Fuel a Warm Community
It wasn’t the preaching or teaching.
It certainly wasn’t the building or the worship style.
It was the life shared among the congregation that drew them in (164).
As a Pastor’s Kid, lifelong Christian, and leader in the church for as long as I can remember, I’ve been to quite a few churches over the course of my life. I’ve been a vacationing visitor, member, vicar, music leader, teenage youth leader, full time staff, visiting preacher, visiting musician, the list goes on and on. Because I have had the gift of visiting so many congregations, and not just in my own denomination, I have learned to quickly gauge the temperature of the community I find myself a part of for that moment. I never really had vocabulary for it until reading Growing Young. The temperature I was measuring was warmth – the warmth that glows from authentic, caring community that shares life together.
I have been to some churches that I really loved. The preaching, art, music, setting, really opened up a space for personal worship and connection with God. I was intellectually stimulated to discover my faith in a deep and mature way. Early on, I noticed the emotional manipulation many congregations in the 90’s ascribed to through lighting, music, and nice words (and coffee shops). I didn’t like that manipulative style at all so I was really drawn to congregations that took their people seriously. Unfortunately, many of these congregations moved from taking their people seriously to just being serious. The warmth was lost as the focus was moved to having things “just right.”
Churches fall all along this spectrum. Simply put, there are good and bad qualities to either side of the spectrum. Of course, personal preferences are always at play when we discuss what’s “just right.”
Structures are important.
They simply are not enough (166).
Hear that Lutherans???
Why am I a lifelong Christian and leader in the church? Because of the warmth of the Holy Spirit that sparked in my heart and seeped into my bones. Because of the people who have made a difference in my life and shown me what it means to really live as a person of faith, to walk the way of Christ. These are relationships born out of time and commitment to each other, shared life-altering experiences, crying together, laughing together, praying together, wrestling through the hard stuff. And yes, these are relationships where people called me on my crap. These people saw all of me and supported me to become the best I could be. That is what chapter 5 is all about.
In a very basic way, all of this talk about warmth adds up to congregational members who say that church is “like family.” While we can pick through whether or not this is an appropriate image for congregational life, it is important to note what this statement is really attempting to encompass – welcome, hospitality, warmth, and commitment to each other.
Some final thoughts from chapter 5 that are important to keep in mind:
Faith… is not just passed down. It’s passed around (175).
Becoming a Body Drives Warmth
“We are the church” doesn’t mean “We meet occasionally” or “We cooperate in a current project.” Instead, we actually become part of one another (176).
Remember that Warmth Can Be Slow
Stability, patience, faithfulness to a local community. These inglorious and unsexy traits give roots to churches that grow young, eventually producing the fruit of warmth… Slow progress may not look impressive five months from now, but the kind of warmth that forms young people deeply may take five years to cook up (192).
If you would like to order your own copy, or would like to learn more about this book and research, please visit Churches Growing Young.