I’ve been enriched in the past few weeks by an emerging structure for spiritual formation called Church of Two.
Church of Two – and you can read more about it at the CO2 Blog or Lk10resources.com – provides a rhythm for listening to God and others. It revolves around two spiritual practices: contemplation (listening to God) and transparency (sharing one’s heart at a deep level and listening to others do the same).
In short, two people journey together over the course of a few weeks. They connect to each other daily (sometimes briefly, other times for longer). When they connect they “check in” by sharing the state of their heart with each other (e.g., happy, sad, scared, anxious, excited, etc. or a combination of several). Each person listens to the other with an ear toward how God might be at work in the midst of their feelings and experiences.
This Church of Two also shares about how they have been listening to God and what they’ve been hearing. The other person serves as a partner to help discern whether or not what’s being heard is really coming from God or somewhere else (like one’s own ingenuity or the forces of evil).
Sometimes the Church of Two takes time to sit and listen to God together. The group might take time to listen, for instance, about persisting anxiety in one participant’s life.
Church of Two participants also begin the experience thinking and looking for others with whom they might link up. At the end of the few weeks, they branch out and start the Church of Two experience with others.
I’ve had the privilege of participating in Church of Two with Hobby Chapin, my co-worker Ryan Porche, and Paul McMullen over the last six weeks. Hobby, in particular, has been a mentor to me in listening to God and blogs regularly about his experiences here.
The benefits of Church of Two are immense: it has helped me stay in touch with myself much better; I’m learning to listen to others at a deeper level; I’m learning to listen to God and discern what I’m hearing in times of stillness; I’m learning to have times of stillness – period; it’s a great tool for discernment and decision making; it has helped me to connect to old friends on deeper levels; I’ve seen others, like Micah Lewis, use it as a connecting point for disconnected friends who are searching for God.
More than anything, Church of Two has helped me feel like I am in a real relationship with God because of its inherent reciprocity: I share with God, and God shares with me – just like in any other healthy relationship.
Right now I’m wrestling with several questions about how to integrate the practices of Church of Two into my life and ministry:
- What is the relationship of Church of Two to the spiritual practice of reading Scripture?
- What is the relationship of Church of Two to the spiritual practice of confession?
- What is the relationship of Church of Two to the spiritual practice of petitionary prayer?
- How do we integrate the practices of Church of Two with other structures of spiritual formation in our community – particularly the rhythms of Scripture reading, confession and prayer for the disconnected that takes place in our formation groups?
- Previous question from a different angle: are the Church of Two and Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Group models for spiritual formation mutually exclusive or can they integrate?
- What accountability mechanisms exist for discernment in relation to what people hear when they listen?
- Is Church of Two best suited as a “seasonal” spiritual practice or a regular part of my spiritual diet?
If you want a helpful two-page description of Church of Two, you can find one here.
I’d encourage you to give it a whirl if you’re looking to inject some life into your relationships with God and other people.
Love this concept. I’ve been meeting with Kent and a few others, practicing SASHET, and I find it very beneficial for shapening each another and hearing what God is saying to me. Thanks for opening this up for others.
Charles, your questions resonate with mine as I worked through the process. I appreciate your explanation. The disciplines of listening to one another and listening to the Lord have been powerful–paradigm-changing–for me. In light of my conversations with God, I would say that many of those things you listed are not mutually exclusive from CO2 disciplines, but they are born out of a sense of what the Lord is saying. God loves people more than we do, wants unity more than we do, cares about the mission more than we do, knows how we listen better than we do . . . it seems that if we are really learning to tune into His voice, then he will lead us into intercession, mission, community-formation, confession & repentance, etc.
There may be many of you who have never heard of this and find yourself curious. Let me recommend both Charles and Micah to you. They will do a great job in introducing the rhythms to you. I have found great blessing in walking with both of them in this process. It is a joyful and humbling experience when you start gaining a sense of God’s voice and when you see the fruit of his direction.
We have finding that our LTGs are infusing CO2 concepts right into their time together, specifically over time as they feel the “structure” of the LTG (reading Scripture, confession questions, praying for the lost) becomes more natural and fluid. Also interesting, the younger the Christian, the more natural the CO2 seems to be for the group.
You’re doing great work brother!
Hobby pointed some of us to this post. I love what you’ve written about CO2s! I would like to add a few comments about the excellent questions you are posing at the end.
I attended one of Neil Cole’s first Greenhouse Conferences probably 8-9 years ago. When I heard about the LTG idea from him, I thought it was terrific. It just made sense that there was something smaller than the house church sized group. This was where greater intimacy could occur. And, this was also the key to multiplication. As Neil said, if you can’t multiply a LTG, you probably won’t be able to multiply a house church.
So, I returned to Denver and immediately started a LTG. We multiplied a few times but eventually they all died out. I wasn’t sure why but they just seemed to lack life. I went to another Greenhouse a few years later, got inspired again about LTGs but ended up with the same result. It just seemed like something was missing for me.
About a year ago, the Lord seemed to bring together the missing elements into what we ended up calling “a church of two”. We’ve been experimenting with it ever since and it seems to be standing the test of time.
You raise the question of the relationship between a CO2 and other spiritual disciplines like Scripture reading, confession and petitionary prayer. What we’ve discovered is that these things, along with other things like community and missional living, flow naturally from the focus on listening to the Lord.
Really, what we are trying to do is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who said in Jn. 5:19, “I do nothing on my own initiative. I only do what I see the Father doing.” It’s a staggering idea that Jesus, as the very Son of God, didn’t do anything on His own initiative – didn’t heal anyone, didn’t teach anything, didn’t take any mission trips. (How un- American!) Everything He did and said flowed from an intimate, conversational relationship with His Father.
For us to live this way would mean that were radically committed to the idea that Jesus is more committed to our Scripture reading (and confession and petitionary prayer and missional living, etc.) than we will ever be. And, that if we focus on that intimate, conversational relationship, all of these other things will emerge in a very natural, spontaneous way. And, in fact, we have seen that to be the case.
So, is the CO2 a “seasonal” spiritual discipline or is a regular part of my spiritual diet? Well, “church of two” is just a name but transparency with a few and a focus on listening to God together is the source of my spiritual food. For me, it’s the source or spring from which everything else flows.
By the way, I’ve referred to your blog on CO2s in my blog. You might check it out. Some of the comments are particularly encouraging for seeing how others are experiencing CO2s. http://regionalrevolutionaries.blogspot.com/2010/04/four-generations.html
Thanks again, Charles, for your excellent post! I look forward to hearing more about what you learn as you experiment with CO2s.
Thanks, everyone, for your good comments.
Here’s a hesitation I have about assuming that confession, Bible reading, and participation in mission will flow out of CO2s: what if it doesn’t?
The CO2 model seems to have a pretty high view of humanity: that if we listen, we’ll hear from God…and have the courage and faith to respond accordingly.
How do we factor in our brokenness into the equation?
I’ve sensed in my own participation, for instance, the desire to resist confession because I didn’t want to share it. I was resisting God, really. And because there was no explicit accountability mechanism to hold my feet to the fire, I just let it slide.
I guess I’m concerned about the way my own brokenness has the potential to hijack the experience.
None of this is to say that human brokenness cannot hijack Neil Cole’s LTGs – it certainly can.
But there’s something in me that feels good knowing that people will constantly be attentive to Scripture, confession and mission because they’ve given others the permission to support them in that.
Am I being a control freak or is there something to such intentionality?