By Cameron Silsbee 

Begin with prayer

Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other. Have one person read Matthew 11v6 over the group and then pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together. 

Debrief the teaching

  1. Have you ever experienced the Holy Spirit providing instantaneous spiritual formation in an area of your life? If so, what happened?
  2. In this season of your apprenticeship, which spiritual discipline is most impactful for your spiritual formation?

Read this overview

It can be easy to romanticize the early church. The small, rag-tag group of counter-cultural Christians can seem like a completely different reality than 21st-century America. That humble sincerity seems to have been replaced by vitriolic political, socioeconomic, and theological pettiness. It can even be easy to look around at our own Van City Community and think, “this doesn’t seem anything like what I imagine the early church looked like.”

But it is inaccurate to imagine the early church as some idyllic, utopian alternate society where everyone got along and was concretely unified on Jesus. However, if that were the case, we would have only a fraction of the New Testament. Most of the letters addressed problems in the early church.

Take a minute right here and have people in the group volunteer to read the following passages: Galatians 2v11-13, Philippians 4v2-3, and Acts 16v36-41.

Part of spiritual formation through Community comes from learning to address the dysfunctional, harmful, and sinful parts of Community rather than avoiding, ignoring, or wallowing in silent bitterness. Not everything can be fixed, and sometimes what we need to learn is to accept the limitations and brokenness of Community and people in a fallen world. It takes wisdom, experience, and God’s Spirit to know what to address and what not to address and to do it well. And yet, we can only tap into this formative power of the Spirit by partnering with him – we have to give it a shot again and again.

Do this Practice right now

Spend time working through the following guide together. Have one person right down what’s shared in each of these sections. These notes will be shared with the whole group for this week’s Practice. 

There’s no need to rush these questions. If you can’t work through them all tonight, you’ll have the space to revisit them next week.

After asking each question, give a moment for people to think about their response. 

  • Think about the various aspects of your Community (Discipleship, Family, Mission, rhythms, meals, etc.). What does your Community already do that you hope continues into the next year together?
  • In what ways do you appreciate your community as a whole?
  • Finish this sentence: “If my Community could do one thing differently, it would be ____________.”
  • Spend a moment thinking about something you appreciate about a particular person in your Community. It could be their actions, attitude, a specific thing they do, etc. After a moment of thinking about it, go around the group and share what came to mind.
  • The commitment to show up and participate in Community and at the Sunday Gathering is a vital aspect of a Van City Community and part of each person’s spiritual formation. Go around the group and allow each person to share about how they’re feeling when it comes to showing up and participating. (e.g., “I feel like I’m in a good season,” or “It seems like our family has been sick a lot, and it’s discouraging,” or “I’m feeling conflicted about showing. Sometimes I want to, and sometimes I don’t.”)
  • Is each of the roles of a Van City Community filled right now? The roles are Community leader, Prayer lead, Mission lead, and Communication lead. 
    • If not, could it be helpful to fill those roles? Is anyone interested and willing to fill a role?
    • For the people who are filling those roles, have each one share with the group how they’re feeling about being in the role.
  • End this exercise by spending some time praying over the group for the coming year. Feel free to share anything you feel could be from the Spirit during the time praying together.

Talk over this coming week’s Practice

This week, set aside time to reflect on pray on the conversation you had with your Community. Have the person who took notes on the conversation send out those notes to the whole group. The conversation that just took place can be something that sparks ongoing discussion about Community in the weeks and months ahead. 

As you reflect on pray over the conversation, notice any other ideas, thoughts, or responses you have to the conversation. Jot them down if it will help you to remember them. 

Set aside time as a Community next week to follow up with the group about any additional thoughts or ideas that came to mind. This can also be an ongoing discussion via your Community text thread/Slack channel/email thread. As a group, consider any changes or things to implement for the group out of this Practice. 

Close in prayer

End in prayer be having one person read the Nicene Creed over the group.

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.

God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.