The LK10 Mission
The LK10 mission is to join with Jesus in starting and nurturing vibrant families of Jesus (nuclear families, house churches, small groups, etc.). One essential aspect of this work is equipping people to connect with one another on the heart level, which allows people to do what Dr. Jim Wilder calls “build joy”. Joy means being glad to be together no matter what. It is that feeling you get when you are the sparkle in someone’s eye. Building joy together is one of the most important activities we could ever do together because from this foundation flows all maturity and resilience. That is why one of our core values is connecting with one another on this heart level.
One practice that helps us live out that value is “checking in” using SASHET: Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited, Tender. We practice sharing how we are feeling in almost all of our gatherings. From our daily CO2s, to our families gathered around dinner tables, to our weekly small group or simple church meetings, we check in. Even in our leadership meetings, we have found that with a simple check in round, our hearts are connected and we become more relational even through difficult discussions.
By regularly listening and sharing our hearts, friends, couples, households and small groups are given a natural, yet transformational tool that helps them practice many relational skills such as: joy, quiet, appreciation, bonds for two, family bonds and recovering from complex emotions. Here are some of the other benefits of this practice.
We gain the ability to “Weep with those who weep”, and “Rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Romans 12:15. Generally speaking, it’s easier for us to share the joyful things and to rejoice with those who are in a good place. However, when a church of almost any size meets together, it’s inevitable that there will be some who are sad. Some parent is hurting over one of their children. Someone has lost a job. Someone has experienced a death in the family. To live this life is to suffer loss. Dr. Wilder teaches that true joy is being glad to be together even in these more difficult emotions. God intends that the community called “church” is the place where we receive this kind of support.
But, often, church is the one place we have been trained not to weep. Many of us have found it unsafe. We either get unsolicited advice, or we are seen as not trusting God. The reality is that people are scared of the heavier emotions like anger, fear, shame, disgust, sadness, and hopelessness. They become uncomfortable when these emotions are shared and therefore try to fix the other, change them, or shame them into not feeling that way anymore. Interestingly, the only way through these emotions is to know that someone is glad to be with us in them.
When we begin the meeting with SASHET, we find out who is sad, angry or scared this week. Then, we can obey Scripture by listening deeply to them and even weeping with them. This is the very nature of a healthy body. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:26, “If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it.
Walter Brueggemann on embracing the “darkness” of life and the heavier Psalms says, “It’s no wonder that the church has intuitively avoided these psalms (of disorientation). They lead us into dangerous acknowledgement of how life really is. They lead us into the presence of God where everything is not polite and civil… They lead us away from the comfortable religious claims of “modernity” in which everything is managed and controlled… The remarkable thing about Israel is that it did not banish or deny the darkness from its religious enterprise. It embraces the darkness as the very stuff of new life. Indeed, Israel seems to know that new life comes nowhere else.” The Message of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann, p. 53.
Examples of Psalms of disorientation and lament: 13, 22, 30, 35, 74, 79, 86, 88, 137.
Checking in gives the church a simple practice that not only nurtures emotional health, but helps us obey scripture.
We learn how to “Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
Imagine you are going to a small group or a house church for the first time. It can be awkward, especially if you are a little introverted to begin with. What do you talk about? You wonder how this kind of group/church works. What are the “rules”? And, do all of these other people already know each other? It’s easy to feel like an outsider.
By starting the meeting with a “check in”, visitors and regulars are placed on the same footing. The “rules” are very simple. After one or two people share, you can quickly see how it’s done. You can share at any level of vulnerability you are comfortable with so, you feel safe. Checking in moves the whole group beyond the level of “small talk”. It provides an easy starting place for lots of other follow-up conversations. In the course of one meeting, you are part of the community. No longer an “outsider”.
