We are talking about a lot of important, foundational ideas in class right now. Although it’s great stuff, I’m ready to dive into more of the application of the theories and ideas. Part of it may be because of my sociology major in college, the theoretical stuff isn’t as new as it may be for some. But I’m still learning from the lectures. Sociologists study Marx, but some of the more recent ideas in culture theory are new to me.
The things that really stand out to me, though, are the (almost side) remarks that Ryan Bolger makes in class about his experiences talking with and meeting with others in church life. Today, he talked about traveling in Europe with a conference where one attendee asked a pastor how to do what they were doing. You see, God was blessing the church in a tough area and was doing some cool, amazing things.
The pastor’s response was this. “You can’t, and you shouldn’t. Find out what God is doing in your area and then wrestle with that. Dig into your culture.”
That’s a paraphrase from a paraphrase, but you get the idea. We can learn from the tools, approaches and ways others do things. But then it’s necessary to take that info and apply it to our individual contexts. It sounds simple, but it’s really so powerful.
I’m going to be helping with a local church’s small group ministry. There’s a temptation when you need ideas on leadership, training, structure and other ideas for small groups to buy a curriculum and go for it. But the more healthy, organic approach is to start by looking to God and looking at the people and situations around you. It starts with prayer and a lot of face time with people, seeing what they need and how they interact. How can healthy community form in this culture and environment? What does the Gospel look like when it’s lived out here?
From a systems standpoint, organic is tougher to control. But absolute control is rarely the point.