Friday, August 19, 2005

Brian has left the building

Wow, what a night! Brian McLaren in the middle of his generally busy schedule, but with his daughter getting married this weekend, came up from Baltimore on the train to spend the day with us on Monday.

I had the privilege of spending four hours with him during the day, then we had a pre-meeting get together with our team, and all the guys who blessed us by being on the panel for our summer dialog series – “TALK about church”.

I picked Brian up at Penn Station and we went out to eat and then went to my place and relaxed before the meeting. We talked about so many things. It was just a wonderful time getting to know him personally, and getting his insights or advice on so many things related to the church and to some of my personal struggles. I wondered what he thought about the city, because he often mentions his love of nature in his writing – and surprisingly he said, that if he were ever to plant a church again, which wasn’t likely, that he would like to do it in NYC! That was great, so I knew he would “get” what we were trying to do, and why NYC offers so many unique opportunities.

Then a very special thing happened. As you may know, Brian is working on a new book called, “The Secret Message of Jesus”, about the Kingdom of God. Well he pulled out of his backpack a rough manuscript, full of his personal handwritten notes and changes, and gave it to me as a gift. There’s something about seeing someone do something, that appears so difficult in the abstract, but when you see it in real life, somehow it feels one step closer to being possible. I have had a book percolating in me for the last year or so, and never having been published, it seems like such a huge mountain – but then seeing this manuscript, and the laptop he wrote it on, it just seems more possible to imagine doing it myself. That is mentoring.

Then we headed over for the team time before the meeting. As we met in the room in a circle asking Brian questions, after a while you could begin to feel the energy of people coming in to the lobby outside. I decided to go check and see how long we could get away with staying in the meeting room with Brian, while they congregated in the lobby. There were ten or so people. I went to do a little work on my remarks, and then about quarter to seven I went to check again, and the whole lobby had completely filled up, and it was like they were going to have a hard time breathing soon. So I had to go in and get the guys to end the pre-time with Brian, and open up the room.

Swoosh! It just immediately filled the whole room, and then we just started cramming more people into every corner, and then started spilling over until the lobby was filled also. There was a tremendous buzz and energy.

At the appointed time of 7:15 Brian and I came in and we started the meeting. What a joy, after a lot of craziness and stress planning and preparing for this meeting, to have such a huge and energetic turnout. Brian spoke for a while then took questions, then spoke for a while more, then I spoke for a bit, and then Brian came back up to take questions.

He spoke on 7 aspects of a new kind of church. That it should be missional, global, artistic, etc.

I shared our vision for Communion of the Arts. The great thing, the thing we wanted, the thing that happened, is that by Brian coming, he was able to pull out of the woodwork all the unconnected people in the city that had an interest in emergent ideas, but who didn’t know each other. Some of those people will join with us, others will know we exist and be able to send people our way. We now have a momentum that we didn’t have before, and we have new relationships that mean everything.

We will start meeting in September (NYC is like Europe, everything is dead in late August) and see what the Lord does. Our plan is to grow slowly throughout the fall while we prepare for our first full worship gathering in Feb. 2006. The way we get from here now, to Feb. 2006 is wide open. I have some plans, but I also suspect that God has some plans that he hasn’t shown us yet, and that will unfold in real time through real people. I am so into not getting in his way, while at the same time being responsible to prepare at a certain level – finding that balance is the key, and my “method” is to be in daily prayer at a significant level.

3 comments:

Cindy said...

Jeff,
Thanks for the review of your meeting. Since you're starting from the ground up at Communion of the Arts, and since you have the support of Tony and Brian, you have a great opportunity to share this whole church planting process with all of us out here. Understanding that you have a, "natural inclination towards the private enjoyment of my thoughts, and an utter lack of desire to share them publicly online", as you wrote, I want to ask you to try to overcome those natural inclinations and consider posting, maybe weekly, what is happening with the church.

I don't mean share theology or musings (though those would be helpful too). I'm thinking brass tacks. "This week I made 75 phone calls trying to plan a meeting. Then I met with 3 people and we made this outline for our goals. #1, #2..." Or even, "Today I found out that when 100 people meet for great worship and fellowship, nobody stays behind to clean up so I was up til 3 AM sweeping and putting the place back together."

I would really benefit from reading your experiences through this process. What you learn. What worked and what didn't work. I'll bet others would benefit, too. I know it's asking a lot. thanks.

Cindy said...

I thought of a few more questions for you: (don't cringe---I know you're cringing)

Do you have a permanent space secured? If yes, how did you go about finding it? If no, how are you going about looking for one? And what kinds of expenses are you incurring at this stage of church formation? I don't mean how many $, since that would vary from region to region, but what kinds of things are costing you money at this point? And where is the money coming from?

These are the kinds of important details I'm not reading anywhere else. Notating this (albeit mundane at times) process on the net would be a huge service to the emerging church.

James said...

First time visitor.

Curious if you recorded Brian's messages. Any way to upload them?