Well, we’re here.
Maybe the problem (and I’m not sure ‘problem’ is the right word) is that I had expectations at all. Like I alluded to in last week’s post, having preconceived notions about what God is going to do through an experience, an era or a person is a recipe for disappointment.
I’m also not sure that disappointment is the right word – but it’s in the right ballpark.
Five years ago, I was absolutely dazzled by the 40 Days of Purpose experience, as I mentioned in the 40 Days post, right around 40 days ago. It catapulted me out of the OPW (occasional pew warmer) category and into the AIT (apostle in training) column – it was exactly what I needed, right when I was ready to receive it.
Not so for 40 Days of Community.
It’s been good – don’t get me wrong. But it hasn’t been transformational for me. That’s probably good, because it means I’m not so far off track that I need to be transformed again. Instead, I merely need to grow. But as I said in Maturing?, growth isn’t nearly as exhilarating as transformation. And as I said in Whetstones, sometimes growth hurts.
Now I wouldn’t say the 40DOC curriculum was painful, but it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, either.
There’s little point in getting into detail, but both the style and substance of some of Rick Warren’s teachings – particularly in his DVD messages – rubbed me and some of my friends the wrong way.
40 Days later, Holy Trinity is a better church than it was 40 Days ago. I’ve heard great stories about people reaching out to newcomers; about rallying around a fellow parishioner who’s going through a rough spot. It might be my imagination, but I think people in our church are friendlier now, and maybe even a little happier.
I also see us as a more active church. We’re doing more to contribute to our larger community – thanks, no doubt, to the fact that a community service project is a major component of 40DOC’s small group curriculum. But I’m optimistic that this momentum will continue for the next 40 Days and beyond.
Speaking of the small groups, we have probably half a dozen more of these now than we did before 40 Days began. That happiness, friendliness and bond I mentioned before is, I believe, a direct result of the community building we’ve done during small group meetings.
Now, some of the new groups will probably disband after the campaign wraps up, but it’s my prayer than most of them will continue.
Folks, don’t be discouraged if Rick Warren’s curriculum wasn’t for you. If you’ve mostly enjoyed the small group experience but were a little unnerved by these particular messages, let me assure you: there are dozens of great Bible study guides out there, and other approaches to small group meetings. If you sorta liked being in a small group during this 40 Days thing, just imagine what it’d be like if you were able to fully connect with the curriculum.
If you’re in the right group, and if you engage in a study that fully connects with who and where your group members are right now, you’ll be startled by how much you get out of it – and put into it, so you can get even more out of it!
Talk with Pastor Stephen for pointers on finding the right resource for your group. If the group you’re in now isn’t right for you, ask him to help you find another one. Please – pretty please with sugar and cherries and sprinkles on top – don’t let this momentum dissipate!
Speaking of Stephen, this next paragraph is just for him (although the rest of you are welcome to eavesdrop). I want to publicly thank you, Stephen, for choosing 40 Days, and for all the effort and toil you put into this campaign. I know you did a pile of work in advance and behind the scenes – more than I can imagine, probably, so thanks for that. The tip of the iceberg we could see, though, was compelling and inspiring. Your sermons for the past six weeks have been comforting, challenging, convicting and empowering. You really brought you’re A-game, Stephen. I’m a little in awe, frankly. So thanks!
I’ve mentioned before that my small group started up five years ago when our church did 40 Days of Purpose. We’ve changed venues and lost and gained some new members along the way, but we’ve been meeting fortnightly since 2006. We eat, we laugh, we talk, we learn and we pray together; it’s incredible. For 40DOC, we picked up two new members, and they’ve only enriched our group. Thanks for coming, Sherry and Michael – I can’t imagine the group without you, so don’t even THINK about weaseling out!
I think we’re much closer as a group than we were 40 Days ago – partially as a result of the fact we’ve met twice as often for the past six weeks – and also, ironically, because we didn’t really like the 40 Days curriculum.
Making fun of Rick Warren’s ridiculous Hawaiian shirts, his phoney laugh and his silly word plays brought us together. And we were also unified by our annoyance at his manic leapfrogging from Bible translation to translation (in one case he did so in mid-sentence!!), and our disagreement with portions of the substance of his message. Our group’s bonds are so strong that 40DOC brought us closer because of its shortcomings!
Having said all that, I should emphasize that there’s far, far more good in the curriculum than bad. The overwhelming majority of the messages rang true for me (and my group buddies, too, I think) – confirming and convicting me and my beliefs in fairly equal measure. But pastors are like journalists: if we do 100 things right and one thing wrong, people focus on the one and forget the hundred.
I’m doing my best to focus on Rick Warren’s hundred, and I urge all of my Holy Trinity brothers and sisters to do the same. It wasn’t everything I expected it to be, but we’re a better church than we were 40 Days ago. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Peace be with you.