but would be pushed to identify where it is - you can't see it too much. Perhaps this is a model of how we should approach our world - mix through it - permeate - draw out the flavors and be a part of enhancing it.

Thanks for your comments so far - feel free to leave of your reflections.

Philipino Challenges

12 November, 2003 11:32 PM

Last night at Living Room we had our Philipino Guests spend the night with us.

It was fantastic to see them again after almost two years since I was in Manila. Their stories were really inspiring. One of the guys (Sherwin) who shared was a 24 year old who lives in one of Manila's slums. When he was 19 years old both his parents deserted him and his 5 brothers and sisters. Since that time he's been the parent of his family. His youngest sister (who was 3 at the time) had a severe cleft palate and needed quite intense care.

Sherwin now lives in a tiny house (from memory of my visit its around 3 meters by 5 meters maximum) with 10 others from his extended family. They are all between the ages of 6 and 25! He gets up at 4am every morning to get his siblings off to school and doesn't get to bed until after 11pm most nights after a day of study (he is at college studying teaching), volunteering at a mission organization and working in the evenings for a youth organization.

Sherwin's story and faith was inspiring to me. Please pray for him and his family as they continue to struggle through their circumstances. Despite things being incredibly tough for them they are on the improve in many ways. Sherwin has been sponsored by a family here in Melbourne for many years as are a number of his siblings. This enables them to get a good education and provides them with some basics of life. His youngest sister has also been the recipient of sponsorship to enable her to have an operation for her face. She is doing a lot better.

I also heard last night that Slick who I previously blogged about has been taken into care by a government social welfare department. The workers we travelled with in Manila have lost contact with him but trust that he is ok.

Living Room Guests

11 November, 2003 8:09 AM

Almost two years ago I was privileged enough to be able to visit the Philippines on a missions trip. We spent a lot of time with a group of Christians from an organization called International Needs.

Tonight some of them are coming to Living Room. To share with about the work they do. I'm really looking forward to seeing them as they are amazing people. Its a little strange to think that last time we saw each other it was in one of the poorest places in the world - a Manilla Slum - and tonight I'll be entertaining Aussie style in our modest (by Australian standards) yet ridiculously big lavish (in the scheme of things) home.

Redemptive Parties

7 November, 2003 7:41 PM

Andrew and Jason have been talking about Partying and Church. Andrew writes:

It might be better to have a party that is redemptive than having a boring service that has moments of drama/fun.

I agree - its something that I've been thinking about a lot lately. I commented on Jasons blog:

We've had a couple of LivingRoom parties lately and they have been excellent. The girls in our group had a Breast Health Party (I wasn't invited) - and we also had a party to raise money and awareness of refugee issues. Both were very small but went well. And heaps of fun too.

We're also planning a Christmas one for the end of the year....

The thing I love about the party is that it is usually an inclusive gathering where people let their worlds collide. Friends of friends meet and become friends. We've been talking about the idea of the community as the evangelist rather than the individual and parties lend themselves to this idea.

Parties are also a celebration of life. They are a part of the natural rhythm of life and a 'normal' place for people to go, be themselves and interact.

What do you think?

Update: Michael is also talking about the same thing.

Update - we had our Christmas Redemptive party

Fuzzy Logic Bible Study

4 November, 2003 7:46 AM

Tonight at Living Room we're going to have a Fuzzy Logic Bible Study on the Beatitudes. I'm looking forward to getting out of my comfort zone a little and looking at this well known passage through the eyes of someone very unlike me.

Update: Although we were a little down on numbers tonight the above exercise went really well. Those participating in the discussion included George W Bush, Mother Theresa, Pauline Hanson, a Homeless gentleman and a 9 year old refugee girl. The discussion was really fascinating.

Sermon on the Mount

3 November, 2003 8:02 AM

This week we're going to start a series on the Sermon on the Mount at Living Room.

I guess the motivation for the series is having seen the movie Bonehoeffer as a group a couple of weeks ago.

We were challenged by his call not just to see this teaching of Jesus as an ideal that cannot actually be lived out because its impossible - but as being an actual way to live.

I've looked at the passage many times before but am excited (and a little scared) about what may come out of our learning over the next few weeks together.

What does the Sermon on the Mt mean to you? What are you drawn to in it? What puzzles you about it? How does it mean to live by it to you? Interested in your thoughts.

Micro Church

31 October, 2003 12:38 PM

Small churches have their unique joys and challenges.

I've been involved in ministry in both now and find myself sometimes a little torn between the two.

I love the intimacy of smaller churches. The depth of community that I'm seeing start to emerge from our group is something I've not experienced much of before. I also love the fluidity of what we have. We have the ability to make decisions, change direction and adapt very quickly. We also are able to focus all our energies upon a given task without having to start a major strategy...or worse starting a committee.

I also love the lack of politics, administration and logistics that we have. In previous churches I've found it so easy to get bogged down in this stuff!

The stats also show smaller churches are often more effective at evangelism.

On the downside I'm constantly aware of our fragility. One person leaving or even being away for a week or two changes the dynamics of the group considerably. For one person to be away in our group is more than 10% of who we are.

There is also some potential for feeling lonely or isolated when your community is small in number. I'm not sure we've felt this too much yet because we all have strong connections with other Christians. We've also met with other smaller groups to get a sense of something bigger than ourselves.

Another challenge is that whilst we are not tied down by complex leadership structures and committees etc we actually the reality is that everyone that is part of the group is actually central in leadership. Whilst this is fantastic it also is weird. As V said the other night, we are all the elders...and the worship team...and the prayer committee...and the welcomers....etc. I personally find this refreshing, but it does add a rather new and strange dynamic.

Its been interesting making the transition from big to small. I'm interested in others experiences of big and small churches - share yours in comments.

Church in our Living Room

30 October, 2003 10:09 PM

From time to time people ask what does 'church' looks like at LivingRoom? It's a question that is a little difficult to answer mainly because what we do changes from week to week — but I thought I'd attempt to describe a typical night here anyway.

We meet on Tuesday nights, usually at one or another of the groups homes.

- The evening begins with some sort of prayer or reflection. This might be anything from a read prayer to a moment of silence, the lighting of a candle, to a short guided meditation.

- Dinner Time! The meal is usually quite a feast with each person brings something to contribute. We always eat vegetarian food which has often been made with ingredients grown organically in one of the groups gardens. Most of us will have a glass of wine with our meal.

- Dinner is a pretty informal time of sharing, catching up, laughing, story telling and reflecting upon our weeks. We often end up talking about any missional opportunities we've had during the week here.

- After the main course we often move into the living room of the home for some sort of activity or reflection. We tend to mix up what we do in this time from week to week. Some weeks it's fairly discussion oriented around a passage of Scripture. Other weeks we might do a prayer/meditation or some sort of creative worship experience. Some weeks we pause during or after dinner for a formal time of communion - other weeks it is something that goes unspoken, yet amidst our eating and drinking it is obvious that we are celebrating the Lords Supper.

- Depending upon what we've just done and where the group is at, we sometimes end the night with prayer for one another and more sharing.

