We bill Next Steps as an “exploring membership” group at our church, and we devote about eight hours over four weeks to plumbing the depths of what it means to be a Christian, a United Methodist, and a member of Good Shepherd.
This group was especially noteworthy, not only for the kinds of things they said, but for the kinds of people they are.
So here are five observations about Next Steps, January, 2014:
1. We had 50 people — the largest such group ever at this church.
2. Of the 50, 65% were Anglo and 35% non-Anglo — a mixture of African-American, Continental Africa, and Latino.
3. We spend part of that first session asking for first impressions of Good Shepherd — what did you expect when you visited your first Sunday and what did you experience? My favorite answer came from a young mother: “I came against my will and was determined not to like it. A year later, here I am.”
4. One of the group members just came off an assignment as a Bible professor at a Bible college in Nairobi, Kenya. #FeelingThePressureNow
5. During this first meeting, we break into pairs for some get acquainted time (in a room full of 50 virtual strangers, it’s easy to find someone you don’t know). The pairing with the greatest impact on me was a white man from South Africa — with an Afrikaans heritage — speaking with a native of Togo, West Africa. Think about picure, considering especially the turbulent history of South Africa. And I realized, “that’s what we mean when we talk about FULL ON, FULL COLOR.”
Inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ indeed.