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There was a time when Christianity was at the center of society. When most people grew up attending church. When Christians held influence in the public square and were viewed as credible in culture. When America was still thought of as a "Christian nation." Not so anymore.
We live in post-Christian context. And while Christians could bemoan this reality, it's not all bad news. The end of the Christian America dream is the beginning of a new opportunity. A chance for following Jesus to not be defined by heritage, by politics, or by cultural convenience. An opportunity for the church to be an authentic light, a countercultural example, a curious and winsome presence in a broken world.
But it won't be easy. The way forward is unfamiliar (to us at least). And there are risks involved. In this Q Society Room experience, your group will be challenged to explore the dynamics of a post-Christian culture and imagine our mission in a new context.
ENGAGING POST-CHRISTIAN CULTURE WELCOME
WELCOME TO THE SOCIETY ROOM
Q Society Room studies are a new, yet historic way to consider issues of faith and culture in the context of a group learning environment. The Society Rooms of the late 1600s and the Clapham Circle of the early 1800s are riveting examples of small gatherings of leaders that would convene, dialogue, learn, and work together to renew their culture. Consider the impact of these early Society Rooms:
In 1673 Dr. Anthony Horneck, a Church of England minister in London, preached a number of what he called "awakening sermons." As a result several young men began to meet together weekly in order to build up one another in the Christian faith. They gathered in small groups at certain fixed locations and their places of meeting became known as Society Rooms. In these gatherings they read the Bible, studied religious books and prayed; they also went out among the poor to relieve want at their own expense and to show kindness to all. By 1730 nearly one hundred of these Societies existed in London, and others-perhaps another hundred-were to be found in cities and towns throughout England. The Societies movement became, in many senses, the cradle of the Revival ..." (Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol. 1, Crossway, 1990, pp. 28-29)
Following this historical example, this group study is designed to renew your minds as leaders so that you can make a difference in society. Society Room communities like yours are characterized by a commitment to put learning into action. And no doubt, over the course of the next few weeks, your innermost beliefs and preconceived ideas about life, faith, the world, and your cultural responsibility will be challenged. But that's the point.
Here's how it works. Your group will gather five times to discuss important topics related to the overall theme of this study. Sometimes you'll be given something to do or read before your group gathers. It's important for you to take these "assignments" seriously. They won't demand much time, but they will require intentionality. Doing these things ahead of time will cultivate a richer and more stimulating group experience as you begin to practice what you are learning.
For each group gathering, set aside about one hour and fifteen minutes for the discussion in a place with minimal distractions. Your group may want to share a meal together first, but be sure to allow enough time for unhurried dialogue to take place. Sometimes you'll watch a short video. But conversation and dialogue will always be the priority. The leader of the group will not teach or lecture, but instead will ask questions, facilitate conversation, and seek input from everyone. Be prepared to ask good questions and share your own thoughts. Sometimes you'll even debate an issue by taking sides and thinking through all the complexities. The goal of each gathering is for your group to be stimulated by a particular idea and learn together as you discuss its impact on your faith, your lives, and culture in general. Your group may not arrive at a consensus regarding any given topic. That's okay. Be respectful of others, even when you disagree with them. We can learn something from everyone.
Before your fifth gathering, you will undertake a group project together. You may be tempted to skip this. Don't! Your group project might be the most important part of your experience. Genuine learning as a community takes place when you engage the ideas you are discussing and do something together as a group.
In the end, be committed to this group and the learning process that is about to ensue. Your willingness to prepare for group gatherings, keep an open mind, and demonstrate eagerness to learn together will pave the way for a great experience.
YOUR PLACE IN CULTURE
At the beginning of your first gathering, spend about fifteen minutes introducing yourselves to one another and discussing your channel of cultural influence.
There are several different social institutions that touch every person in a given society. These areas of influence contain most of the industries and organizations that consistently shape our culture. They touch every aspect of our lives, and most of us find our vocational roles in one or more of these areas. They are the seven channels of cultural influence.
As you begin your Society Room experience, you'll notice that most, if not all, of these channels are represented in your group. Start your first gathering by sharing which particular channel of influence you participate in. Give the rest of the group a sense of how your channel contributes to shaping society in general. Then, throughout the rest of the group experience, reflect on how your learning will affect the channel to which you've been called.
As part of this Q Society Room, we convened leaders from various channels of culture to discuss these important topics. Throughout the study, you will be introduced to their thoughts and ideas in hopes of stirring your conversation and dialogue.
Gabe Lyons Q Founder & Author
Gabe Lyons is the author of The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America and the creator of Q - a learning community that educates Christians on their responsibility and opportunities to renew culture. Lyons coauthored UnChristian, a bestselling book that reveals exclusive research on pop culture's negative perception of Christians. Gabe, his wife Rebekah, and their three children reside in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dave Gibbons Pastor & Social Entrepreneur
Dave is the founding pastor of NewSong, a multi-site international third-culture church. He is an innovative strategist and cultural specialist with global experience in the arts, business, church, and community development. Dave is on the board of World Vision US and founder and chief visionary officer of Xealot, a strategic innovations group, creatively connecting resources to leaders around the world.
Shane Hipps Technology & Faith Author
Shane is Lead Pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church. Before accepting his call as a pastor, he was a strategic planner in advertising where he worked on the multimillion-dollar communications plan for Porsche. It was here that he gained expertise in understanding media and culture. Shane is the author of Flickering Pixels and The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, The Gospel, and Church.
Debra Hirsch Writer & Cultural Observer
Debra is an Aussie living in America. She is a minister at the Tribe of L.A., an eclectic bunch of missional artists and vagabonds who meet in downtown Los Angeles. She also serves on the leadership team of Christian Associates International, a church-planting agency into three continents.
Darren Whitehead Pastor, Chicago
Darren currently serves as a Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. He also leads the Next Gen Ministries and the Creative Arts departments. Prior to Willow Creek, Darren served as Teaching Pastor and Director of Student Ministries at The People's Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Excerpted from Engaging Post-Christian Culture Participant's Guide by Norton Herbst Gabe Lyons Copyright © 2010 by Q. Excerpted by permission.
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