- Lastly we have dessert, tea (usually herbal — peppermint is a popular choice), coffee and then do the dishes together.

The whole feel of the night is pretty intimate and informal. The most we've ever had on a Tuesday night is 10 people. We currently have 7 committed core members who are all amazing people who I'm coming to be very fond of!

First Time Here?

29 October, 2003 4:15 PM

Is this your first time to this site? If so welcome to the LivingRoom. Pull up a bean bag, grab a coffee and stay a while.

My name is Darren Rowse. I live in Melbourne Australia. If you want to know more about me click here.

What is this Website?

You are currently reading a blog.

  • In short a blog is an online journal or diary.
  • They are usually written by one person and are updated pretty regularly.
  • Blogs are usually written on a particular topic - there are blogs on virtually any topic you can think of. From photography, to spirituality, to recipes, to personal diaries to hobbies.
  • There are literally millions of blogs in existence at the moment. If you want more info on blogging and how to start a blog read this article or check out my own Blog Tips.
  • My blog 'LivingRoom' is a pretty general one that covers all kinds of topics from Spirituality, Technology, Culture, Emerging Church through to Blogging, Movies and Australiana.
  • How do I read it?

  • You are currently deep in the middle of my blog on an individual entry page. It is a simple entry on one topic only. To get to the main part of my page click on the Home link at the topic of this page to go to the front page. Most people surf into the front page which contains the most recent updates. At the top of that page is the last thing I wrote and under that are entries from the last week.
  • Each blog entry is followed by some text that looks like this - 'Have your say? >> Comments (4)'. This is an invitation for you to interact with what I've just written. I read every comment that you post. The number in brackets is how many people have already made comments. Click on the link and you'll be taken to a new window where you can make a comment. You do not have to leave a name, email or web address to leave a comment.
  • The front page only has the last 7 days entries on it. I have been doing this since November 2002 so there is a lot more material than what you see on the front page. To view older material there are a few options.
    • At the top of every page is a number of links. Click on the Archives link and you will be taken to a page listing every entry since the beginning of this blog. They are arranged in catagories

    • If you are searching for something in particular there is a search option in the side bar on the front page that allows you to search for words or phrases.

    • At the end of each entry is a reference to a Category that they entry belongs to. If you click on this it will lead you to the last 30 entries from within the same category.

    If you have any question please or would like to know more about me or this blogging thing please feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email. (see Contact link above).

  • Bonhoeffer

    22 October, 2003 8:59 AM

    bonhoeffer_poster.jpgLast night for Living Room we went to to our local cinema to see Bonhoeffer - the documentary which tells the amazing story of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    Having read some of his work I found the film added a new dimension to his writing as it brought alive the circumstances he found himself in. I always knew of his imprisonment by the Nazi regime and his part in the plots to kill Hitler, but seeing the photos and hearing first hand accounts added so much.

    We all left the cinema very challenged by the cost that he paid for his faith. Whilst its no hollywood blockbuster (it is a little dry) its an important and challenging film that I highly recommend. I'd rate it 7.5 out of 10.

    Godly Play - The Aftermath

    8 October, 2003 9:41 AM

    godlyplay.jpg Thanks to those who asked how our Godly Play time went last night in the last posts comments and via email. Thanks also to those who prayed for us last night - I appreciate everyones interest in what we're up to.

    How did it go? - Personally I felt it went really well. The group probably thought I was a little nuts when I started explaining it, but they through themselves into it.

    We used Luke 15 (the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son). I read each story and then we paused for a time of 'wondering' (as outlined in the last post). I had prepared some of my own 'wonderings' to get the ball rolling, but didn't need them at all as the group took the initiative. The only rule I set at the start was that if you wanted to say something you had to phrase it as an 'I wonder...statement or question. While we played with the passage we also played with play-doh to help us get into a more playful frame of mind. (see pictures)

    godlyplay2.jpgThere were a number of things I liked about the activity.

    * Its an all ages way of engaging with Scripture. Our youngest member Yol (who is 10) got into the play-doh and wondering along with the rest of us and had some good things to contribute to the conversations.

    * The wondering process is actually a very freeing experience. You can wonder anything at all without having to worry about someone correcting you, without having to come up with something deeply profound. Its actually quite fun to do as a group. I also loved that it approached Scripture in a much more imaginative and dreamlike way. Not that I don't like the academic/thinking approach (we're going to do that next week) but sometimes I think we think way way too much about it all. Jesus told stories that evoke the imagination, that leave the listener questioning, that are often open ended - perhaps we need to relearn how to listen to them. Godly play is a good starting point.

    * Its a truly collaborative experience. There will be periods of silence during the activity and then one person will wonder something which will often stimulate a stream of others to wonder things related but adding to the first. It was amazing how quickly we got to some quite profound insights purely though asking questions.

    godlyplay3.jpg* In each of the three parables I felt we really explored well. I tried to write down all the 'wonderings' of the group so I could reflect back to them what they had said - as I look back over the list now I'm quite staggered by the depth we went to and by the new thoughts that came out that I'd never considered before. We ended up looking at each story from a whole heap of perspectives.

    In all it was well worth the effort. In fact I think its something that could be used in all kinds of settings. I'd like to experiment with it in a larger gathering both in small groups and big ones. I think it will be very useful for me in my private reading of the bible and in sermon preparation and I also think it would be good for a worship team trying to plan a service with a particular passage.

    I could talk about this for ages, but I'll leave it at that - if you want to know more about how we did it feel free to converse with me via email or in comments.

    Godly Play

    7 October, 2003 2:07 PM

    Tonight at our weekly LivingRoom gathering we're going have a time of Godly Play.

    I first heard about Godly play when Ian Mobsby blogged about it. It grabbed my attention straight away as it reminded me of the fuzzy logic bible study I've experimented with a few times.

    When Steve blogged about Godly Play in such a positive way I decided it was something worth exploring and experimenting with. Following the links I ended up at godlyplay.org.uk which is a site dedicated to sharing a method of helping children engage with Scripture.

    As both Ian and Steve say - to limit this method to being used only with children seems a bit of a pity (although I have no doubt its brilliant with them). To me it seems like a perfect way of helping both children and adults to engage with Scripture in a very postmodern kind of way. It allows people to engage their imaginations, to connect through story and it brings some of the mystery of God into an interaction with Scripture.

    Having said this, I've never done it or seen it done in a group before (or been trained in it) - but this afternoon I gave it a go by myself and found it to be a very rich experience.

    What is Godly Play?

    Well its described on all the above sites better than I can - but the basics of it entail the telling of a story/parable/passage from Scripture and then having times where the group is allowed to 'wonder' out loud.

    In this time anyone can put a 'wondering' to the group.... 'I wonder who was listening to Jesus when he said that?....I wonder why he chose fishermen as disciples?... I wonder what it was like to be a Pharisee?...I wonder why he talked so much about sheep?' You can wonder about anything at all.

    The facilitator can wonder back at participants...'I wonder what makes you wonder that?... I wonder where you see yourself in the story?...'

