It only takes a spark to get a fire going
Help for being a good tree
Everything up to this stage contributes to how you are a “good tree.” The following resources help us face the typical challenges Jesus followers face when they want to make a difference in the world.
Experience communion across boundaries
We deliberately keep our congregations small and have one church spanning many neighborhoods. We do not divide up in regard to state or neighborhood boundaries, instead we try to demonstrate how to overcome them. Our anti-racism includes hope for reconciliation. We welcome people of all languages and nations. Single people are not second class. Children are not invisible. The communion table is a challenging place! It represents how we are fully accepted and fully accepting. Seriously entering into community is a major help to being a "good tree."
▧ Healthy conflict
Many churches keep things distant and avoid conflict at all costs. Meanwhile Jesus is spitting on people and causing all sorts of problems that only authentic speaking the truth in love can solve. Healthy disciples take the steps of reconciliation laid out by the Lord in Matthew 18. We have a method we employ when conflict is bigger than an individual or partnership can handle:
The United States mainly deals with conflict by perfecting self-defense. We have a better way.
▧ Lasting marriage
Many of us are not married and some never will be. No one is less valuable for that. Over half of us already are married and some of us are divorced. The process of sticking together makes us and breaks us. Marriages generate reparative love and can also create damaging division and sorrow. We are up for all circumstances with an eye on the blessings of overcoming the obstacles to communion.
- Marriage in the New Creation. This is our summary of how we relate to all the ways loved-ones approach marriage and sexual expression in this era.
- Power Struggles and How to Get Beyond Them John Gottman’s teaching on the “four horsemen” applied to us all, with an additional horse! Also see The Art and Science of Love for a journalist’s view.
▧ Loving family
Our statement about Caring for Children Together begins with a reminder that we are all children. Jesus is our older brother and we are all brothers and sisters with God as our Father. So even if we do not have children of our own, we are aunts and uncles. And every new believer is young in Christ. Every person is carrying the child they were when they first got separated from Jesus.
- Village Parenting at Circle of Hope is our blog site for things we share about parenting. You’ll find a list of parenting books and marriage books our parents have collected, another link to the Children’s plan and a guide for becoming part of the Parents Listserv.
- The Children’s Plan guides our Children’s Teams and parents in how we care for children in relation to our meetings and how we see children participating in the body of Christ.
▧ Helpful rites of passage
Earth/Wind/Fire/Water is an ancient/future way to acknowledge that we are all moving into eternity and we are all going at our own rate through similar stages. We take our first steps into every new era of development and experience some capacity to understand all the eras as they are resident in us and repeated in our experience. Our rites of passage honor individuals and families who are taking major steps of development. We are not only acknowledging that they have arrived at a new place, we are calling on God to protect and guide them as they do as we announce our solidarity. You can see our resources here.
Help for bearing fruit
Again, everything up to this stage contributes to how you “bear good fruit.” Many resources have already been shared in EARTH and WIND.
▧ Learn how to be a church planter
Jesus is a planter, like a sower sowing seeds. We imitate him. Through the church God’s revelation is made known and God’s promises are made evident. We are the presence of the future. Everyone has a place in God’s redemption project.
▧ Expand the kingdom
- Why Four Congregations? – an explanation of our way to be larger and smaller, regional and local, inclusive and unique at the same time
- Church Growth Eyes – a basic chart that helps us see how we grow.
- Spiritual Gifts Discernment
▧ Share God's love in practical ways
In Acts, Jesus is described as someone who “went around doing good.” All through the Bible, God is described as a generous, caring parent determined to heal and nurture his people. We are imitators of God, an incarnation of the Lord’s love.
- Our Compassion Teams – Here is a list and a description of teams people have formed to demonstrate compassion and serve.
- Mennonite Central Committee - Here is a link to our major, worldwide partner in compassionate service.
▧ Build the new humanity
The greatest scandal corrupting the church in the United States is the general disinterest in racial justice and reconciliation and proactive peacemaking. It is so difficult to confront the national sins that many give up the faith instead. We are hanging on until the end, even though we are notably unsuccessful in relation to our imagination.
