The first 18 months & the future

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Last night was the final gathering of our initial 18 month Practice experiment. I can’t believe how quickly the last year and a half went by, and I’m overwhelmed by all that God taught and did in our little tribe.

To prepare for the next part of the Practice journey (through June 2016), we’ve been practicing group spiritual discernment, listening to God and each other. Thanks so much for all of you who have prayed, listened, and spoken up. The last three weeks have been beautiful and profoundly illuminating.

The central questions we’ve been asking: What have we learned so far, and how is God leading us into the future?

Three themes have become very clear:

(1) Community. There is a deep sense that we are ready to move beyond a weekly gathering of individuals on individual journeys into more of a communal journey. No one can live the Christian life alone. And so a high priority of the next few months is to discern ways to practice together beyond the weekly gathering.

(2) Mission. We want to focus on engaging the needs of our world. We long to join God in serving our local and global brothers and sisters. It is impossible to separate true discipleship from mission, and we’re asking God to form us into contemplative activists.

(3) Build on the foundation. Finally, instead of using the next year to explore brand new ideas, forms, and practices, we want to keep building on the current foundation.  While we hope to never stop exploring and experimenting, our goal is to be formed into Christlikeness for the sake of the world. And that takes practice, and God’s transforming Grace.

If you want to hear the full story, here are my comments/reflections from last night. Give them a listen and let us know if they capture a bit of what you’re discerning also.

PODCAST: “What we’re learning and where we’re going” (Aaron Niequist)

We’re not gathering on Sunday nights in July, but we’re doing three Thursday night BBQs–starting July 9th. We’ll post the full summer schedule and share all the details later this week. Can’t wait for the next part of our journey together!

Grace and peace,
Aaron and The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, June 7, 2015

By | Discernment, Sunday Messages, Sunday Reflections, The Practice Podcast | 3 Comments

It was so good to gather together again last night at The Practice. I agree with Aaron, two weeks apart felt too long! I am always so encouraged to be among you all as we gather to worship and put the words of Jesus into practice with one another – such a holy community experience that I cherish.

Many of you may be aware that the end of this June marks the end of our 18 month experience here at The Practice. But fear not, in our discussions with leadership at Willow Creek and the community we can officially let you know that this is not the end. We have loved the sacred space and practicing community that has formed over our time together and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us as we continue to grow and figure out how best to join in with God’s good work in the world.

So, in light of our desire to keep this experiment going we are dedicating the month of June to listening to God and trying to discern what His will is for the future of our community. We thought long and hard about how to do this and we realized one incredibly important thing:

Decision making is different from discernment.

Last night Kellye Fabian unpacked this poignant distinction by sharing part of her own story to illustrate a crossroads in her life in which she faced the difference between making a decision and discerning the will of God. I loved and felt so comforted listening to Kellye share, because I think we’ve all had those moments where the path before us isn’t clear and in our desire to figure out what to do next, a lot of us make a pros and cons list, think about it logically, worry incessantly and then finally, ask God to bless the decision we’ve logically made. As Kellye shared however, I knew I was resonating with how different discernment is.

Decisions are made, but discernment is given.

Discernment is given by God. It’s a process of discriminating what is of God and what is not of God in our lives, and surrendering to what God gives us. Discernment is often beyond logical pros and cons lists and looks more like listening to the quiet voice of God who may be calling us into the bold, unusual, or unclear path. When Kellye shared that the first job she received after ending her career as a lawyer was a position that didn’t even exist when she was trying to make the decision… I felt so challenged that discerning God’s will involves trust, leaps of faith and remaining committed to what is of God, even when other options may make us more comfortable in the moment.

Our community then moved into practicing a practice that is an important part of the discernment process – and that is, a prayer for indifference to anything but the will of God. Indifference may seem like such a harsh word, but when you think of it, it’s really praying the prayer that Jesus prayed when he said, “Not my will Lord, but Yours be done.” It’s a bold and vulnerable prayer that holds our deepest desires before God and says, “Lord, this is what I want, I trust that you know my heart and my honest desires, but ultimately I want to desire your will above my own.”