    The point isn't necessarily to come up with a whole heap of answers or a three point sermon, but to 'play' with the passage, to ask questions, to engage with it, to tease it out, to step inside it and look at it from different perspectives.

    Oh yeah - they 'experts' suggest you use some visual aid that will help bring the story alive. They suggest a sandpit. Might be a bit much for us tonight so we're going to be using play-doh/clay to help us get into the 'play' frame of mind.

    As I said, I'm yet to try it with a group (I'll let you know how it goes tonight) but in preparation I spent some time playing with Luke 15 this afternoon and found myself in a very refreshing and energizing space with God.

    Last Night

    24 September, 2003 2:37 PM

    Last night at Living Room was great. Chrissie led us through a guided meditation. She cleverly combined the crucifiction account with a great little childrens story.

    It was really nice to be back with the group after a month away.

    Small Things

    22 September, 2003 10:11 AM


    Sometimes its the smallest things that you miss the most while you're away.

    This morning I'm going down to one of our local cafes - The Tin Pot Cafe - for a coffee, its been way too long between lattes!

    Update: It was good!

    Home

    10 August, 2003 9:14 PM

    groupsmlr.jpg We're back after a great weekend away. Great people (thats us on the left!), food, conversation and lots of laughing. We made some significant decisions about where we are headed as a community and got to know each other a bit better.

    The more I get to know this group the more amazed I am by the way God has brought us together.

    Away

    8 August, 2003 11:08 PM

    We are leaving for our Living Room weekend away first thing tomorrow morning - no blogging for a day or two. But there is plenty to read in the last post's comments and in the current Hot Topic on Alt Worship. Enjoy the dialogue and have a good weekend.

    The Living Room hits the Road

    7 August, 2003 5:18 PM

    This weekend we're going to Barwon Heads as a group for some time away together. It will be a great time of growing relationships, sharing dreams, eating, praying and discussing who, what (etc) is the Living Room!? It will also be the first time that we've spent more than 2-3 hours together as a group which will take us into another dimension!

    We are coming to the end of the Ignition course and I'm sensing that we've really been challenged as a group to think about who we are and what we are being called to missionally. The challenge now is to bring some of it together and discern the direction that we're to now head in.

    We would value your prayers this weekend as continue our journey.

    Neighbourhood House

    5 August, 2003 8:55 AM

    I'm meeting with a worker at the local Neighbourhood House today for lunch. I'm not really sure what might come from it but am keen to hear more of what they are doing in the local community. From what I hear they run some pretty amazing programs, including teaching English to new arrivals, homework clubs for kids in the local housing estates and other community development activities.

    update: The meeting was postponed - nothing further to report.

    Experiencing God

    30 July, 2003 7:33 AM

    Last night at Living Room I personally found myself very aware of Gods presence - more so than I've found previously at group. We prayed for one another and I found myself visualising other group members in their missional contexts - it was very powerful for me to know that each of them are so loved by God and are making a difference in their own places of work, rest, study, play and life. Very cool.

    Missional Activity

    23 July, 2003 11:36 AM

    This morning I had to write a report for the BUV (the denomination that Living Room is birthed out of).

    The process is a good one. We are one of the first of many (hopefully) experimental new forms of church that the BUV wants to launch in the next few years and as a result the report is not only about keeping us accountable, but also about learning from the process. I guess we're like R & D for our denomination. (I'm wearing my Lab Tech white coat as we speak)

    One of the questions in the report was about what ways we've been engaging our community in mission over the past quarter?

    When I first dreamt of Living Room I dreamt of a group of people, all living in a local area engaging in a shared missional activity. One possibility was to be working in one of the local housing estates with children. Another possibility was to set up a gallery space. The possibilities were endless but the vision to focus our missional activities in working together on one (or maybe two) combined missional projects.

    After four and a half months of meeting together the idea of combined missional activities has rarely been mentioned. Yet the missional activity of this group is perhaps higher than any that I've ever been a part of before.

    Every week we hear stories of opportunities for conversation or acts of love that group members have had in their own personal context. God has been at work in the lives of those we work, socialise, study and live with.

    Group members are involved in one primary school, one university (two faculties), 7 work places, one homework programs in a housing estate, a swimming group, 5 houses (including a number of shared houses with non churchy types), a local tennis club, an artist studio, teaching religious education in a school....just to name a few missional contexts. Add to that the developing relationships we each have in our day to day running about down the street with cafe owners, librarians, neighbours and shop assistants and the potential to impact our community is overwhelming.

    The exciting thing is that the group is not just going to these places, but that they are actively taking the opportunities to serve, speak and love in these places also.

    One day we may (or may not) engage in a more formal shared missional activity in our wider community, but in the mean time we've each got plenty to keep us busy!

    Out of the Loop

    22 July, 2003 8:19 PM

    Tonight Living Room is on - right now they're meeting a few kms away - WITHOUT ME!

    The past couple of days I've not been feeling too well - this afternoon my body decided that I should stop pushing it and rest. (I think I caught something from Hamo or Rachel via their blogs)

    So here I sit at home alone wondering what my church is doing without me.

    Its a strange feeling. On one level there is no reason to be uneasy. Any one of the group is more than capable of facilitating tonight's gathering. I'm sure it will go brilliantly.

    Yet its the first time they've met without me and I'm curious as to how its going. I wish I could be a fly on the wall. It would be really fascinating to watch the dynamics without me.

    Wish I was with my Living Room family tonight.

    Village Life

    16 July, 2003 10:02 AM

    Some of the local gathering points in our community are in the 'village' shopping strips. These seem like logical places to connect with our wider community. The question is how? buy? rent? use someone elses place?

    Has anyone got some spare cash?

    Don't worry, I'm not about to put a paypal link on my site or start a blogathon to raise money. I'm not seriously looking for money....well not too seriously.

    We live 10 minutes walk from four shopping strips. There are no shopping centres (Malls) close by - we're in the inner suburbs and they are mainly out a bit further) and there is a real 'village' atmosphere in each of the strips.

    Each village has its cafe's and arty little gathering points. Some of them have galleries, libraries, doctors surgeries, internet cafes, alternative healing centres, retro furniture shops, bars, pubs and one even has a cinema.

    As I've been reflecting in the last few weeks upon the rhythms of our local community I've become more and more convinced that these local shopping strips are key connecting points for us. They are places where people gather, socialise, learn, relax, heal and explore spirituality.

    Last night at Living Room I shared a little with some of the group about some ideas that are percolating in my mind. Nothing formal or ordered yet, but some urges really.

    I've noticed that in each 'village' that shopfronts are periodically up for lease. Yesterday I saw three in just one street. As I walked past each one I found myself stopping and peering in the window trying to visualise the possibilities of what we could do with such a space. All kinds of ideas flashed through my mind.

    Learning centres, Cafes, Galleries, Drop in centres, Tea Houses, Art studios, book shops - spaces for exhibitions, poetry readings, bands, food banks, philosophy discussions, book and movie clubs and story telling - just to name a few ideas.

