The following post comes from Kevin Ritter, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church in Chesapeake, Va. Centerville was one of the churches that participated in the Dawnings Pilot Group. You can learn more about Dawnings at the Leadership Institute at General Assembly.
We were in new territory. At our very first retreat with CBF personnel present, one of the main influencers in the congregation asked, “Why the ‘s’ on Dawnings?” We were so fresh and green to this process that we had very little idea what to expect, what was going to happen next, how to plan or how to react. We just knew we were there and ready to learn about this new process. At the beginning of the process, our church would not have even considered itself a “CBF” church. In short our thoughts were,“God, to what new land are you taking us?”
Before the retreat was completed, some of the aspects of using the spiritual disciplines were really catching our attention and we went away with a desire to see this process worked out further in our church. So, we went home and gathered a group to be our first Dawnings Contextual Design Team. We gathered folks from across the age spectrum. We also wanted people with differing ideas as to what our church “should be.”
Once we started our meetings it was interesting to see how things worked. One participant said:
“Through our meditations and Scripture readings, God invited me to see things in a fresh, exciting way. He prodded me to look beyond the day-to-day, week-to-week. God challenged me to “work smarter,” to examine what I think is important. . .”
The group covenanted with a challenge to plan 9 to 12 months of life together for our church. We began to recognize that the kind of work we were doing is what churches should always be doing, but are often unwilling invest to the time and effort to fully complete. Two main things seem to resonate from our time together:
1) We have more resources than we thought we did. There is absolutely no reason for us to operate out of a sense of inadequacy or scarcity. A participant said, “I discovered that the church has a lot more resources than I realized. There are a lot of areas we can develop over time and this process was a great way to draw those to the forefront.”
2) We desire unity and family, but we are not accomplishing that in our church. This sounded tough to hear, but acknowledging this reality seemed to free us up. It was like we did not have to keep looking over the obvious.
When it was time to implement the 9 to 12 months of life together, it was refreshing to see other folks dive into the creativity and energy produced by the Dawnings process. We mainly worked with worship and we had a worship service in the fellowship hall so folks could talk around tables, not because the heat or A/C was out in the sanctuary. We had a potter come and take over another sermon – the best sermon I never preached. Everyone seemed to be watching God form them as she was forming the clay on the wheel. We have seen new language being used about the mission/direction/purpose of the church and our leadership thinking more creatively and organically. There were many other benefits of Dawnings, if every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole blog would not have room for the words that would be written.
When asked if we should do it again, there was a resounding YES! So, the best thing I can say is that through this process, God showed up. He was waiting on us to let him guide us into His dream for our church and our community and our world.
One participant in his 60’s that has been in Baptist life all of his life said it this way:
“For me, this process renewed efforts gone nearly dormant. The enthusiasm of the participants was encouraging and contagious. Certainly, I heard (and, I’m sure, expressed) thoughts from previous attempts at a discussion similar to this, but without the depth and preparation of the participants. If we were an accurate cross-section of the church body, then there is a brighter hope for the future for this family, at least in my mind. Whether or not we are out of the wilderness that we earned a trip through, I’m not sure, but the light is becoming brighter through the trees. If there are enough Ryan’s and Maisie’s (youngest participants) in the Christian family, then God has a solid foundation for the future of His church.”
Thanks CBF for helping bring Dawnings to our church!
God Be With You In The Journey!