“Hospitality is a fundamental function of the Jewish home. This practice is also central in the Hebraic heritage of the Church. Schooled in a rich rabbinic background, Paul inculcates this teaching in his readers… The term used in rabbinic literature for hospitality is hakhnasat orhim, literally “the bringing in of guests” or “gathering in of travelers.”… The rabbis considered hospitality one of the most important functions of the home… Guests were to be received graciously and cheerfully.” Wilson, Our Father Abraham, p. 219-220.
Hospitality means opening our homes and, perhaps even more importantly, opening of our hearts to guests. Checking in gives us a pathway and safe structure to do just that.
Checking in helps create a true sense of family. In the LK10 Community we talk about a very simple equation that explains a great deal about house church.
Church = family.
While this is easy to say, it is often difficult to implement because our experience of church has often been anything but family. (Hard to experience “family” in a gathering of a thousand people!) We’ve experienced…
Church = meetings
Church = performance
Church = organization
Church = business, or
Church = power structure
But, in the New Testament, church was none of these things. The “called out ones” of Christ were always seen as an extended spiritual family. In Roger Gehring’s very important book, House Church and Mission, we read “… this concept of church as the ‘household of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15) incorporates two aspects: (a) the house or family is the fundamental unit of the church, and (b) the church is a social structure patterned after the household” p. 7.
So, if we understand how healthy families function, it will go a long way towards understanding how healthy NT churches function. Among other things, healthy families are groups of people who are able to connect with one another on a heart level. They are glad to be together no matter what, and they invite others into this fellowship.
Checking in helps me know what part of me is present.
How many times have we gone to church meetings without thinking deeply about where our own hearts are? We arrive task oriented, focused on what we need to do, teach, say. As a result, we end up merely “going through the motions” and engaging only with our more information-focused side of our brain! That causes us to relate on a superficial level. However, when I take time to think through how I am feeling (for example, Sad – Angry – Scared – Happy – Excited – Tender), I become relational with myself and others and can be authentic with my community. I present my “true self” and the result is meaningful relationships with both the community and with God.
Because checking in is so simple (but profound), it has the potential to go viral.
Checking in is so simple that it can be explained in ten minutes, and immediately put into practice.
Over 10 years ago, we sensed the Lord giving us the term “simple church” as a way of explaining small groups or house churches. We discerned the words, “This is a way of doing church that is so simple that any follower of Jesus can say, “I can do that!”
Simple church does not require a seminary education, but it does require relational skills. Interestingly, we acquire these skills to relate well with each other in groups of two or three through meaningful relationship, not through classes, books, sermons, or church services. Chris Coursey, author of Transforming Fellowship, states that “We now live in a time where relational resources are diminishing at a most alarming rate. There is no better time than the present to increase our relational capacity” (p 2). Checking in does just that: increases our relational capacity virally as we practice healthy relating with each other. It’s a concrete expression of the priesthood of all believers (1 Pt. 2:5, 9).
Checking in is a “tool” that makes body life, or Church life simple
Checking in is like baseball. It is simple enough that five year olds can enjoy playing T- ball on their first day. Yet, it is so profound that grown ups can devote their entire lives to mastering its subtleties. This tool is a simple practice to grow our skills of paying attention to our own hearts and the hearts of others. With this tool both adults and children can immediately participate in “checking in”. However, becoming skilled requires both coaching and practice.
Clearly, checking in is not just for adults. In fact, children seem instinctively to want to talk about what is going on in their heart. They also want to know what is going on in the hearts of their parents. Checking in allows young people to feel part of the community of the people of God. It also deepens conversations around the family dinner table and helps families stay emotionally connected with each other.
Neil Cole made this important observation: “Only that which is simple can multiply rapidly.”
That’s exactly what we have seen when checking in with each other. This powerful community-building tool is so simple that, if a person experiences it once, they often begin teaching it to others right away. From what we have witnessed checking in has spread rapidly to the third and fourth generations of relationships. This practice of simply sharing our feelings with each other in a round helps create an environment where relational skills can grow naturally, bringing with it a viral church planting movement.