    Our area is very artistic, very alternative, very social justice oriented. There would be many possible ways to connect.

    I got excited - I started to dream. But then two things pulled me back.

    1. We are only 8 people (with only 3 working full time). We have less than $100 in our little bank account. Property prices in this area are out of control. A shopfront like the ones I'm looking at with a small residence at the back went for over $1,000,000 recently. Even to rent would be a massive monthly outlay. Would such an approach be a responsible use of resources?

    2. As I look at the above list of dreams I can identify a place in one of the shopping strips where such activities are already happening, or could easily happen without us having to buy or rent our own space. Would another approach to join with other community groups, to go onto their turf, to build relationships there rather than to expect people to come to our little cool patch?

    I can see the pros and cons of each way - wondering if you have any thoughts?

    Conversations @ Work

    10 July, 2003 9:19 AM

    'Hi Darren how are you? I'm glad you could take the shift. How's your wife going? Hows that lounge church thing you're starting?'

    Yesterday I got called into a warehouse that I've worked in over the years to do an afternoon shift. The last time I worked there was just before we started Living Room. All my work mates know that I'm a minister and have heard about the new venture that we're starting. Some have even expressed an interest in coming along to see what we do.

    I was blown away yesterday that every one of the 9 people I worked alongside during the shift specifically asked about how the 'church thing' was going. I didn't have to start one conversation - the initiative was totally with them. Most of my work mates live fairly alternative lifestyles, they are into all kinds of stuff, but each of them in their own way is prepared to talk on a spiritual level and each of them is more than willing to consider the idea of a new form of church.

    The thing that blew me away most was hearing that the reason that they called me in to do the shift was that four of them (including my supervisor) had been talking about me in the lunch room earlier in the week and had been wondering how the church was going. I got the shift purely so they could get an update!

    Going back today and tomorrow - can't wait to see where the conversation goes!

    Missional Explorations

    12 June, 2003 10:31 AM

    At Living Room we're up to week 2 of Ignition. Those of you doing it already will know that as part of the process participants identify a 'Missional Exploration' that they will commit themselves to for 12 weeks while they engage with the book of Acts. The exploration can be whatever you like: members of our group are exploring a wide range of things from groups of friends, to a local neighbourhoods, to a local school.

    V and I have decided to try to go to one local community activity every week for the next 12 weeks. The suburb where we live (North Fitzroy) is very community focused and there are no end of regular activities to choose from.Our aim is to meet more locals but also its an observational exercise where we want to begin to understand and become a part of the rhythms of our neighbourhood.

    So we're going to be getting out and about - bring on the film nights at the local pub, the African drum lessons, the Spanish classes, the poetry readings, the art exhibitions and the men's conversational club! (I still can't find the website....anyone got any ideas!?)

    Last night we went to on our first 'exploration' to the local library for a slide presentation by a guy who has travelled in Morocco (where we'll be travelling in August). Whilst no real opportunities to build relationships with others arose, I did find it very interesting to observe the number of people willing to come out on a cold night to their local library to hear an old guy talk about a holiday he took 10 years ago! The presentation itself wasn't that fantastic, yet about 40 people of all ages and stages of life showed up and seemed to enjoy the gathering.

    People are obviously interested going to such evenings to hear stories, experience other cultures and to meet other locals....nothing staggering about that observation I know, but an interesting one to put in the mental filing cabinet as we think about how Living Room will interact with its neighbourhood.

    Local Focus II

    21 May, 2003 9:43 AM

    There is some good discussion here a few posts back on the localised focus of church and if its still for today.

    I chatted with some of the Living Roomies over dinner last night about it. I guess part of the reason we've come up with the 'bike ride away' 'rule' is that a number of our group choose to ride bikes and not drive cars. Along side of this, we have chosen to meet in each others homes and local cafes - so to lose the local focus would be to run the risk of exluding some.

    I can see Steve's point in comments though about how cities now days operate according to the laws of 'the car'. The definition of 'community' changed considerably when people started having the ability to travel quickly and cheaply. Still interested in others thoughts.....its an important conversation.

    Local Focus

    20 May, 2003 9:03 AM

    One of the few decisions we've made in terms of who can be a part of the Living Room is that we strongly desire all participants to live in our local area. The criteria is that people live within a bike ride of the rest of the group. (I looked on the map yesterday and we all live within 4-5kms of each other - so its not extremely localised) We've already been approached by a number of Christian people outside this area who have expressed interest in joining us who we've suggested we may not be the best community for them while they live where they do.

    Our reasoning for this localised focus is twofold.

    Firstly, we believe it will help build community. Journeying together is one of our three core journeys and so we desire to be involved in each others lives on a week to week and even day to day basis. Living in the same neighbourhoods should help in this.

    Secondly, we hope it will help us in another of our core journey's - that of the 'outward journey' where we desire to impact our community. Its our desire to make a difference to the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne and think that that can be done best by people living there. Incarnation might be the missiological word, we just think it makes sense.

    One of the dangers I have seen with other new forms of church is that they can attract alot of 'tourists' who travel in from other areas to be a part of the 'latest new thing' but who have little committment to stay for the long haul. I wonder if a more local focus will limit this?

    I'm interested to hear what others think about having a localised focus? What are the advantages and disadvantages that you see in this? What is your experience of it?

    The Death of Community

    2 May, 2003 9:27 AM

    On Tuesday night at Living Room we had a rich discussion about Community.

    We started by examining Zygmunt Bauman's notion that Community no longer truely exists. That while its something that we all yearn for, its unfortunately not available to us in the world we find ourselves living.

    It was an amazing discussion - we really got our teeth into some cultural observation and fleshed out how Individualism, Consumerism, Transcience, Globalisation etc have all made building community a difficult thing.

    I think we all came to the conclusion that we agreed with Zygmunt in many ways. In its purest form perhaps community is unattainable.

    Yet, perhaps paradoxically we also all feel strongly that it is a call of Jesus and therefore one of our three core journeys for the Living Room. Its one of those Kindgom principles that we are called to strive for in the present, but that won't fully and purely be realised until the Kingdom of God is fully realised.

    Its a strange feeling to make a strong committment to something that you believe will never fully be realised in this life.

    Easter Reflections II

    16 April, 2003 9:59 AM

    Last night we did our Easter reflections (as outlined here. I think the others found it good - I personally was challenged by it. The 7 sayings of Jesus really have struck me in the past 48 hours.

    To me they speak of both the Divinity and the Humanity of Christ.

    'Father Forgive them for they know not what they do.' What an amazing statement! Its one I'm not sure I can actually relate to being able to say! I get so peeved when someone does something small against me - but to say it about your torturer, your killer....

    'I am thirsty.' Now that is a statement I know about and can relate to. Its a very 'human' thing to say - I can almost feel my mouth drying up as I think about it.

    'My God my God - why have your Forsaken me?' That hits me hard every time - there are so many implications of that statement...to me it speaks of both his humanity and divinity all in one. It speaks to me of the brokenness and fracturing of the God-Head. I cannot fully comprehend it.

