I’m beginning this post kind of sad that I haven’t been consistent with my blogging. If I’m being honest it is probably because I got distracted or maybe even kind of depressed. February was a tough month for me and for River City. I was sick for three weeks and my grandfather passed away. Combine that with a neighbor we had connected with River City who stopped coming and stopped returning our calls, and we felt pretty sure that whatever positive momentum we had come upon through the holidays and January had been reversed in February. However, as March came, I got healthy and we got back on the horse of missional living and were off and running again.
So, things are better now and I find myself blogging again. I hope you’ll forgive my inconsistency through some down times. It is hard to get motivated to share when things aren’t going like you’d hope. I’ll try to do better during the next down time.
Now, let me start to catch you up on the last couple of months of church planting.
Back in January, we (River City Christian Community) partnered with a Ph.D. candidate to participate in a research project for his dissertation. The research is studying the role of the neighbor in the formation of new congregations. Since we are a new congregation and we are open to neighbors (anyone willing to help us) helping shape our new church, we fit the criteria. The overarching question we would be asking is “What is God up to in Wichita?” We decided to do this for two main reasons. First, it is another opportunity to learn more about Wichita’s culture and to see the city with fresh eyes, open to God’s presence in places we hadn’t noticed yet. Second, we hope it would build and deepen the friendships we have with our neighbors. The discernment process we would be going through is based on two spiritual practices. The first we are calling Dwelling in the Word. In this practice we read a specific passage of scripture and share a word or phrase that captures our imagination and why. After some conversation around a couple carefully constructed questions used to reflect on the text, we develop a question for our second spiritual practice. We call this Dwelling in the World. In this practice we take the question the group has come up with back into our everyday lives of work, play, and dwelling in Wichita.
Phase one in the process involves just our friends who share the River City rule of life. We spent about a month participating in these practices, learning from each other and preparing to invite our neighbors into the next phase of the process. One of my favorite Dwelling in the World questions was “Who is my neighbor?” God answered that question over and over that week.
In March, we began inviting the neighbors God revealed to us to join us in this process. It was kind of intimidating thinking about asking other people to help us. We weren’t offering anything as a form of payment or even payoff. We were simply relying on people being willing to help us by offering their time and honest thoughts. We ended up asking all kinds of people to participate – people from other churches, disconnected Christians, and non-Christians. Not everyone was able to say yes, but we had several who did – some connected to other churches, some disconnected Christians, and some non-Christians. We were pleased by the willingness of our neighbors to help us.
We are currently in the midst of phase two where our neighbors have joined us in engaging the spiritual practices of Dwelling in the Word and World. Things are going really well and it is exciting to see how God is at work in our group. I plan to share how things have turned out and what we have learned when we wrap things up in several weeks.