Dana’s Point

I have established periodic contact with a graduate from a university I visited a couple years ago in Minnesota. Her name is Dana, and she is a bright, articulate African-American woman who went to college on a music scholarship but is multi-talented in ways that I hope will put her somewhere in the public eye as an influential leader.

In an email recently, she told me of her experience attending a “church without walls” in Los Angeles – a new model for church that relies primarily on small groups meeting in various locations around the city. It’s a model uniquely suitable to the Purpose Driven Life message in that Rick Warren’s book has been read and experienced primarily in small groups as opposed to being read privately or taught strictly from the pulpit. (A current article in New Yorker magazine points out that Ashley Smith and fugitive Brian Nichols were, in essence, a small group, as she read and they grappled with the realities of Chapter 33 while he held her captive in her apartment.)

Dana tells of a guy who has been coming to their small group for about 4 months. He’s a regular, reliable part of the group, and in her words, “[his] joy is in full swing when he is serving other people.” She goes on and on about him in her email, purposely holding the surprise until the end: he isn’t a believer. “He is in the process of weighing what he believes and he is worried that he will not, as he puts it, ‘land where we have landed.’” And yet he continues to come and even contributes.

Our old model of church would not allow for something like this to take place. The unbeliever would be too suspect, and he would feel too out of place to want to come back. But in a small group, a person like this can be accepted and allowed to wrestle with his or her own process (go back to Ashley and Brian if you want another example). As Dana says, “I am just catching on. True Christ community is where there are believers and non-believers coexisting, serving, loving.”

And why not? Every believer was a non-believer once. Do we wait until a person is a professing Christian to accept and care for them? Does love have a start and stop button? Is friendship conditional upon belief?

Dana concludes that she is experiencing a different part of faith, “not always just believing God for something I want, but believing that my God, The Living God, is big enough to finish what He has started concerning my friend. And how wonderful it is for me, and the rest of my small group community, to be able to REALLY say, no matter where you ‘land’ we are your friends.”

And isn’t it worth reflecting on the fact that this person who hasn’t “landed” yet, is a vital, contributing part of the whole?

by John Fischer

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3 Comments

  1. Posted September 19, 2005 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Great read!
    we need more of that.

  2. Posted September 20, 2005 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree, but I think you need a central point for ministry to be fully realized!

  3. Posted September 21, 2005 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I dont know… I have mixed feelings… obviously I agree that believers and unbelievers can and should co-exist~ more than just co-exist actually~ how else would the church grow… but I wonder how well you can serve if you dont believe WHY you are serving, WHO you are serving… it seems like asking someone who doesn’t know the IRS to do my taxes… maybe I am missing the point?


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