Four years of study had come down to this moment. After months of sleepless nights and RSI in her wrist as a constant reminder of those countless hours in front of a computer, my sister Sally put the finishing touches on her university major work.
Her project was titled h3o. A state-of-the-art learning space for secondary schools, promoting high level engagement for learning by fusing together the key aspects of engagement – heads on, hearts on and hands on.
This tapped into educational research emphasising the key elements that engage people in learning. Not just the mind, but the emotions and actions too. We have long known that people learn differently and are stimulated by different prompts and media. He learns by getting his hands dirty and just doing it. She learns by reading about it first. This person seems to pick things up if you just tell them whereas that person needs to be shown step by step. Writers also talk about us each having our preferred love languages – how we most experience being loved. This makes sense when we acknowledge that we are each uniquely created by an awesome Creator God. But it was interesting that the research into learning recognised that people don’t learn by doing something active such as clicking a page or completing a homework exercise. People need to know why, and want to get engaged – hence, the heads and hearts matter as well as the hands – that is, the whole person.
When we were reflecting on this concept as a family, I said ‘h3o- what a great name for a church that would be’. It was a reminder to me that, as Christians, we need to be engaged with God and His world as a whole person, with every facet of our being. Little did I know that within a few days the journey of planting H3O Church would begin.
Names are important. As with stories, names help to create a sense of identity and define who we are. We see H3O as a name that suitably reflects our desire as a church to have our heads on, hearts on and hands on when it comes to connecting with God, His mission and the people and world that He has created.
We also see that this is something Jesus encouraged for his followers. In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus says the greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’. This quote challenges us against a compartmentalised faith; or one that is restricted to emotion, or service or thought; but instead, one that engages all of our capacities that God has provided us with as humans.
Our name, H3O Church, is a constant challenge and reminder that we aspire to live out what Jesus commands in Mark 12:30-31 in the context of His mission to His world. The challenge is to have heads on, hearts on, and hands on not just for the one hour on a Sunday, but in our workplaces, schools, universities, families and the wider community.
We see our role as a church to empower and equip followers of Jesus to participate wholly in God’s mission. This leaves us with a pretty simple church model where we try to incorporate our head, heart and hands into our Sunday gathering, but also as we participate in mission, community and discipleship throughout the week.
What struck me this week when thinking about it was the number of people in our small church who are living out a holistic faith, day in, day out. Each week I hear stories of people who are wrestling with what it means to be a missionary in their workplace, family and sub-cultures. Alongside this, we have people who serve in the local soup kitchen, oversee Christian Surfers, are chaplains in a local High School and University, run community barbeques, connect with local care organisations, are involved with the surf club, all of whom are intentionally taking on the challenge to live a holistic faith.
What excites me is that this is such a small taste of what God has in store for our community as we continue to learn what it means to live a holistic faith with our head, heart and hands. Dennis Hollinger writes, ‘What is needed in our time (as is true for all times) is a whole faith, for the whole person. Thought, passion and action need to be present in our lives and in the lives of any church or movement’. With the church moving further to the margins of society, the challenge to live heads on, hearts on and hands on becomes even greater but ever more needed.