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Turning church on it’s head

May 25, 2005

I had one of those ‘aha’ moments, when someone says something which puts words to your feelings and experiences. Where you say, “yeah, I knew that, but I didn’t know how to say it!”

Doug Pagitt was talking about how most churches try to ‘assimilate’ people into the community. How to move people from ‘outside’ to ‘inside’? He described this popular progression:

Believe
Become
Belong

Where people come to church to hear a message so that they (hopefully) change their mind about God– they believe. Then, we help them tune in to God, and to experience some transformation– they become. Finally, we try to find a way to help them make the committment to connecting to the church.

He contrasted this with another paradigm:

Belong
Become
Believe

Where people come to the church to hang out and connect and to identify themselves with the community. To participate in the life of the church, and serve others, and to start the important task of language acquisition. As they do so, they begin the process of bringing their lives into alignment with God and his wishes for the world. So that– indirectly and effectively, they realize that they do believe.

I heard this, and thought, ‘that’s what we do at our church!’ And it works. For as my friend Erin wisely says, “you can’t make yourself believe anything.” Belief must be organic.

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