Thursday, 17 December 2009

Shared Values & Shared Hearts

I was talking to someone the other day who is thinking about joining one of the MSCs. Our discussion centred around shared values and a shared heart. You have to share values - for instance the Wanderers group demonstrates a high value on getting out amongst other people, Outnumbered highly value family life - it seems to me that there is an hierarchy of values - some are higher than others.... and you need to agree to walk in these values with others. The Wanderers value family life of course - but it just isn't their defining value. But shared values aren't everything.... you need to share a heart as well. This is much harder to quantify - maybe the person of peace teaching of Jesus helps... if someone is open to us, welcomes us, if we feel a similar welcome and openness in our lives - if we are able to think 'I can do and want to do business with that person' then probably we share the same heart as well as values. But eventually we have to do it to see it - the more time we spend UP & IN & OUT together the more we'll clarify whether indeed we share values and share a heart.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Agreeing to walk together

"Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" Amos 3:3

A little gem of a verse as Amos brings the word of the Lord to and against Israel. Here is God's chosen people - the covenant people who have entered knowingly into covenant... agreed to walk with the Lord. They have instead chosen to try to walk in disagreement - not sensible.

There has got to be buy-in and that is what the Lord calls for in his chosen people.

Here, as we choose our new church name, as we continue in the process of living the vision that I have cast for the church we will increasingly find that the heat is turned up on our commitment. We need to walk in agreement together and where we find ourselves trying to walk in disagreement (a very uncomfortable place to be in) we must seek to address this with integrity, honesty, love and without fear.

There needs to be buy in. It is interesting watching the development of our first MSCs - they are so dependant upon a group of people agreeing that they will walk together - sharing a vision, deciding on a convergence of paths and a making of space for each other. In these agreed walks we will need to find ways in which to break open and apply the scriptures, ways of worship, ways to support and disciple each other all united under a common vision, purpose and missionary task. I think in the first instance we often understimate the challenge of agreeing to walk together. In a fragmented culture we are being counter-cultural to share our lives in the kind of agreement that MSC implies. It is worth persevering because the community we build is an amazing gift to the world around us.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Mission from anywhere to anywhere

We had a great day with Bob and Mary Hopkins recently. They are amazing people in terms of experience and connections meaning they can speak wisely in regard to church planting and mission in these days.
The morning with them consisted of great input about the two realities of christendom and post-christendom both clearly represented in a town like Harrogate and a Diocese like Ripon and Leeds.
There are clearly still ways in which the church functions as a unifying central point - Christ Church on the Stray, St Mark's and St Peter's all function in this kind of way quite effectively. However the other reality is that the church in many ways is off-centre because of the enormous influence of secularisation and pluralism - thus many people won't necessarily be attracted back to the 'christendom churches'. The attractional church has to have 2 main things in place to be successful 1) a good welcome 2) good teaching that relates to everyday life. It is event centred and the challenge is to ensure the event doesn't stop discipleship. Thinkers in this field will also talk about Emerging Church as the church going out in listening mode - out amongst those who don't yet know the Lord. They would also talk about the Engaged Church which is somewhere between attractional church and emerging church. I think increasingly larger churches are seeking to be engaged churches - making the most of attractional opportunities but seeking to go out and engage. At a church I recently preached at I felt the Lord giving me a phrase that describes something of this engaged model: "Build at the centre, release at the edges". It certainly seems to me that the chief leadership skill that is necessary in these days is that of 'release' - not command and control but rather an 'authoritative and confident release' of disciples.
I guess St Mary's is emerging and engaged because of this extraordinary thing that we are doing taking a parish church into network I am finding working out which style of leadership to use at particular times is quite difficult and also that being released for many is quite scary because this hasn't been how many people have been led before. We still do elements of attractional church. For instance this Christmas we are holding a contemporary crib service and a candle-lit carol service on Christmas eve but seeking to make these relationally focussed with personal invitation as the key method of advertising. The candle-lit carol service is part of the 9am Holy Communion service - a community in its own right doing something that is OUTward in its approach. Outnumbered MSC have been expressing their main OUT as Messy Church so this Saturday (12th Dec 2009) they are doing Messy Christmas. We will have a family communion service on Christmas Day.
A memorable phrase that Bob and Mary used was "mission from anywhere to anywhere" - that is worth thinking about... we so often define our starting points which then has a controlling influence on the rest of the journey. To be given over to the mission of God is to be a bit more flexible and open - anywhere is fair game as a starting point just as long as the starting point is where the Spirit is at work already.... then it could lead anywhere - what an adventure!