So much preaching gets on my nerves but the fact that you guys actually listen to people, and relate stuff to scripture in context, and then encourage everyone to study it themselves . . . well, it pretty much rocks. Element is real, it isn't a separated Sunday church check off the list kind of thing, and I'm so glad I'm here now. Keep it up, guys. I love everyone here and their openness.
I am increasingly proud of the Element community for creating a place where people feel safer and safer being themselves, warts and all. We are making good steps toward greater transparency with each other, mainly at our Monday night studies, but I try to push towards this on Sunday nights by being somewhat confessional in some of my messages.
Every now and then someone will ask me the ubiquitous question, "How many is Element running now?", and I always answer, but what I want to do is say, "You're asking the wrong question."
We are not big. By any stretch.
But here's where we are:
90% of our worship attendees participate in our small group Bible study, and most of those also attend other area Bible studies/small groups during the week.
80% of our worship attendees participate in our monthly community service projects.
I love that. And while based on sheer service attendance, we'd be crushed by most other churches and ministries in Nashville, I'd put those stats against any of them.
The right questions are these:
Is your community growing spiritually?
Is your community experiencing connection to God and to each other?
Is your community centered on the good news of Jesus Christ?
The answer to those three questions is yes.
These people are doing life together during the week. They don't rely on Element to schedule their interaction for them, and we're not going to.
We are currently made up of approximately 50% "mature" been-doing-it-awhile Christians and 50% seekers/new Christians. It's very strange, but it's very cool.
We are losing people to things like foreign missions work.
We share meals together, we cry together, we do things that families do.
This past weekend we married off two of our own, the 2nd marriage to come out of the only 18-month-old Element community.
This is David and Sarah:
Their milestone was a milestone for our community also, because we are family. And while we may not currently be attracting worship watchers looking for the slickest program, we are attracting people who are broken, hurting, or just hungry for the gospel and for authenticity. We are attracting people who attend a church service elsewhere on Sunday mornings but come to Element for "deeper" teaching, but especially for the community. We passed around an anonymous survey a couple of weeks ago, and the majority of the respondents indicated they attend church service elsewhere but consider Element their "church home."
We are slowly adding people outside our official demo. We think we are in a proto-church stage.
Maybe we'll call ourselves a church someday soon. We are already "doing church." We gather together to hear from God's word and to exalt Christ, we meet together to break bread and have biblical conversations, we do life together during the week, we help each other mourn and marry (and move!), we serve the under-resourced in our community together, we are getting closer and closer to "having all things in common."
And maybe when we start advertising we'll get more numbers too. :-)
But either way, when it comes to the things that really count, I am exceedingly grateful for what God has done in the lives of the people in our community, and I'd be an ass to be dissatisfied with the quality of life within it.
"All the Messages Here Contain Grace": A Case Study of Element