I came up with a sabbatical idea a few months ago, and I figured that I'd share it here. I get sabbatical leave after five years at this particular church, so I have a while to think yet, but not as long a while as others. Well anyway, I call this idea 'A Tour of the Alternative Church.' I use the word 'alternative,' but mostly I mean 'emerging.' I just use 'alternative' because I'm not sure that I want to take the time to qualify 'emerging.' But if you want to read more about it, you can start here or click on a number of blogs to the right as a lot of them consider themselves emerging. I've been checking out some emerging churches on the web that I'd be interested in visiting, just to see how they do what they do.
I have to make a differentiation here. I'm talking emerging churches as in the ones that meet in bars, clubs, or theaters for their main gathering, which may or may not be on Sunday morning. These are decentralized churches with little building space besides perhaps a small rented office space for storage and smaller gatherings. So while Rob Bell is considered emerging, I'm not planning to visit gigantoid conventional Mars Hill Church up in Michigan because...well...it's gigantoid and conventional.
Here's a working list of alternative or emerging churches that I would consider for this project:
- ~New Heights Church in British Columbia. This is my long shot visit because it's so far away from where I am. I heard about this church through Scott Williams, who is a co-founder and former pastor here. New Heights operates out of an office next to a porn shop and gathers on Sunday mornings in a local theater.
- ~Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis. This is Doug Pagitt's church. Small groups meet in homes for Bible study, dinner, or just to hang out. I just found out that they're hosting an Emergent convention. Continuing education opportunity!
- ~The Evergreen Community in Portland, Oregon. Another long shot. Maybe I should apply for Lily money. I just heard about this one a few weeks ago after visiting Bob Hyatt's blog. Bob is the pastor there. This group's main gathering is in a pub on Sundays. Otherwise it is made up of a few commune houses and other gatherings.
Those are really the main churches that I'm considering. I know of a few 'new monastic' communities that I may add later. This time of sabbatical would involve spending 4-5 days at each church, attend their regular activities, chat with the pastor(s) and members, and simply take in their sense of community, mission, and living as disciples in their setting that doesn't involve upkeep of a building, among other differences.
Why embark on such a tour? Well...the more I read about what these churches are doing, the more I wonder if such a project is not out of the question for me. The theological word for that is 'call,' but it's too soon to say that. More and more, I find myself visiting my bank, my tax place, local businesses for sale, and wonder how it might be converted to be a hub of outreach for an emerging group of Christians, probably younger, but committed to something new and different and unconventional and first and foremost missional. It would want to serve the community and carry out what the kingdom of God expects of them.
I have a few years to whip up this proposal, as well as consider other options. No rush. But it's one that I'm feeling a lot of energy and excitement over.