    I really enjoyed the discussion last night after we took in the images and statements and took the bread and the wine. It was great to see how it had affected us each differently.

    Easter Tuesday

    15 April, 2003 11:49 AM

    Tonight Living Room meets for its first ever Easter gathering. It feels a little strange doing it on a Tuesday but thats the way its worked out for us. We will all be away over the coming weekend so we decided to do it tonight.

    While I was at camp this past weekend I did a bit of work on a powerpoint reflection focusing upon the last sayings of Jesus upon the cross. Imagine my surprise to log onto Rachel's blog last night to find she's linked to a similar, but much more technologically advanced series of macromedia presentations at ReJesus. They are releasing one saying of Jesus every day for holy week. Its worth a look! (as you watch you'll get a feel for what i've prepared for tonight, except mine is just a series of crucifiction images/text and probably a radiohead or massive attack track behind it...no cool English accent either)

    Above image found at Chalk Painting

    Week 3 in the Living Room

    2 April, 2003 11:00 AM

    LR met for the third time last night - I'm really enjoying our Tuesday night meals together. Great food, great company and great discussion.

    Our discussion last night focused in on Core Values again - we basically each shared the important aspects of what Church means for us with one another.

    As with last week there were some interesting common themes that emerged and from my perspective some real potential for connection between us all.

    Our homework this week is to each take the list of our collective thoughts away to spend some time praying with, discerning and looking for the central themes. Its our hope that we'll be able to refine it into something that will give us a framework to move forward as a community of faith.

    As we prayed together last night I got a strong sense that as we do this exercise we need to continue to not only look at 'our' core values - but really focus in on seeking what God values. I am going to spend a bit of time this week taking another look at some of Jesus teaching on the Kingdom of God - I am continually challenged by it and strongly believe that it should inform the way we do church. Afterall Jesus didn't really talk much about church - rather the Kingdom was central to his preaching.

    Time Lines

    25 March, 2003 10:01 PM

    Last night at our Living Room gathering we did an interesting exercise to help us think through our core values/DNA. Its one I've taken groups through many times before but it was still worth while.

    I asked the group to draw a time line of their lives marking on them their key experiences, relationships, decisions and events that have brought them to the point where they currently are in their spiritual journey. Out of our time lines we each looked at the themes and influences that have shaped us. We talked a little about the values we've taken on from from key individuals and organisations and also those that we've reacted against and rejected.

    It was also great just to hear each others stories - I was astounded by some of the depth of the sharing from a group who've largely only met one another once before!

    Next week we'll continue and extend the conversation as we begin to see how our values connect. Should be fun.

    Living in Heaven

    22 March, 2003 12:37 PM

    I've received a few emails of late (I love getting them from fellow bloggers so please feel free to shoot me one - I wont publish it unless you give me the go ahead!) asking me to tell them what the area I'm living in is like. So I thought I'd try to give you a bit of a picture (in words) of what this part of Melbourne is like - I personally think its like living in heaven - but I'm biased.

    I like in North Fitzroy which is sandwiched between North Carlton and Clifton Hill - about 30 minutes walk to the centre of Melbourne's CBD. The area was originally an area that would have been fairly low socio economic in population with lots of little Victorian terraces - cottages really.

    However things have changed - this area has become somewhat yuppiefied and the little cottages have become much sought after and most have been renovated. Its a pretty trendy part of town to live in with some amazing parks, beautiful architecture and an incredible array of eating and drinking establishments. The range of cafes, restaurants and hotels is stunning. I'm sure you could eat in a different one every day of the year and still not get through them all.

    Housing prices have gone through the roof over the past couple of years as a result of the increased interest in the area. This has caused some problems in the area as there is a real shortage of affordable housing.

    Mingled amongst the million dollar plus 'mini mansions' of the area are quite a number of public housing estates. Some are high rise blocks others are low density estates. The demand for this housing is out of control. Its quite a unique part of town because its quite common to have people at both ends of the socio economic extremes living side by side - generally in harmony.

    As I walk down the busiest street in our area (Brunswick St) I'm be confronted with the most amazing sites, smells and sounds. This is one of my favourite streets in the world - the international variety of food and drink on offer is staggering - but so is the real sense of community I get there. Its a fairly 'edgy, alternative, bohemian' crowd - but its also incredibly accepting of 'all sorts' of people. The inclusivity is quite challenging to me as I compare it with how many churches operate.

    Social Justice is one thing that is very evident in this region. The environmentally friendly political party 'the Greens' generally does pretty well around here. Social groups like 'Amnesty International' are also active.

    The council municipality that I live in (city of Yarra) is very multicultural. The nationalities represented is quite staggering. There is quite a large population of older European residents, especially Italians and Greeks - but there is also a growing number of people from Asia, Africa and the Middle East - many coming seeking asylum.

    The Arts are an important aspect of life here. Local movie theatres do a roaring trade, generally focusing upon alternative type films. Artist studios and galleries are dotted throughout the streets and a variety of live music is on tap most nights.

    I love my city and the area of it that I live in. It is not perfect - there are real elements of greed and consumerism reflected in the 'yuppieness' but there is also some really 'Godly' characteristics being demonstrated in this community.

    I see so many ways that 'Living Room' can connect with the wider community here and am excited at the opportunities.

    Blast off...

    18 March, 2003 10:35 PM

    Tonight was the first meeting of Living Room. It was a really interesting gathering of 6. We range in age from 10 to 30 some things - we have had a diversity of experiences of life and church.

    We have decided to continue to meet Tuesday evenings for a meal together. We will spend the next few weeks continuing to get to know one another and to talk about our 'DNA' both as individuals but also as a community, following that we might do the 'Ignition' course.

    Whilst I felt the night was a good start I find myself sitting here tonight alone in my actual 'living room' feeling extremely strange. It all seems rather surreal and very fragile. If any of you church planter bods have any words of wisdom feel free to shoot me a comment or email.

    Its nice though to finally be moving forward in some tangible ways.

    Count Down

    17 March, 2003 3:37 PM

    Tomorrow night the Living Room takes another step towards being an actual community as most of the different individuals that I've been talking to about coming on board will come to dinner at our house and meet one another for the first time!

    So far the 8 or so people that have committed to the idea have only met V and I.

    I'm feeling quite nervous about it although I suspect they will get along pretty well as there are a few common interests that flow through us all. I'm also quite relieved that we are finally kicking off and very keen to get into the regular rhythm of meeting and relating.

    Would appreciate your prayers at this time. Will let you know how it goes!

    Prayer Team

    7 March, 2003 12:43 PM

    Just sent a new prayer newsletter to our prayer support team. If you wanted to receive it but didn't please email me again. I've lost a few addresses in the swap of computers - sorry about that. New prayer team members are always welcome! Email Me

    Church Growth

    1 March, 2003 1:42 PM

    Looking back on the week that was in Living Room Developments - had a few meetings with people interested in being a part of what we're doing with good results. Seems that we maybe have increased in number from 2 (V and I) to 7 this week! Now if I were good at maths I'd be able to work out the percentage growth....but I'm not. I'm sure in percentage terms it would sound much more impressive!

