A Church for Questions (.org)
Vision for a Saturday Night Church
In Service to the Larger Church
John C. Rankin (18 December 2017)
The ministry of the TEI has always been rooted in the power to love hard questions (click here for a summation; see also my various books). We have two choices in life: 1) flee the hard questions (emotionally, spiritually and/or intellectually), and get tackled by them face down in the mud — a life out of control; or 2) run at the hard questions and tackle them head on — a life of self-control in the Holy Spirit.
As well, a cognate aim of the TEI is first the Gospel, then politics …, a mission field of the Gospel where the power to love hard questions is sorely needed.
Whether in churches, on university campuses, in the marketplace, in the face of political debates, in the Mars Hill Forum series, in countless conversations with believers and unbelievers alike, this has been my priority. The art of listening to and the posing of questions in rabbinic style, to God, leaders and one another is at the core of biblical faith. It is how Jesus came to us in his incarnation. How well does the church, at large, grasp and model this?
1. The vision for A Church for Questions (ACQ) aims to start in January, 2018, with meetings in various homes in the greater Hartford area. Then, when enough interest has been organized, a regular Saturday night church meeting in Hartford will begin.
2. The ACQ is designed to serve the greater church, and I will continue my membership and participation in my own home church, and strongly encourage all participants in ACQ to do likewise. ACQ, under the TEI, is deliberately not tax-deductible, giving us freedom in political spheres to advance of the Gospel. As well, and crucially, all participants are encouraged to keep their priority in giving to their local churches.
3. An explicit purpose of ACQ is to be welcoming to unbelievers, lapsed believers and skeptics of all stripes, and as they grasp who the biblical Jesus is, to see them integrated into a local church. Thus, this aims to be a place where believers can invite their skeptical friends, and too, where pastors can participate.
4. The Saturday night service envisions a) an admixture of the best classical hymns and contemporary praise songs led by a home-grown orchestra and band; b) liturgical elements; and c) circles of intercessory prayer where the power of the Holy Spirit to intervene is sought.
4. Dialogic Reality: There is not a formal sermon, but in classic rabbinic style, the teaching time is driven by questions posed from those in the assembly. Any question is on the table, by anyone with any perspective, and Scripture is used to address it. Here skeptics can feel most welcome.
5. Cognate: TEI International Leadership School, as a schedule is put into place. This equals seven classes at 15-30 hours each, providing biblical literacy 101, equipping people with competence in the Word and confidence to address the toughest questions in the culture. This is also the foundation for the larger vision of teicohort.org.
6. Cognate: Mars Hill Forums or related public conversation with skeptics of the Bible, or concerning questions between different interpretations of the Bible, flow out of this vision naturally.
7. Strategic social media interface.
Thus, A Church for Questions celebrates the intrinsic power to embrace questions at the emotional, spiritual and intellectual levels. The sequence of church, classes and forums, and cognate visions, serves this end where it is attractive to believers, lapsed believers, and unbelievers alike. Relational integrity and freedom define the ethos.