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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Spirit vs. Structure, part II

What kind of a congregation do you have if questions of structure take a back seat to questions of identity? Yesterday, I met with Bob Sanderson, president of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, and he asked me about Prairie Table Ministries. It was a good conversation.

I reminded him first that what makes Prairie Table somewhat unique in the world of Christian congregations is that your identity as a Christian is the most important aspect of our groups. If you think of what makes a person a member of "X" congregation, most of the time questions of structure are used to delineate who is a member or not? Do they worship at a certain time and place in a certain way? Do they give money? Do they participate in the sacraments? These are all structural realities that assume an attendant faith. (That is, people who worship or give money or take sacraments actually believe in what they do--but it is the doing, not the believing, that qualifies membership.)

At Prairie Table, since we do not have membership, questions of structure do not delineate our congregations. Rather, it is the relationships you develop that provide whatever structure Prairie Table has, and therefore, those relationships become the reason why you participate in the ministries or not. For example, recently, a group of men have starting attending our "Soup and Bible" class on Wednesday afternoon. There are four of them, and as with everyone, they attend the class as time and providence permit...but just a couple of weeks ago there was just one guy there, and although he was not alone, he was the only one of this quartet there that day. As he left, he said to me, I'll have to call those guys and see what's up and why they weren't here. It is that kind of consideration of relationship that Prairie Table is looking for. People taking responsibility for their friends is all we are looking for out here...

Notice too--for those of you reading this who are pastors or leaders of congregations--the gentleman did not say "You Scott, as leader of this group, should take responsibility and call them, even though you may not know any one of their last names," but rather, he understood-even if instinctively-that these are his friends, and therefore, his responsibility. One of the most pervasive structures of Christian congregations is the "ordained" leader...and although important, at Prairie Table we believe "friends" are even moreso. And although friendship may seem an unique way to start a congregation, I am not wondering if it is the only we all have a friend in Jesus.

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