I got an opportunity to join the good people at Praxis Conference in Houston this week. Some thoughts have been spurring.
Every church is formed by the practices that they partake in together. The more that people partake in these practices, the more that they will take a hold on the formation of the kinds of people we will look like. Look at the kinds of programs that kids who grow up in your church apply to for school. Look at the kinds of jobs they get. Look at the kinds of people that they become in their community. Look at the relationships that they have in their community. The people in your church will look like the results of the formation from the practices that you do.
If your key practices are being preached at once a week and rocking worship band leading you in singing songs together in a highly technical atmosphere with excellent lighting, graphically designed series and slides and video announcements then I can almost guarantee you that there will be flux of musicians and graphic designers that come out of the church all wanting to work at churches when they get older.
If you are part of a church where your youth pastor is a rock star and the most popular person in the church – then many kids will grow up and really want to be youth pastors.
If you are part of a church where women are not seen as spiritual leaders. Then you will have an above average number of women who settle only for the role of wives and moms and never explore beyond that.
If you are part of a church where caring for the poor is a central practice. Then you will see empathy abound in the hearts of your children.
The question churches must continue to ask themselves is “what practices do we do together and how do those practices form us into looking more like Christ?” The second question we need to ask ourselves is “how often are we taking part in these practices and are they part of our daily life together?”
It seems that those at the Praxis Conference I’m at in Houston have come to this realization and have taken on the task of helping train church leaders in integrating healthy practices into their churches. This is a welcomed step in the progress of the church.
What I continue to struggle with though – is the stark reality that almost all of our practices are done on Sundays at church or in the privacy of our own spiritual walk. Where and what are the practices that communities can do together, in their shared lives, all week long that also serve to form us into the body of Christ? With the amount of competition of things that seek to form us all day everyday (TV, Facebook, Shopping, Music, Fiction, School, Jobs etc.), are we guilty of a massive oversight in which we are formed by sporadic ‘worldly’ liturgies day in and day out and then ignorantly try to combat them with an hour here or there during our worship services or personal spiritual time?
I’m not sure what these practices look like in its entirety as each community will need to discover these for themselves. Some examples do come to mind. Dinner in each other’s homes. Justice projects, volunteerism and goals that you do together. Intentional time with the marginalized and oppressed. Daily Eucharist. Open and shared finances and financial goals. Praying together. Fasting together. Gardening together. These are all examples of practices that communities must take part in if we are serious about being shaped into the body of Christ. Without these and others like this, we are submitting our feeble and malleable brains and bodies to the forces that are much greater than a few hours here or there can balance.
Integrating spiritual practices and liturgy into our worship is good. Radically changing our daily habits of where we spend our time, who we spent it with, how we spend our money and what we value is better. Learning to meditate and calm ourselves in God’s presence to rid ourselves of anxiety is good. Finding those that are anxious and overwhelmed by evil and journeying with them is where we need to go. Just being content in our own spiritual walk and being in tune with God puts us at risk to being blind to the kinds of people that we are supposed to come. These practices transform us into an alternative community that are the hands and feet of Christ, not just a bunch of individuals that have got their own sh*t together.