- Q: So are you guys Christians? Yep. Our allegiance is to the Jesus of the Bible. And we're here in Missoula to start a church that loves the city, fosters real community, and provides a safe place for people in process to figure out what they believe (even if it leads them in a different direction).
- Q: Why are you doing this? That's a good question. Many of our friends here in Missoula are not Christians. At the same time, lots of them are interested in thoughtful spirituality and real community, and both of those things are surprisingly hard to find. Perhaps this is because in many 'communities' (church or otherwise) there are certain things we have to think / do / believe in order to 'get in' - we get acceptance if we agree. The problem here is that the relationship is contingent - if you end up thinking / doing / believing the wrong thing, you're out. And that stifles honest inquiry.
We believe there's a better way. We think we should accept people simply because they are created in the image of God. That fact alone qualifies you to be our friend. Our goal for this group is to give friends like this a place where they can safely ask any spiritual questions, to figure out what they believe, without any danger of being rejected, regardless of what conclusions they come to. If some of them end up in our church, that's great. But if they don't, that's fine too. They will always be our friends.
- Q: Why are you focusing on Jesus? Isn't that a little bit narrow? See, this is why you should be coming to this group - that's a great question! :-)
Let's put it like this. We think it's good to ask hard questions of every religious leader. We also think that the best way to learn about a faith is from someone who really buys it. We believe in Jesus. We're not convinced about Buddha or Muhammad. So how fair would it be for us to try and tell you about all three faiths? In a very real sense, we're focusing on Jesus because that's the place we feel most competent to speak.
We encourage all people to develop thoughtful positions on other faiths (that's why we ourselves seek friends who embrace other religions - so we can learn what they believe and represent them as well as possible). For this reason, people of other faiths are very welcome in this group - even if you have no interest in Jesus, you can help us see how he's similar or different to your persuasion. Plus, you can probably think of some really great questions and help keep the conversations honest.
- Q: I'm not interested in Jesus. Why would I want to come to something like this? Another great question. But maybe you should flip it around and ask yourself, "Why aren't I interested in knowing who Jesus was and what he stood for?"
Quite simply, Jesus is one of the most influential figures in human history. He's made some amazing claims, and he has had an amazing impact.
What if you were trying to convince someone about the reality of global warming and they simply said, "Oh, thanks, but I'm not really interested." Wouldn't we point them to the significance of the claims and the impacts, and ask them to at least consider the data?
Similarly, what thoughtful person wouldn't want to reach an informed opinion on who Jesus is and how he managed to have such an impact? Maybe you've already done that, but most people haven't - their opinions on Jesus (and Christianity) come from anecdotal sources: friends, parents, the Jesus channel, the people who go door to door.
What if the Jesus-you-are-not interested in is actually just a caricature of the real Jesus? There really are good reasons for rejecting Christ and Christianity... but how are you going to know if yours is one of them? Wouldn't it be worth taking a good hard look at the historical documents, just to consider what Jesus actually said?
- Q: Look, we don't have the original documents! And the ones we do have are full of errors and contradictions! A lot of people seem to think this, but most of them aren't aware that there's an entire scientific field devoted to reconstructing original texts, and that the texts we have now are exceptionally close to the originals. So here's a question for you: "Do you know how thoughtful scholars - Christians and non-Christian alike - answer those challenges?" If not, well, maybe you should come to the group and ask it! :-)
- Q: What if I just like you guys, but I'm just not interested in your Jesus? We'd be flattered to say the least (and we would want you to know that we offer our friendship regardless of what you think about Jesus). But we'd also want to ask you a question in return: "What if the things you like about us, about this community, are actually the result of something Jesus is doing?" What if what you like about our relationship is actually evidence that he is real. How would you figure that out without looking at Christ?
- Q: What if I'm just too busy? Look, we understand what it's like to be busy. But have you ever noticed that the more we fill up our schedules, the emptier life seems to become? Maybe what we really need is to slow down, for just one evening a week, to share a great meal and think about the big questions in life? It's worth considering...
- Q: Ok, so let's say I show up. Do I have to bring anything? Nope, just bring your appetite and the toughest questions you can think of (we're serious about this!)