    Seriously though - am excited about the quality people that are putting up their hands to journey with us (and have us share part of their journey) - in fact I'm excited that ANY people are putting up their hands to journey with us....its just a bonus that I get along with them all! Its a real relief to see a two year vision start to eventuate.

    Living Room Progress

    25 February, 2003 5:19 PM

    The past two days I've spent time talking to two potential Living Room Roomies. Its been exciting to share the vision and hear where they are at. Both have indicated that they want to journey with us - this is very exciting for me, and also a real relief in many ways as I've sometimes found myself wondering what I'm doing - asking 'am I on track?', 'am I deluding myself' etc

    Its great to hear that the vision I have connects with others who are also excited by the prospect of doing church in this way together.

    Living Room Gatherings

    29 January, 2003 8:29 AM


    I've been toying with some different ideas for the types of gatherings that we'll start off with at the Living Room. As I said in a previous post - I've come up with these 'starting point' gatherings - and desire them to evolve as people join us and interact with the community. I'm interested in your prayerful feedback upon these. They are designed to facilitate our community going on the three journeys of 'inner' (spiritual formation), 'outer' (mission/justice) and 'together' (building community). (see here for more info on these 'journeys'). The gatherings are:

    1. Vespers - A short weekly evening prayer gathering designed to give space for deepening individual and communal spiritual formation. (ie focus on 'inner' and 'together' journeys) Leadership of this creative time would be shared by regular attendees and from week to week would include alt worship experiences, meditations upon Scripture, storytelling and some discussion times. The use of the Creative Arts would be encouraged in Vespers and group learning and a hands on approach to prayer would be valued. It is not designed as a teaching time but from time to time may also include some short group learning on relevant topics. Vespers would be a gathering open to all from the local community to participate and could be held in homes, cafes, galleries etc. Vespers is likely to be held early in the evening on a weeknight - some have suggested an early morning time slot also might be suitable.)

    2. Mission Cluster - This weekly gathering will be held over an evening (midweek) meal. It is designed to deepen the sense of community and mission (together and outer journeys). The focus of these meetings is upon developing the participants sense of 'call' and 'mission'. (they are similar in style and aim to 'mission groups' developed by 'Church of the Saviour - Washington DC'.) Mission will be explored using bible study, group learning, discussion, sharing and prayer. The style of this time will be based on an 'action relfection' style of learning. The aim of these gatherings is to inspire both corporate and individual missional activities which will be supported and resourced by the group as a whole over time. These gatherings will be held in homes with shared provision of food and hospitality by group members. They will be open to all people wanting to commit to develop a missional outlook. As the initial group grows it will split and another will be birthed.

    Missional clusters look like your traditional 'small group' in many ways - however the focus is less upon the development of attendees - rather they exist as much for those who are NOT part of the group as for those that currently do - the focus is much more outward than inward. These groups aim to resource and support attendees for the every day of their lives where they have opportunity to respond to the call of Jesus to service, mission and justice.

    3. Sunday Brunch - This monthly (or fortnightly - to be assessed) gathering is designed as an informal time of developing community. It will be held in a local cafe or home and will be an opportunity to mix with both Living Room members and friends, neighbours and family. All will be welcome. No specific planned activities will take place on these occasions, rather the focus will be upon laughter, fun and developing relationships over good food and coffee.

    This is all a work in progress - but I'm really looking forward to your thoughts and ideas. Thanks...

    The start of a new era approaches

    27 January, 2003 5:58 PM


    Tomorrow its back to work at Doncaster Community Church of Christ for my last week at 4 days per week employment. After this next week I officially start working on the Living Room project and am only at DCCC one day per week. It is an exciting prospect - however also quite terrorfying to know that its actually happening.

    I've wanted to plant a church for a couple of years now -actually its been about 5 years since an elder of my previous church prayed for me and sensed that I would be a church planter - but to actually be in a position to do it is rather freaky!

    I'm worried about many aspects of this new journey - about if it will ever attract other members (except for my wife...who should be pretty regular :-) - about what direction to take - about the little logistical things like how to fund alot of the set up costs - about the toll it will take upon my family etc etc etc. These things (and others) have been keeping me awake at night a bit.

    However mixed with the feelings of fear are some of inspiration and excitement (which also are keeping me awake at night!!!). I do feel a calling to make a difference in the region where I live - to help provide a place where people will connect with God and become reproducing followers of Jesus. I feel excited about the support I'm recieving from my denominations leadership and local churches. I'm excited by the excellent people I've been asking to consider joining us in building this community. I'm appreciative of the 20 or so people that have already joined my prayer support team and the couple of financial supporters that have given generous support. I'm inspired by the direction I feel led to head in in terms of the types of things we'll be undertaking. I'm so appreciative of the support of V, my family, friends and those I've been meeting of late through this blog.

    I can't wait to see what is around the corner...

    Living Room Update

    19 January, 2003 1:54 PM


    Spent some time the past day or two thinking more about the Living Room and where to from here. The official start date for the Baptist Union of Victoria's grant for the new community is February 1st, just a week or so away now. I've been spending some time the past few weeks talking to individuals that are interested in being a part of what we're doing.

    Its a frustrating period for a number of reasons - firstly I'm working for DCCC until the end of the month at 4 days per week which doesn't leave much time for the new venture (this will change at the end of the month when I begin the transition out of DCCC and into the Living Room - something I'm looking forward to. The other frustration is one that is a tension within me that seems to be growing. On one hand I want the community itself to be able to design and shape how it looks itself, but on the other hand people are reluctant to join a community that doesn't have much set in stone yet. They always ask - 'what will it look like?', and generally seem confused and disappointed when I tell them that that is something I'm hoping they can help me explore. Even though many of those I'm talking to are pretty relaxed, post modern, flexible type people, they seem to be thirsting for a bit of structure before they'll pitch their tent with us.

    So - in talking with V this morning - I think I'm going to take things a step further and design a couple of weekly simple gatherings that will operate for the first three or so months of the existence of the Living Room. They will not be glitzy, highly programmed formal affairs, but rather will be defined enough to give some structure, but loose enough that they can be torn down and replaced in time with something that the group shapes. They will pick up and run with the three journeys(DNA) of the Living Room (inner journey, outer journey and together journey) and will give us a launching pad for the road ahead. I have some ideas about how they'll look and will blog about them in the week ahead.

    My main fear is that my ideas and views will dominate the shaping of the Living Room - but I'm also sensing a need for a period of stronger leadership in these early days. I'm interested to hear the views and ideas of others on the subject and would value your prayers - I'm very aware of the embryonic nature of the Living Room and sense how fragile and vulnerable it is. In this early stage of formation it sometimes feels like touch and go - so I continue to value your support and prayer. Thanks for those of you I know who are already praying!

