Flourishing and Single in the Church

Often times, when we talk about church growth or planting a common marker of health is when families, especially young families start to attend and make the church their own. This is a good thing and pastoring a small church with some amazing families, I get the inclination. But what of those single, both by choice or by circumstance? If the church is meant to be their family as well, how are we endeavoring to give them space for flourishing?

Part of the problem is expectation. In the church, there is an assumption that human completion is in pairing off. While this is a wonderful and biblical thing, it is not the only thing. So as a church maybe we stop assuming a single person needs to be married. Instead, we should be taking steps to integrate everyone into the life of the church regardless of relational status.

Next, do single people have a voice in the decisions of the church, in the progress of the life of the church? Give them a place and hear them. Let single people communicate what support they need and how you can best encourage them in the faith.

Then in our preaching, and discipleship, the ideal presented is following after Jesus, surrender all of our lives, married, single, whatever, to our Savior for his glory and our good. Are we up for this?

I know that at Reservoir we have a way to go before we are seen as a church for the flourishing of single people. But let’s lean into it and see what the Lord will do.

 

Reservoir Release

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring ​— ​what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” — James 4:13-15 (CSB)

Every time someone asks what my “vision for the church” is I feel a little bit like a kindergartner being asked what he wants to be when he grows up. I can only hope my answer might be taken with a bit more seriousness or belief!

It is a fair question and one we get asked a lot as a replant of a twenty-two-year-old church. We endeavored to fix organization issues with a new book of church order, we established a new elder council, we changed the name of the church to match our new identity as a body, and we have unrelentingly preached the gospel as the whole counsel of God from his word. So what’s next? What does a little church of eighty souls look forward to, or labor toward?

Good question.

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that…”

I think I do have an answer and some sense of the Lord’s will for us. Paired with the healthy marks of the church, when we grow up, my hope is that Reservoir Church is a seeding and sending church. Small, agile and able to raise up, equip, and launch missionaries and new churches and revitalize older churches.

I think of it as “Release.” The healthy and useful reservoir is filled with clean water and in order for it to function as designed, it has to release what it has stored up. Communities don’t thrive if their reservoirs never give out water. I hope we see the church in the same way.

Of course, I recognize the desire to grow a crowd. To need bigger facilities and refine a brand… my flesh would love that. Healthy churches are supposed to grow all the books say. But for us, if there is a healthy branch available, we want to plant it in new soil so that we reflect a kingdom priority and we see people believe in Jesus.

If this Reservoir is meant for “release,” how do we get there? I think we cling to Jesus and focus our discipleship in three categories:

  • Evangelism
  • Vocational empowerment
  • Equipping

This good news of Jesus met us on its way to someone else, and we have been commissioned by Christ to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sin in his name to all nations. We don’t want to take this lightly and we don’t want to miss the opportunities in our neighborhoods. So to that end, we will train, teach and implore each of us to share Jesus at every opportunity. We have nothing if we don’t share the hope of salvation. And rather than hope the church will grow by adding dissatisfied believers from other churches, we want the few chairs we have to be filled by those meeting the real Jesus for the first time.

Evangelism is then paired with each individuals’ purpose, the place and vocation the Lord has put them in. We desire to stir the body of believers to recognize their work as a sacred instrument meant to bring the peace of God to our city. This is the church as a creative minority in this age. A linked minority working together for the renewal of all things.

Then in both categories and in all of life, we desire to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Discipling each other with a bent outward. Recognizing everyone in the church has a kingdom role to play and making sure they have the arrows they will need in their packs.

There are many details and attempts to come down the road. I still don’t know each step. But together, we will lean into “release” for the glory of Christ.

This is key, we are stricken with pastoral insufficiency by the grace of God. I am not a super leader or a valiant entrepreneur. We may need systems and areas of support I can’t see. It will take all of us. From elders to volunteers in the special needs ministry. From deacons to small group leaders and everyone in-between.

So are you in? Are you willing to prepare the Reservoir for release? Maybe you will be the one we send, maybe you will be the one to take someone else’s place when they go… all for the glory of Jesus.

We exist to know Jesus and make him known. Those rescued by Jesus reshaped into family for the renewal of others and all things. Let’s go!

Brewing Leaders

Almost ten months ago at our church, I invited a small group of guys to purposefully hang out once a month to read about and discuss issues from a gospel-oriented perspective. We have talked about defining the whole gospel, what it means to love our neighbors, how to form deep relationships in the church, preventing and exposing abuse, seeing our careers as the avenue we can do good for the glory of God, and how the church can become a “creative minority” in our culture. We meet each month on the third Thursday in local brewpubs or tasting rooms (which we have plenty of in San Diego) so we called it ‘Brewing Leaders.’ Of course not everyone in the group drinks…

Originally the group was formed to give me more one-on-a-few time with those beginning or continuing to lead in the church and model a discipleship context that could be replicated when each of them begins their own group. But design doesn’t always meet real life and there has been an increasing desire from other guys in the church to participate in something similar.

To that end, in September, I am planning to launch two new groups for guys to study the same articles and have the same discussions in a new relational context. And instead of being invite only, I am opening the group to any guy at Reservoir who wants to participate and can commit to attending regularly.

The new groups will be “Bottled Leaders” on the first Thursday of each month, and “Boba Leaders” on the fourth Thursday of each month. As the names imply, the Bottled gang will stick to the brew-pub/bottle barn venue and the Boba dudes will stick with non-alcoholic beverages which may be highly preferred for a few of us.

So if you are a guy, part of Reservoir Church, and interested in leadership in the church, home, and culture, jot me a note at jonathan[at]reservoirchurchsd.org and let me know which of the two new groups you are interested in.

Six is an optimal number for each group so once we hit that number we will close the opportunity for this season. Of course, if the interest is outrageous, we could always have a “Donut Leaders!”

And ladies, if you are interested in something similar let me know as well as we are trying to form a group for you along the same lines.

 

Jesus as a friend

Our family is on the tail end of a long vacation visiting national parks and spending quality time with family we don’t see all that often. And as is becoming tradition, making our way back west we stop to see some of our greatest friends.

Forged in the throws of ministry in Washington State and surviving through long distance moves, these are gospel friendships worth more than gold. It is a refreshing time to connect and keep up with each other.

What we do though is pull our 27 foot RV into their driveway and invade for a couple of days. We plug into their electricity. We eat their foot and drink their wine. We make ourselves at home. And when they visit San Diego next year they will do the same sans the RV.

There is no pretense, no performance, no perfection required. It’s just us and the acceptance of those fluent in the gospel.

We all need these types of friends. Not merely because having friends is good and healthy but because they are imaging Christ and we need the reminder of his care, his welcome to us.

Jesus let’s you pull your stuff into the driveway and plug in. He is the source, the provision and he doesn’t review your manifest before granting entry. He embraces you like the oldest and deepest of friend glad to see you. Like the one that holds on just a while longer because it has been so long.

This is your acceptance in Christ. Believing in him, he doesn’t just look away from your junk, he owns it for himself and frees you of every burden, every ounce of shame. And he invites you to stay, held by him for eternity. No threat of loss or status. Secure forever in him.

Live in that truth of his embrace today would you? And then find some friends you can do the same thing for. Remind each other of the gospel and sing of Christ’s grace.