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What does it mean to be a “centred set” church?

An old story goes that a visitor to an Australian ranch noticed the lack of fences. He asked the rancher how he kept his cattle from wandering away. The rancher replied, “Oh, that’s no problem. Out here we dig wells instead of building fences.”

In a “bounded set” community, fences are built to protect the purity of the herd, to distinguish insiders from outsiders. But in a centred set community there are no insiders or outsiders, and the only fence that exists is built about the well to protect the purity of its water.

The Well is a church centred around what we believe to be the only well of living water: Jesus Christ himself. As a centred set community, we believe that if we provide the water, people will naturally be drawn to drink it. Some will taste it once and decide it’s not for them; others will find it sweet, and return to drink again and again. At The Well it is our shared love for the water of life that keeps us together as a community — not race, religion, gender, social status, or any other fencing system.

What does all this mean for you?

It means that everyone — regardless of race or religion — is welcome to come and taste and see, without money and without cost. Don’t worry! — we do not call attention to our visitors. Feel free to drop in quietly. Sit in the back. Observe. Listen. Participate if you are able. We will not try to convert you or fence you in; the truth is, we can’t! All we can do is pass you a cup of water and hope you find it as life-giving as we do.

Really, we’re in the business of providing water for thirsty travellers. But that means digging wells.

So what do we mean by “digging wells”?

For us, the water of life is Jesus Christ himself. And we believe that the best way to meet him is through the ancient collection of writings now called the Bible. The bible describes the history of the cosmos, and shows how human beings fit into that history. Even more importantly, it reveals how God had a plan from the very beginning to enter into human history by taking on a human body and living a human life: the man we came to know as Jesus Christ. Through a story of epic grandeur — that took thousands of years to write down — Jesus’ divine life was poured out upon the earth and made available to every thirsty traveller who stops for a drink. The promise is that one day his spirit will permeate everything and make all things new: not just human beings but all of creation. We believe that thirsty travellers can drink of Jesus’ divine life by reading the bible and letting its spirit renew them little by little.

So when we talk about “digging wells”, what we mean is “opening the bible every week and doing our best to make sure everyone gets to meet Jesus there”. Every Sunday, we gather together to hear God’s voice speak life to us from the pages of Christian scripture. Because these writings are so old, sometimes it takes a bit of explaining before the original writer’s intent becomes clear. But once it is made clear, we have found that the wisdom of the ancients is just as relevant now as it was when it was written! We have found that when the bible is the well at the centre of our church, each individual, each family that drinks regularly from it soon learns how to dig wells of their own.

Absolutely everyone — no matter who you are or what you have done — may come and drink for free. But just because the water is free doesn’t mean it is low quality! As a church, we want to offer you the purest, the freshest drink of spiritual water you have ever tasted — which is why we have been careful to build a fence around the well itself, to protect it. This means we are very selective about who we ask to explain the bible’s meaning to us every Sunday. Just as a dedicated coffeeshop employs only the best baristas to prepare their products, we do our best to ensure that our preachers know how to point us to life in Jesus Christ.

We like to say we are a Slow Church, a Small Church, a Simple Church…but Still a Church. That’s because we believe well-digging must be done SLOWLY and SIMPLY if we are to keep from muddying the waters. We believe that a community gathered around a well should be SMALL to keep from exhausting the water — or the the travellers trying to get to it. And we believe that, if still waters run deep, then the deepest, sweetest, most life-giving waters run STILL.

Slow Church: we live in a world that values speed, and quick results. Unfortunately, haste makes waste, and speed often destroys our chance to build deep relationships with one another and with God. When you join us for worship, you will notice that our service moves at a leisurely, contemplative pace. You will notice our lack of electronic media, our focus instead on things that can be touched and talked about face to face. We are not trying to create some kind of high-energy worship experience — rather, we want to provide you with a space to pause, to reflect, to rest from the hectic pace of urban life. We want to give you the opportunity to savour the sweetness of the living water. As one wise modern philosopher put it, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Small Church: we live in a world that believes Bigger is Better, that often uses numbers as a primary measure of Success. The bible defines success a little differently: “Dear friends…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1John 4:12).” But how can we love one another if our church is too big for us to even know one another’s names? Modern science agrees: anthropological studies all over the globe have shown that the optimum size for a local human community is about 120 to 150 people. Once a community grows larger than 150 it becomes increasingly difficult for everyone to build close relationships with everyone else. People start to fall through the cracks, and a new level of organizational complexity is introduced. We are committed to resisting that growth for as long as possible! — and once we do grow beyond 150 members, we are committed to drilling a new well in KL, and planting a new church around it.

Simple Church: because our modern society believes success means Bigger! Better! Faster! More! our modern world also requires ever more extreme levels of complexity just to keep everything growing and going. Some things have to be complicated! — like computer chips and sewage recycling systems. Church, however, should not be. Our commitment to move Slowly and keep things Small means we can also keep things Simple, personal, and understandable. When you worship with us, you will see this value at work from beginning to end: from the simplicity of our sanctuary to the structure of our worship. Every week we provide a printed worship guide (also available online) that outlines and explains everything we do. That way, whether it is your first or your thousandth time to worship with us, we are all on the same page, drinking from the same well.

Still Church: Kuala Lumpur is a progressive, forward-looking city, an exciting place! But amid the excitement many of us struggle with a sense of physical, emotional, spiritual displacement, a sense that we live lives cut off from the deep things of the past. This is why our church is committed to being a Still Church, and Still a Church. We do want to provide a place of stillness and rest, but above all we want that stillness to be rooted in the deepest traditions of the Christian faith. When you join us in worship, you will see that our service is a blending of ancient patterns with modern means of expression. We sing songs that were written yesterday — and songs that have been sung by Christians for two thousand years. We recite creeds that have been translated into every language on earth. We believe these practices help keep us connected with those who came before and those who will come after — and so we believe these practices help connect us more deeply to our present. 

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