I’m gonna tack on another post about Merge to share with everybody some of my thoughts about it so far, and thoughts from a few others who have come multiple times. Two days ago was our fourth Sunday to do Merge in the morning. Turns out my neighbor Andrew is a great jazz guitarist, and he paired up with me to lead the music. He also plans to do it next week. After the Thankgiving holiday, I plan to add some hand percussion, and hopefully some female vocals.
The discussion was about the 10 plagues in Egypt, and how Jesus shows up in the baking of unleavened bread, and the slaughtering of the spotless lamb to save the Hebrews from the Angel of Death. And we had a comfortably large group, not the biggest so far, but probably a tie if you don’t count out-of-towners or one-time visitors from other churches.
My thoughts about counting:
I’m finding it harder to stick to my commitment to not count people. I’ve done well not to count them during the gathering, but afterwards I tend to rehearse my memory of all those who came, and count them up then. In a way, that’s not so bad, because it forces me to try to remember each individual who came, and remember their names if I can. As long as I can do it that way, I don’t see a problem with counting. But if it gets too large for me to do that anymore, I think we should just guesstimate. I don’t want us to do any actual counting, or to entertain questions like “So what are you runnin’ these days?” My desire is to share our estimates with those who would honestly like to understand the atmosphere of our gatherings, and what they’re like, but not to share them with those who want to gauge our “success” by numbers.
My thoughts about the name “Merge”
I’m thinking very strongly about getting rid of it. As it is, people know they’re coming to the “Front Porch” and many of them also know they’re coming to “Merge”. But I think very few people have any idea what “The Core” is. I believe we’re causing confusion. Chances are, within a few weeks, we’ll just start calling our Sunday morning thing “The Core Worship Gathering” to simplify things for everyone. Maybe “Merge” will “re-emerge” at a later time, who knows.
Now I want to share some other people’s thoughts. Jessica is one of my favorites, because she has come all four times since we began it, and next week will be watching the kids. She’s a student at Missouri State. Nate is awesome as well… I met him at the Drury University Student Fair, and he’s hung around pretty consistently. We’ve also jammed on guitars, and I’m determined to get him in on the music part of our worship gatherings soon.
Yeah, I definitely love Merge. It has been cool to be there from the beginning of the Sunday morning gatherings. I really feel like it is genuine community, and I am all about that. I think the atmosphere is really great, and the people that I invite always really like it.
My friend that I had with me this week was Larry. He was one of my first friends when I came to college. He is a really great guy. He plans on going to seminary after he graduates and serving as a missionary in Japan. He is so passionate about Japanese culture.
But, yeah, I really like Merge. I think it is really inviting for everyone…believers, non-believers, people who aren’t sure what they are. I am learning a lot from the discussions. I love the series that we are doing right now. Isn’t it great to…you know…actually talk about JESUS, not Paul or Moses or Jessica. I just like it a lot. I also really like the fact that different musicians come in every week to help. I think it is great to see different people, and it may help from some people getting burnt out by doing it every week.
Ryan’s response: I agree that it’s great to talk about Jesus. But at the same time, I like to talk about Jesus in relation to everything else. I like to talk about Jesus AND Paul, about Jesus AND Moses, or about Jesus AND Jessica, if you know what I mean. As far as the music goes, I do hope it stabilizes at least somewhat. But the variety is definitely good, and I hope we always have some of that.
I really like it. It seems to be a lot more personal than other places that I’ve gone to. I also like how open ended it is: the different “modes” of seating and involvement, the fact that we can add our own comments, and just the atmosphere itself create a truly personal and worshipful experience. One thing that I’ve been thinking about are the discussions. I know we’re covering the foundations and history of Jesus, but that’s not really what is important. And, when one focus of such a worship gathering is to draw non-Christians to a deep and meaningful relationship with Christ, and when just the Old Testament and such are presented to them, all they would see was a history lesson and not the salvation that was established later. I know you talk about Jesus in them, but not really specifically about what he did. Not to say that these messages are not uplifting and purposeful, but they tend to seem more like a bible study and not like a outreach tool. I don’t know, just sending some thoughts.
Ryan’s response: Thanks also for the critique about the discussions. The Old Testament is a tough nut to crack, and I want to help people a little bit by showing them how Jesus shows up in it. But I definitely won’t claim that I’m knocking it out of the park. We’ll just be in the OT for one more week, and then we’ll be in the gospels for three or four months.