    Overwhelmed

    9 January, 2003 9:53 AM


    Thanks so much to those that have emailed so far to say they'd like to join the prayer team. I really appreciate your thoughts and prayers so much. I fell asleep last night extremely happy to know that I'm not alone in my ventures with Dreamland and Living Room. You should receive your emailed newsletters today. Others are welcome to join the team any time.

    Support Team

    8 January, 2003 4:28 PM


    Sent out letters to potential support team members yesterday. I'm trying to raise up a team that can support me in my new ventures with Dreamland and Living Room. Specifically I asked for Prayer and Finacial Support. I feel SO awkward about asking for money to help fund the Dreamland work - does anywone else struggle with this? Would love to hear peoples views on raising support, how and if you do it etc.

    I'm so aware at the moment that in planting this new community I'm out on a limb. Its strange resigning from a secure ministry with hundreds in the congregation to support and care, with 140 years of history behind it and to step into something so small, new and fragile. The realisation that I have is that I need to pray more and I need to be asking others to pray for me too. Will you join my prayer team? If you do I will email semi regular prayer newsletters to keep you up to date with developments.

    If you are interested in being a part of either my prayer (or financial) support team I'd be more than happy to email you my newsletter - just shoot me an email here.

    Living Room developments

    30 December, 2002 4:10 PM


    Two developments today. Spent some time developing an info brochure for people interested in joining the Living Room team. I've had a few people interested in the community of late so thought it might be good to put something in their hands that communicates the general 'vibe' and latest developments. It will be a fluid document that changes shape as we discover more together. Will attempt to post it somehow soon....Does anyone know anything about posting documents online? Gee I'm a novice.

    Secondly met with another person who I was told might be interested in what we're doing with the new community. She was great value. I was surprised by the similarity of the journeys we've been on in our lives. I came away from the conversation stimulated by the direction of our chatting - out of her own journeying she has made alot of really insightful discoveries about church, life and faith. The conversation itself has been a significant step for me, got me thinking - if she were to come on board I'd be very excited!

    Tonight is a night with my family - celebrating birthdays of father, sister, brother and wife all at once! Great times!

    About LivingRoom

    14 December, 2002 9:25 PM

    Living - Possessing life; In active function or use; Of persons who are alive; Full of life, interest, or vitality; True to life; Room - A space that may be occupied; Area separated by walls from other similar parts of the building in which it is located; People present in such an area; Living Room - A space for life

    What is the Living Room?
    The Living Room is a new experimental church that was birthed by the Baptist Union of Victoria and the Yarra Baptist Churches Network into the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne Australia at the beginning of 2003.

    Who are we?
    The Living Room is currently a small group of people living 'a bike ride' away from one another in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. We range in age from 10 through to our late 30's. We are diverse in both the variety of occupations and courses of study that we are involved in and our previous experiences of church yet we are united in our passion for Jesus and our desire to explore what it means to be followers of him in postmodern Melbourne.

    The shape of the Living Room is still emerging and is likely to remain liquid in its form but to this point three broad core values have surfaced as follows:

    The Inner Journey � Connection with Christ
    a commitment to develop spiritual formation of members. Through culturally relevant and creative forms of prayer, reflection, engaging with Scripture, learning and worship Living Room seeks to create an environment where people grow in their own relationship with God.

    The Outer Journey � Connection with our World
    a commitment to encourage and resource members on a journey of service justice and mission to others. Living Room seeks to both provide opportunities for corporate mission and to support and resource individuals in their own daily mission. We seek to keep in balance our call to be counter cultural but also Incarnational and Relational in our outward journey.

    Together Journey � Connection with One Another
    a commitment to travel the inward and outward journeys in community. Living Room seeks to develop inclusive community through, hospitality, inspiration from Scripture, shared life disciplines and intentional involvement in one an others lives.

    Localised Focus
    In beginning to unpack the implications of these journeys we have come to the decision that we would like Living Room to be localised in its focus. A decision has therefore been taken that at present we would like all core participants to live in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. Whilst this will exclude some we believe it will enhance our ability to develop community (together journey) and also will make our call to mission more focused.

    Our Gatherings
    Living Room currently meets largely in the homes of its members over a weekly evening meal. The form of these gatherings is generally very different in 'feel' and 'content' to most Churches worship services � but they have the same intentions at their heart and aim to develop our 'Three Journeys'. These times include periods of prayer and reflection, discussion, sharing and teaching. For more info see this blog entry on a typical Tuesday night gathering.

    It is our hope that these times do not have a purely inward focus but rather resource us for life in the 'real world'. It is also our intention that in future gatherings may also happen in other spaces such as cafes, galleries and other public spaces as we attempt to engage with our local community.

    Significant Relationships
    The Living Room is not a community that has been set up in isolation. We are aware of our need for fellow travellers on the journey in which we have embarked and foster the following relationships.

    1. The Baptist Union of Victoria is a major supporter of our group both in an initial financial way but also with practical support and accountability.
    2. The Living Room has been birthed into the Yarra Baptist churches network. In particular the communities at North Carlton and Abbotsford (St Lukes) have been most supportive and inclusive to us.
    3. Forge/Dreamland are informal partners with Living Room through the involvement that Darren has in both groups. Forge is a missional training network who has a lot of experience in innovative mission and church planting. Whilst the relationship between Living Room and Forge is informal in nature � it will provide a wealth of experience to this new community.
    4. Who is Darren Rowse?
      Darren is the team leader of the Living Room. He is 31 years of age. He is married to Vanessa and currently lives in North Fitzroy. Darren has been working for the past two and a half years as a young adults minister at Doncaster Community Church of Christ. Previously he managed the band 'Corazon' as it toured nationally doing high school evangelism in 1999 and was employed for four years as youth pastor at Glenbervie Baptist.

      Darren is currently completing his Bachelor of Theology at Whitley College and completed an internship with Forge in 2001. He also works as an associate for Forge/Dreamland one day per week. He feels that he is called to develop new forms of community in the inner north of Melbourne and is excited by the birth of the Living Room. Darren is a creative thinker, gifted communicator and has a growing passion for relevant mission to young people.

      If you would like more information on the Living Room project please email us.

    Finished my last essay for

    5 December, 2002 7:27 PM

    Finished my last essay for the year off today - based it on Living Room - it was a companion paper to the proposal I submitted to BUV. Expanded vision, DNA and did a bit of work on the subcultures of North Fitzroy. It was pretty rushed, but every time I think about it it grows.

    Spent this afternoon at another FORGE session. It was good stuff again. Mike Frost spoke on 'belonging before believing'. It was good stuff as per usual. Spent some time with Mark talking about the network of emerging churches here in Melbourne that he's trying to get off the ground through South. Sounds interesting, but I think I need to hear more at this stage.

    Some of what the guys spoke about today in one of the sessions was around the idea of developing 'practices' for the community. Rather than getting bogged down in designing detailed programs, services etc - the thought is that we should spend time in developing DNA (values) for the community. Then comes the stage of helping the community to formulate how to translate the values into a reality in their lives. So a value of being a community where people grow in their passion for Jesus might develope a communal practice of daily prayer, or reading scripture using a particular method like Lectio Divina.