This is a radical practice. It felt radical last night as we all wrote down something we need discernment around and offered up our honest, deepest desires to God. I can’t wait to hear the stories from our community about how this prayer changes lives. For those of you who couldn’t be there, or who would love to listen again, check out what was shared in the latest Practice Podcast or by listening here below.

And it is in this spirit that our team wants to discern God’s will for the future of The Practice. We realized that we could make a lot of decisions in our own power, but the more important work would be to discern God’s will, which involves listening to God in our lives and listening to God in your lives to gain a sense of where we’re being invited.

Aaron shared on behalf of our leadership team, “5 things we know, and 5 things we don’t know” to kick off and set the stage for the month of June. You can watch this video to hear what he shared and how we’d like you to respond over the next week, but in short here are the five things we’ve learned from the past 18 months and here are 5 things we desperately want your help discerning from God about the future –

5 Things We Know

  1. We desire to be a holistic community. We can’t separate discipleship from evangelism, from mission, or from community. The invitation to put Jesus’ words into practice ultimately involves all of the journey and we want to reflect that.
  2. Our Core Values still resonate and uphold what we feel is important about The Practice and we will continue to value and grow in all of them.
  3. What we are doing here at The Practice is meeting a genuine unmet need in the church for Spiritual Formation, Sacred Space, and Contemplative Activism.
  4. We are going to keep consistently gathering as a whole in the spirit of liturgical/evangelical worship, and anchored exploration of the historic church and its practices.
  5. We know, that we don’t know who we are! And by that we mean, we are getting a lot of questions asking what are we? Are we a class? Are we a church? Are we a discipleship function? How do we fit into bigger Willow Creek? We love and are excited to keep discerning over the next year with God and with Willow how we be join in with God’s good work.

 5 Things We Don’t Know

  1. What is the best Day/Time of the week to meet? Whilst Sunday nights are a good fit for some people, they really inhibit a lot of other people from being able to come. We don’t have to change when we meet, but we’d love to have a discussion about what other possibilities are out there.
  2. Child and Family Formation. We want to explore how we can best serve and grow families down the road at The Practice.
  3. We need to explore how we can create more tangible opportunities for us to walk this journey of spiritual formation together.
  4. Sunday night is not the main event! Our real lives are the main event. How can we keep growing in how to make our lives the main focus?
  5. Artistic expression, story telling and communication. How can we keep artistically experimenting and exploring ways to express and immerse our community in this journey both during and outside of our Sunday gathering?

I hope you are as excited to keep discerning as we are! Incase you skipped the video, here are the three kingdom practices we wanted to invite you into this week in response to everything we shared last night:

  1. Partner with us by taking our survey. We want to hear your voice about how the last 18 months have impacted your life – please give us 15 minutes of your time to let us hear God’s voice through your experiences. To take the survey please click here.
  2. Pray the prayer for indifference in your life this week.
  3. Please, come back again next Sunday to share your voice and to contribute to the discussion of how The Practice can join God’s work and will in the future.

We cannot wait to gather together next week and hear from the community.

Grace and Peace to you!

Jenna Perrine

The Practice Survey

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Hi friends,

Many of you know that we are asking you as our community and as those whose heart we deeply care about to partner with us in taking a SurveyMonkey to help give us feedback about the past 18 months of The Practice.

The survey will take you around 15 minutes to complete and exists to create a space to hear your voice and find out more about how The Practice has helped you grow and what The Practice can do to improve and better help you in your spiritual journey.

You can take the survey online by clicking here.

I know surveys can feel like a burden and a waste of your time, but I promise you that our team is going to be considering each and every response and will take into consideration everything you share. I can’t wait to receive your feedback and the most exciting part is that we want to share our findings with you in the coming weeks. A huge thank you in advance for any time you can give to this, we look forward to hearing your experiences and heart for The Practice as we discern the future.

Blessings on your week,

Jenna and The Practice Team