How We Gather
We are often asked a seemingly simple question that we have an unusually hard time answering. The question is "When and where does your church meet?"
This perfectly legitimate and normal question assumes an understanding how Churches are organized that differs somewhat from the kind of thinking we have begun.
At its absolute core, a Church is a family of disciples who are joining Jesus on his peacemaking ministry of reconciliation. Jesus' followers therefore have three core identities: Disciples, Family, Peacemakers.
We took each identity and looked at how best each can be shaped and matured, and what we ended up with is a little bigger than we felt could fit comfortably in a single large gathering. What we ended up with are four individual but mostly overlapping vehicles (or types of gatherings or meetings) that serve specific goals of growing as disciples, family, and peacemakers.
The four vehicles are Coaching, Circles of Friends, Neighborhood Gatherings, and The Lord's Supper.
This is our bread and butter as a Church. Coaching happens when someone takes between 1 to 12 others under their wing for a period of time to train them in various aspects of Christianity, deploy them into some level of ministry, and review their progress. This is basically what Jesus did with the 12 disciples, and what he called them to continue doing throughout the world when his ministry was completed. Who coaches who is not something that is directed from the top down. These relationships must be self-organizing. The expectation is that anyone who is initiating coaching is actively receiving coaching from another leader who is providing them with ongoing accountability and training. This coaching relationship is typically a combination of a weekly or bi-weekly 1 to 2 hour meeting that generally includes prayer, teaching, and discussion times as well as increasing invitation into the everyday life of the coach. The content itself varies based on where both parties are at in their journey. Though the relationships formed during these times often result in a lifetime of connection, the organized part of the coaching is short term, generally between 1-3 years.
Circles of Friends
Finding a few friends that you can trust with your life is key to growing in maturity. These are the people that see through your masks and are not impressed by you. These are the people that know your flaws and accept you unconditionally. These are your brothers and sisters. These relationships are few and often take significant time and investment to develop, but the payoff is well worth it. Many of us already have one or two people in our lives that we know we can lean on, but adding some additional intentionality and rhythm to our circle of friends can make all of the difference. Similar to coaching relationships, these must be self-organizing. Generally, after establishing intentions, these groups will meet for a couple of hours at a time on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. Unlike the coaching process, this is generally a more longterm/permanent setup and will often continue until seasons of life physically move people away from each other. Even then, with the advent of video calls, they may continue past geographic barriers indefinitely! There are a few content resources that we often utilize initially when getting started, but they usually do not require much guidance for the conversations to flow.
A Neighborhood gathering is a group of people, about the size of an extended family (20-60) that exists to bless and serve their surrounding physical neighborhood or a specific network of relationships. Neighborhood gatherings are groups of purpose who work together to find creative ways to work for the renewal of their communities – by befriending and caring for the marginalized, standing against systems of injustice and corruption, speaking for those with no voice, and serving as a tangible foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven. Neighborhood gatherings can serve as a connection point for the above vehicles to develop organically. Their larger size, sense of shared purpose, and fun atmosphere make them ideal for folks of all backgrounds to come and experience Christian community and hospitality, without the uncomfortably intense level of intimacy and commitment typical to many small groups. Beginning in the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence, our vision is to see at least one healthy Neighborhood gathering birthed in each of the 25 neighborhoods of our city.
Our Lord's supper celebrations are time of intimate worship, celebration of the sacrament, mutual encouragement, prayer, liturgical readings and reflections, scripture and story sharing between covenant members of The Neighborhood and those they are discipling. As the above three vehicles multiply, the Lord's Supper celebrations will likely transform to unite multiple neighborhoods on a semi-regular basis to celebrate what is happening throughout the whole city.
So as you can see, there isn't necessarily one place to "go to" church. If you are really interested in more, the best bet is to grab a coffee with someone who is part of The Neighborhood already, and maybe find out when a larger Neighborhood gathering is next happening near you. Feel free to contact us for more information!