On July 17th, 2016 (about a month before we started Sunday services), we held our final Vision Night, but there was a twist: it was co-led by myself and a dear friend named Chris... who also happened to be an atheist. Yes, a "vision night" for the purpose of starting a church was co-led by an atheist (and not under compulsion!). It actually makes complete sense if you've heard me say (any one of the hundreds of times so far) that we long to be "a community where you don't have to believe in order to belong." It turns out we struck a nerve: over 60 people filled our back yard (many were complete strangers), and all of us have been talking about it since. If you want to see that amazingness in all it's glory, you can watch the video here.
Since then, we have been trying to figure out how to not only recreate that but to escalate it. It's simply not good enough to have this kind of opportunity for civil dialog and pushback as a periodic event, we long for it to be an embedded rhythm. Thus, starting June 11th, we are going to insert a Q&A as part of (as in during, not after) our Sunday service. (Ironically, the sermon scheduled for that morning is titled "God in our Anger." What could go wrong!)
How we're going to pull this off...
At the end of the sermon and before Communion, we will set aside a time for anyone to text in questions to be answered by whoever is preaching that day (me or Daniel, not going to put any guest preachers through that gauntlet!). The only requirements for these questions are that they have to be about the sermon, the passage or the topic addressed. That's it.
The question (and it does have to be a question, not a statement in the form of a question) can come from a place of curiosity, confusion, or contention! It doesn't matter. Where questions are too big to answer well in the allotted 8-10 minutes, we'll invite follow-up or try to cover it later. The goal isn't "stump the pastor" and we don't suffer from the delusion that we even have all the answers... so if we don't, we'll say that. No pretense. Just open invitation to engage deeply with real doubts and big truths.
... every. single. week.
FAQ :: Why we're doing it this way...
Why not do a Q&A after the service?
For a couple huge reasons...
1) This is important. The only reason we haven't done it sooner is because it's too important to do poorly. We don't see this as something to tack-on only for those who may have questions, it deserves a place in our worship service. This stems from a conviction that we worship a God big enough for our deepest, most visceral questions and doubts. They aren't a burden to Him.
2) For those of us who may NOT have questions... we should. I've lost track of how many times a question has prompted me to see my faith in a different light. I've also lost track of how many Christians I know who are terrified of being asked hard questions, and (we hope) seeing how we respond to them will help demystify and encourage deeper engagement. This is edifying for everyone.
Why text them in? Why not just take them live?
There are a variety of logistical considerations we've worked through already, but the most important one is anonymity. The hardest (and therefore the best) questions are often the least likely to be asked in a public setting. It's our hope that not having to raise a hand or risk attention will free people to ask the questions they really long to ask. (We are also aware of a few churches that have done this before and this has been their experience as well!)
So... how long will the service be now?
Only very marginally longer than it is now (a couple minutes). As we've gotten more Sundays under our belt, we've gotten better at this! Also, we will not be inching our start time later and later like we were in the spring! We'll kick things off at 10am to make sure we finish in time, so be on time to not miss anything!
What if you get a ton of questions?
We may not be able to answer all of them (a great problem to have!), but that's why we will be doing this every week! It won't be our only opportunity, and we always welcome people to ask questions at any point after the service and throughout the week!
If you've got any questions, want to express your unbounded excitement, or have suggestions on how we can do this even better, just shoot us a line! We look forward to this fun (if kinda intimidating) experiment next month!