- Q: Well, do I have to say anything? Nope. You can say as much or as little as you want. We won't ask you to sing, or pray, or give money. You can come as you are and be yourself.
- Q: What if I can't come every time? That's fine. You can come once, twice, whatever you feel like. There are no obligations. No ones going to call you up or track you down if you decide not to come back.
- Q: So what are other people saying about it? Here are some quotes (and we'd be happy to introduce you to folks who have been through Explorers so you can ask them for yourselves)...
- “I became friends with all sorts of people from backgrounds very different than mine, who were as confused (and probably just as hesitant) about religion and God as I was.” ~ Kelly H.
- “A fun, stimulating environment where I could air my doubts, vent my frustrations, and openly discuss my many difficulties with organized religion.” ~ Marc U.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the Explorers Groups:
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
If I was an outsider looking in on All Souls, I'd be waiting for that moment.
Sure the parties are fun, but what comes next? Sure that post on Jesus and Pot is interesting, but when the rubber meets the road, what's it really going to look like? Sure we've got a vision for community that is open to everyone, regardless of where they are (or aren't) spiritually, but how's that actually going to pan out? After all, aren't we here to start another church, and isn't that just adding to the problem?
When are we going to see your real colors, guys? When you start holding services, or talking about Scripture, what's the 'real you' going to look like?
Yep. If I was on the outside looking in, that's the question I'd be asking.
So here's your answer. Or at least, a glimpse of an answer, a taste of where things are going. To share it, we'd like to introduce you to our good friend Tim Keller. Now, it's true we don't actually know him personally; nevertheless, we consider him our pal because of the difference he's made in our lives - in how we think about church, community, tolerance, and most importantly, about the gospel.
If you really want the dirt on us, Keller will help you uncover it. I can't guarantee we'll ever say it as well as he does, or measure up to his ministry, but he's the best example I have in terms of what we're aiming for, how we understand Jesus, what we hope to accomplish. If you want to see where we're going, this is the place to start.
[Warning up front: it might be a little scary, especially to folks who feel comfortable in their spirituality. Heck, it still scares me, and I'm a fan...]
So here's the invitation. Grab a good cup of coffee or a nice cold beer, find a comfortable chair, and listen to Keller's thoughts on The Community of Jesus.
This is Tim interacting with Jesus' most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, from Luke 6:12-36 (available here if you don't have a copy of the Bible handy), and I think he nails Jesus' message: contrary to popular opinion, it's not primarily ethical (what we need to do); instead, it's focusing on what Christ himself has already done, and how that transforms us (individually, but also as a community).
If you want to understand what drives us, this is a "must listen."
And that brings us to a second invitation. We'd actually like to hear what you think about this stuff. Agree, disagree - we're interested in it all. So much so that in the coming weeks we're going to start creating some opportunities for you to ask questions and say what you think. Some of it will happen in person, but much will take place in an online forum.
And the one thing that will make it work - kind of like the Sunday Soundoffs - is real diversity of opinion. That's why we actually want your feedback, regardless of where you are spiritually.
So here's the deal. Anyone is welcome to participate - whether you're a follower of Christ or not - but you need to ask if you'd like to have access. You can say as little or as much as you'd like. Any question is fair game. And we'll never try to "convert you" - our job is just to be honest and upfront, to explain where we're coming from and why, so that you can make up your own mind.
If you really want to see where things are going from here, this is the place to be, and Keller's comments are a great place to start.
So go ahead, take a look at the man behind the curtain. And then tell us what you think. We're looking forward to some fascinating conversations...
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Here at All Souls, we do not pass an offering plate. We do, however, depend upon financial gifts to operate. There are 3 ways you can contribute financially and all three are tax-deductible:
- In person - come worship with us on a Sunday and drop your check or cash in the offering box located at the back of the room.
- Electronically - contribute online via the web by using this link. Quick, convenient, secure. And it supports both one-time and recurring transactions.
- Snail mail - simply mail your check to:
All Souls Missoula
P.O. Box 758
Missoula, MT 59806
You'll receive a statement of giving at the end of the year for tax purposes. Holler if you have questions.