    I feel like this is the place I've been coming to with LR perhaps intuitively.

    Met some guys today from 'Third Place Communities' in Tasmania. They seem to be pretty switched on people. They have planted one community called re(verb) which sounds similar to what I'm wanting to do. Will try to make contact and hear more via email.

    V out tonight - am home alone struggling with getting our TV working again....ever since we watched 'Attack of the Clones' on it on video it won't pick up any local stations! Spooky.....those crazy clones got us...

    Potential Livingroomer

    4 December, 2002 6:25 PM



    Caught up with a potential Livingroomer yesterday for coffee. He was pretty interested in a non committal kind of way about what we were doing. Gave him a copy of the proposal to have a look at and talk about with his partner.

    Tis hard to know how to approach the recruiting process - the type of person in the initial core team is probably quite crucial when you think about it - could make or break the community - they would really have a telling impact upon the direction things will take I guess.

    And what type of person do we want anyway? Everyone I talk with has a different opinion - what's yours? Email me with your thoughts....I am really interested!

    Some say - stay away from the 'disgruntled' type - the ones who are peeved with church - the ones with angst. The opinion is that they will just drag things down - something I've seen before. However this is the 'type' of person that often seems to be attracted to alt style churches!

    Others say - pick a demographic and get people fitting the mould! I'm not so sure on that one - I worry about single generational communities. Do they run the risk of being too one dimensional?

    What is the criteria for such a team!? Share your ideas....

    I dream of a Church

    3 December, 2002 8:17 AM

    Might have to revise at some stage - Think I've changed a tad!

    I DREAM OF A CHURCH


    • that is centred around worshipping and following the person of Jesus.
    • that is highly relational and focuses upon creating growing community between its members
    • where faith is not just an individual thing but rather something to journey in together as a community
    • that is an open and inclusive community (centred set not bounded)
    • where all people are seen as being made in the image of God and therefore seen as worthy of love, respect, dignity, wholeness and acceptance.
    • where prayer is central to the communities life
    • where worship is central and participated in in culturally and personally relevant ways
    • where ancient, modern and futuristic tools for prayer, contemplation and worship are free to be explored by the community. (creative arts valued)
    • where interactive, creative and innovative ways of teaching/learning are explored (action/reflection)
    • that is serious about mission (incarnational/relational)
    • that is interested in multiplication and reproduction rather than growing large (spawning faith communities)
    • that is serious about justice issues
    • who aims to facilitate the bringing of hope and wholeness in a holistic way to those it touches (physically, emotionally and spiritually)
    • where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are used by members
    • where leadership empowers others
    • that takes its culture seriously and actively works towards engaging it relevantly
    • where creativity, innovation and enterprise are valued and encouraged
    • where fun and food are key components to gatherings and interaction between members
    • where Scripture is seen as authoritative
    • where permission is given to try new things and both successes and failures are acknowledged and celebrated
    • where spirituality is stimulated in a variety of areas (holistic) including Community, Truth, Justice and Wonder.
    • that is generous in its giving
    • that is networking with and accountable to other communities of faith
    • where people of different ages and backgrounds interact together
    • where mentoring/discipling relationships are encouraged
    • that theologises together out of the circumstances that they face
    • that imagines and forges their own future
    • that shapes its activities, gatherings etc not purely to meet its own members needs, but by the needs of those who are not yet a part of the community.

    Jesus said 'I have come

    30 November, 2002 12:13 PM

    Jesus said 'I have come that they might have life � abundant life'. John 10:10. Jesus was interested in helping those around him to find life. He did this in a holistic and relevant manner, bringing life physically, emotionally and spiritually, journeying and living in community with those to whom he ministered. The concept of the Living Room takes on some of these principles in its vision as it seeks to connect people with Jesus, the designer and source of life.

    � The living room is a space designed with the idea of LIFE at its heart.
    � The living room will seek to connect people in community as they seek to live life to the full. Life is not something that one person imparts upon another, rather its found as people journey together in community.
    � The living room acknowledges that 'life' may mean different things to different cultural groups. It will seek to provide a relevant space to explore this for the subcultures of the inner north of Melbourne.

    What will it look like?A

    29 November, 2002 9:50 AM

    What will it look like?
    A full and clear picture of what the Living Room (TLR) will look like will emerge when the core team begins to meet to pray, explore and dream. However three themes have emerged from initial thinking and conversations that may form the foundations of the new community. These themes all take on the idea of 'journeying' and have been based loosely upon observations of the 'Church of the Saviour' in Washington DC. Each is expanded upon below with 'possible explorations' included illustrating potential directions TLR may investigate.

    � Each 'journey' is of equal importance to the life and mission of TLR and will need substantial time, energy and resources dedicated to their growth.
    � 'Journeys' are interdependent and overlap and sustain one another.
    � Each 'journey' will evolve and need to remain fluid as it seeks to be relevant and life giving within the subcultures TLR operates in.

    The Inward Journey � a commitment to developing the spiritual formation of members. Through culturally relevant forms of prayer, reflection, learning and worship TLR seeks to create an environment where people grow in their relationship with God. Possible explorations include:

    � Vespers - prayer gatherings � Develop own liturgy
    � Instillation worship and teaching � Spiritual direction
    � Shared learning activities/workshops � Alternative worship
    � Films/Galleries/Arts based gatherings � Individual Disciplines

    The Outward Journey � a commitment to encourage and resource members on an outward journey of service and mission to others. TLR seeks to both provide opportunities for corporate mission and to support individuals in their own mission activities. Possible explorations include:

    � Mission groups (COS style) � Housing Commission � breakfast program
    � Book/Movie Clubs � Spirituality Seminars � caf� based
    � Caf� culture � Arts Culture � gallery/studio space
    � Primary school � Student Accommodation

    The Communal Journey � a commitment to inward and outward journeys within community. TLR seeks to develop community through shared common life, disciplines and intentional involvement in one another's lives. Possible explorations include:

    � Common Disciplines � Practicing Hospitality
    � Common Social activities � Mentor/Spiritual Directors within community
    � Meal focus gatherings � Shared living � Common life
    � Emphasis on common learning/prayer � Accountability circles

    The Living Room lives!After months

    27 November, 2002 11:40 AM

    The Living Room lives!

    After months - years even - of dreaming, prayer, conversation and writing this new community last night took a large step towards coming into being.

    Last night Paul and I spent 45 minutes with the BUV Exec explaining our proposal and seeking their support. I suspect they had not seen a proposal like it before - not because my ideas are completely new or original - but rather because of its fuzziness.

    How does one describe what a baby will look like before it is born? The Living Room is still in embryonic form and therefore any attempt at describing what it will look like will only be a guess.

    Rather last night we sought to talk about the influential 'adults' in this babes life and the principles that they seek to bring to it as it grows.

    I'm scared - I'm excited - I'm overwhelmed

    The response from my news (mass email this morning) has been great. Email from around the globe is coming in as people hear the news. I'm not sure anyone is surprised - I guess its been bursting out of me for some time now.

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