- The New Humanity - Here is a link to our statement reflecting on racial reconciliation.
▧ Own the whole enterprise: The Map
Circle of Hope is not “someone else’s church.” It belongs to all who are it and are making it by the power of the Spirit. Paul sums up the spirit of what that reality and responsibility means so well in his letter to the Galatians it is worth quoting at length:
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
The point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits[a] of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God (Galatians 3:23-4:7).
So we have a lot of confidence that everyone can participate in the fullness of all we are an do because God is with them. Our Map is the main expression of this conviction. Our map does not describe all we do, but it gives our diverse, region-spanning, neighborhood-linking church a common way to explore and express God’s love.
Almost every year we discern our direction together. We do it for many crucial reasons:
- We want to know what to do. Listening together breeds discernment.,
- We want to share our life and mission in a truthful, practical way. Everyone matters.
- We want to teach each other how to listen to the Spirit and speak the truth in love. Our process is a laboratory for deepening faith, hope and love.
- We want to include the most recent person in our life-giving process. You don’t have to be socially in to be in with Jesus.
Here is a link to our 2020-2021 work of art. Our Map
▧ Take opportunities to practically build the church
Everyone has a part in building up the church. You don’t need an official “job” to do it. Every person loving someone in a cell is doing their job. But we decided to be a public-facing church with ambitions to make the most impact on the Philadelphia region we could make. So there a many opportunities to serve that cause.
You have already heard about our cells several times, those are the main places we do our best work. Everything else is an expression of the fire we generate there. Maybe it is time you led and built a cell.
▶ Sunday meetings
You have also heard of the Sunday meetings (one of the two wings, with the cells, that make us fly). Over one hundred people are engaged with making these wonderful week by week. Maybe it is time to join a Sunday meeting team:
- There is always room for a new person on one of our teams for musicians, designers, decorators—talk to your pastor or a team leader
- The Sunday meeting hosts are an important part of our experience.—talk to your pastor or Hosting Coordinator
- We use technology! So we always need technicians to make great atmospherics—talk to your pastor or Tech Team leader
- We have children! Children up to third grade receive childcare during our meetings. You can volunteer—see your pastor or Children’s Team leader.
▶ Capacity and Business Teams
You have already heard about Compassion Teams and Mission Teams. There are also teams that keep the wheels of our enterprise lubricated. We own and lease buildings, pay employees and organize all sorts of business. There are many people operating “behind the scenes” and that may be exactly the person you are. Here are ways to serve:
- Common Fund Teams — bookkeeping, counting, sharing services for the church and each congregation. Talk to you congregation’s treasurer or pastor.
- Building Management Teams — repairs, upkeep, sometimes disaster relief! Talk to you congregations building manager or the church’s Sites Manager.
- Technological Capacity Teams — there are a lot of wires to connect in our audio, computer and virtual systems. These people create possibilities and solve problems. Talk to the Capacity Core Team leader or your pastor.
- Communication and Social Media Team -- This group helps us connect with all the forms of media they can discover.
- Good Business Oversight Team -- As a church we own two thrift stores, an events site, and a childcare business. This team oversees how they work and invents new enterprises. They also try to gather our business owners into a community of sharing and doing their business in an alternative way.
▶ Leadership Teams
We have created a solid Leadership Team composed of five contributing teams: the pastors, The Cell Leader Coordinators, the Church Planting Core Team, the Compassion Core Team, the Capacity Core Team, and two individuals: the Children’s Teams Leader, and the Hub Team Leader.
The Leadership Team Core is the “executive group” composed of the five team leaders and the Hub Team Leader who have specific duties and the opportunity to fulfill needs between decision making meetings of the whole team.
These are devoted, talented people and you may be one of them some day. Most of them are on terms and regularly move on and off the teams.
Here is a brief description of how we organize and make decisions: When it is time to lead