|A pleasant path|
During the 90-day due diligence period, I have had time to pray, consider, and discuss with others the future of Aldersgate. I kept returning to my research on alternative expressions of church. Quoting from a blog post I wrote on July 10 of this year:
House churches attract newcomers who want an alternative to traditional church. They don’t find the spiritual formation and intimacy they crave in traditional church, so they look elsewhere. They want Communion more than once a month, interactive "conversational" sermons, and weekly fellowship meals. They want fellow worshipers to be "real," to share details of their lives, and to offer genuine friendship. They dislike giving money for the upkeep of a building and prefer their offerings go to meet local needs.
Aldersgate was going to become a dinner church rather than a house church, but I was struck by how well our new expression of church potentially would fit the criteria.
---- We will celebrate Communion every Sunday. It will become the central act of worship that I believe Jesus intended it to be. Aldersgate already celebrates Eucharist twice a month and was amenable to every Sunday.
---- While Aldersgate won’t have “conversational” sermons, in the dinner church model, the pastor reads scripture and then tells a short personal story to illustrate the scripture. Then the pastor assigns a question based on the scripture to be discussed at individual tables. After discussion, time often is allowed for questions, answers, and insights. Dinner Church is intensely conversational and interactive.
---- Our dinner church will provide a weekly meal without cost for everyone who attends.
---- Conversation around the tables lends itself to being “real,” as participants share details of their lives. Friendship with newcomers becomes more likely in this format.
---- One hundred percent of Aldersgate’s Sunday offerings will benefit charity, not the church itself. This is because interest from our investment from the sale of the property can pay for my salary, apportionments, catering and whatever other bills there will be. I anticipate this focus on charitable giving will be one of the most attractive aspects of dinner church for visitors (assuming we ever have any). This plan also will much better facilitate receiving generous offerings for special-Sunday groups, such as the Methodist Home for Children and Disciple Bible Outreach. No longer will worshipers be asked to give to pay for the upkeep of a building, utilities, insurance, and salaries.
There probably also will be lump sum of interest left over at the end of the year that can be given away. Also, apportionments count as charitable giving. This means even the interest from the investment will be going toward good causes.
Dinner church could work. I pray that it will.