For all the adjectives out there to describe the church -- total church, deep church, simple church, essential church -- I'm convinced that for those that attempt to live organically within our faith communities, the only adjective that fits best might be "slow".
Relationships, growth, impact -- it's all slow. Or better, slower.
I'm not using slow in a negative connotation. In fact, I'm saying quite the opposite. In the paradigm of slow, we may actually find that things are more meaningful because we've curtailed our desire for more and more. Living this way, less is truly more.
There is a movement in the food industry called "slow food" that celebrates the benefits of hand-cooked meals made from local, organic ingredients cooked for as long as it needs to take. Those in this movement see this as a countermeasure to the all-too-common diet of Big Macs and Whoppers that we indulge ourselves in.
Interestingly, the slow food movement has gained such notoriety, that it has spurred something in Italy called "the slow city" movement. Sounds like an oxymoron, right?
Slow cities are defined by a way of living that helps people to live more slowly. This movement hopes to inspire cities to slow down -- to have less traffic, reduced noise and fewer crowds.
I think both of these movements are on to something. We don't have to look very long to see that we are a frenzied culture of doers. We have convinced ourselves that the key to happiness is to do more, acquire more, be the best, and be the biggest. Our relentless pursuit of accomplishing our vision for the future is what gives us our deep sense of self worth. And when that vision is threatened, we feel lost, distressed and angry.
How did this happen? When did Daft Punk's anthem "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" become a badge of honor for us?
It's hard to say. Some point to the Industrial Revolution; others to the post-World War II economic boom. Some even say the advent of new technology like the Internet and smart phones are to blame. Others might state we have always been busy.
Regardless of the point in history this all began -- it is undeniable that, as psychologist Peter Stromberg states, "We expect to be stimulated more or less continuously. Moments when we aren't doing something specific are in fact likely to seem boring to us."
When you live life slowly, the illusion of boredom is a wall you will inevitably slam into. The problem is that it isn't boredom -- we just think it is. Stromberg says, "...culture has programmed us to only be comfortable when experiencing high levels of arousal."
So when we aren't being stimulated, we feel a profound sense of unrest.
It would be an understatement to say that living life more organically is a much different approach than those who live in mainstream culture. In a society of instant gratification, delayed delight just does not seem to make sense in the church environment either. But I'm convinced it should.
For our burgeoning church community, here is how "slow church" looks in practice:
Not being anxious when the church seems to growing slowly (or not at all).
Learning to appreciate and be grateful to God for the smaller evidences of his grace: an idea understood in a Bible study, the healthy resolution of a conflict, the provision of work, the chance to share the story of Jesus, the increase in desire to see people come to know Jesus, and opportunities to serve and look after each other.
Praying for God to bring deep transformation and for the Spirit to open eyes to the truth of gospel.
True joy, hope and freedom coming not from activity or success, but from knowing Jesus.
Learning to be thankful for and genuinely sharing life with the people God has placed you alongside.
I think if I had to sum up the difference between the two ways of doing life and church, it would have to be the issue of the "buffer". In the organic mode, there is very little. Specifically, in our faith community -- there is a living room; there are strangers facing one another, beginning to work through the uncomfortable stages of community; there is lots of conversation; and there is a leader -- but he is more of a harmonizer, integrating his vision with the blossoming vision of the community.
May I be so bold as to make this statement: The secret to developing concrete community in the infancy of a church may actually be found in the lack of a buffer. I'm afraid we might be skipping over something so essential in the formative stages of a faith community that it may be difficult to backtrack and find it again.
How you begin means everything. It says a lot about who you want to be and how you want to be known.
Whether you are a part of an established church or trying to birth a new church community, the end game is to be in rhythmic gospel formation in the context of community on mission. Everything else is periphery.
So we are choosing little to no buffer for the sake of instilling the DNA of deep gospel formation in community. It's messy and measured. And there is no question that this means the birth of our church will be a slow simmer.
And that is just fine.
--(Brad Andrews is lead pastor at Mercyview)
Share this article: