BCOC Co-Op By: Tim Mann

Hey there BCOC. This blog post comes from our very own Tim Mann. Tim, Val, and I (Taylor) have been working together in creating a new opportunity for folks at Covenant. It’s called a Co-Op. If you find yourself interested, feel free to reach out to Tim, Val, or myself!

Throughout the four Gospels are stories of Jesus’ encounters with people. Jesus called, he healed, he listened to, he spent time with, he fed, he prayed for, he questioned, he shared, he taught, he wept, he gave, he welcomed, he loved.  He did these with people of all walks of life–the poor, the powerful, the disabled, the despised, the learned, the young, the old, the outcasts, the successful, the unwelcomed, the religious, the wealthy, the sinful. We read about these interactions, and we’re stirred by their realness, complexity, and mystery.

What is easy to not pay attention to is the fact that in addition to all of these personal encounters, there were many people with whom Jesus had no personal dealings with whatsoever, or at least, there are no detailed accounts of such in scripture.  In fact, it seems that the vast majority of people in the gospel stories were observers, onlookers, or just individuals among the masses. We don’t know their names or any specific details. We just read that they were part of the “crowds” that often gathered around Jesus.

What might this perspective teach us?  Is it possible that it is these people who are part of the “crowds” that we are called to encounter?

A year ago, during some college-tour visits for our rising high school senior, our family met with many university faculty members.  During these enlightening conversations, the professors often described a particular opportunity that each of their schools offered. It is called a Co-Op. It is generally explained as an on-campus/off-campus schedule of learning in the classroom and then implementing in the field with a business or organization in the student’s particular field of study.

As I listened and reflected, the model and strategy of the Co-Op had me thinking about the local church. It got me wondering a sort of “what if”.  As in “what if” the Co-Op model was an idea that could be incorporated into the church in some way?  My thinking was that the Co-Op could be an additional opportunity for persons to live out their faith.

My initial thoughts were something like this.  We figure out a plan where we put folks in sort of discipleship classes for a year or two. The focus would be on spiritual practices, fresh approaches to scripture, listening to the Spirit, strategic thinking, gift/talents inventory, community/fellowship, practicing forgiveness, and other items.  After a period of time, each person then goes on a Co-Op. The person then comes back for more discipleship classes following their Co-Op stint. The cycle repeats itself. Another option would be for the Co-Oper to simultaneously be a part of the discipleship class and his/her Co-Op.

Who defines what the Co-Op looks like?  The person doing it. It would be entrepreneurial . . . organic.  Their original idea originates from their relationship with God through Christ. The church doesn’t define their Co-Op unless they would like help in doing so.  For some, their Co-Op might be hanging out at a local coffee shop, getting a part-time job as a barista, beginning a spiritual seekers discussion group, coaching a ball team, mentoring a young person, volunteering at a non-profit . . . or, just seeing their job in a different light–from job to more of being the light and love of Jesus.

For others, it might be teaching children in Sunday School on Sunday mornings or singing in the choir.  For others, they mow their neighbor’s yard or buy groceries for a shut-in. Or, lead a grass-roots feed the hungry movement. Or, join a running group.  Or, teach a bible study. Or, join a community theater. Or, write encouragement notes. Or, befriend the friendless. Or, start a supper club. Or, join an ultimate frisbee league.  Or, author a book. Whatever one feels led to do; however one feels led to serve, do it all in the name of Jesus and with a more deliberate approach out of a place of faithful living, faithful following.

The Co-Opers still gather weekly at their local church for worship,.  During the SS hour, they may participate in their Co-Op, or gather in a discipleship class of other Co-opers for encouragement, prayer, training, scripture reflection, sharing, etc.

A foundational perspective of this Co-Op is that because it comes from within the individual’s own spirit, he or she is most likely to have a deep sense of calling.  The belief is that the Co-Op model would be another expression of the church’s mission to bring about transformational outcomes through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The Co-Op must find its source in Love. God’s love. The love of Christ. The love of Jesus.  

A Co-oper is in the discipleship class for as long as he/she needs to be. Each class would be led by teachers/mentors/advisors. It’s a time to shore up spiritual practices and disciplines. It’s also time to work on one’s Co-Op calling and plan—to find where one’s passions meets the world’s needs as revealed to them (in the words of Frederick Buechner).  It is key that one’s Co-Op is connected to one’s own faith. It’s sort of taking BCOC’s statement “Where Faith Comes to Life” and giving it legs in a different way.

On August 12, 19, and 26, a Co-op 101 (information class to learn more) will be offered. Pray about joining a small group of us who feel a stirring to explore where our faith is coming to life – or may need to.

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