I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions. John Wesley
I read this quote of John Wesley last night and I love it. It expresses my heart & vision in such a simple, holistically rounded and theologically rooted way. He sounds like a postmodern missiological church planter, but of the rooted kind.
What does all this mean for us? In brief: If we’re to see the fresh expressions of community which we need in order to engage our people and to speak to today’s society we need to start with a renewed vision of Jesus, for him to fill our hearts in a new way. There’s no other foundation, no other cornerstone, no other starting point. Both mission and community are born from the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not our mere intentions or man-made idea-buck-upping.
As we look at new expressions of community and new mission outings and opportunities let’s make sure we don’t stifle the move of the Holy Spirit with the inflexible wineskins of our own agendas, of our own efforts. Let’s be ready to drop it all as He leads, valuing the direction of his Spirit over every other safety and comfort.
The strapline of this blog is “Where are we going? Who cares; let’s go”. I didn’t mean it to covey directional ambiguity, although that is inevitable sometimes, I meant that to convey adventure and the unity of heart I’ve found with guys as we’ve started to explore an unknown future, led by a known Holy Spirit.
A friend of ours from Switzerland, Etienne, stayed with us for nine months last year. Recently he asked if he could visit us with a friend for a few days. He said he’d told his friend all about us and he was interested in our community and way of life. Eti and David are typical Swiss teenagers: they’re loud and bouncy, ultra young in bearing, dress funnily and they’re very affectionate.
I picked them up from Luton airport a day early on Saturday morning, which was brilliant because it meant they were around that evening for our impromptu bonfire and sing-song. Here’s a video:
On Sunday I promised them I’d take them for a tour of our community houses and businesses so we trundled off to eight locations around us, including a couple of Farms, Cornhill (formerly a grand hotel) and our Food Distribution Centre. They’re a right handful but it was simply a joy to show them around community, to talk about stuff like the kingdom, baptism, dating, that sort of thing.
They turned up at my office at 4:45 on Monday asking if there was anyone going to London who could take them: they wanted to see the capital of Europe. I’ve heard the Swiss are typically a punctual and people lot so if these two were anything to go by the nation’s in serious decline! I made a few calls and got them a lift with our folk from Acton.
It was such a shame to see them go but the last 20 minutes we spent together were quite precious. David left me with something I won’t forget when he said “We love you because you are real. Many other christians we see seem to be really God for Jesus but it’s just nothing.”
Many social commentators say the things the Millennial Generation most crave are community and authenticity because they’re the self-made social network generation and the most advertised-to generation (hence the longing for authenticity rather than razzmataz). I’d say that’s true. Millennials are also often afraid to commit too but that’s another subject.
The final thing that topped it off the great few days was last night when Mark brought his new toy, a double bass, to our Tuesday evening house-meeting. He’s the sort of guy who can 1) get hold of pretty much anything from a friend of a friend really cheaply and 2) pick up any instrument and vaguely learn it within an hour.
“My people in particular, when they tap into giving their lives away… their lives are transformed.”
These people are more interested in being fruitful than in maintaining what’s good, what’s worked in the past.
I’ve heard it said that people will sacrifice a great deal for a pioneering vision, less to maintain the status quo and hardly anything just because they’re told to.
Gospel events have typically been the go-to method churches have used to attempt to engage culture with the gospel. While I wholeheartedly believe in the power of gathered people I firmly believe both the increasing secularisation of society and the eagerness of younger generations to engage with church building demand that we start to engage culture primarily through our lives, not primarily through an event.
Christian community must be among the people. Missional community, not just community that goes on missions to invite people to an event.
What would it look like if every one of our church communities either relocated or worked in partnership with a small house embedded in the fabric of a broken neighbourhood?
Like the seed that falls into the earth, dies, then sprouts and grows a lot of grain maybe we can see a neighbourhood as soil ready for us to plant ourselves there to die, become hidden in its mess and eventually grow up to transform it from the inside.
“At the start of a community, God’s action can often be felt very tangibly – in the gift of a house or money, the arrival of the right person at the right time, or other external signs. Because of its poverty, the community is completely dependant on Him. It calls and He responds. It is faithful in prayer. It lives in insecurity, it welcomes whoever knocks on the door, it shares what it has with the poor, and tries to take all its decisions in the light of God. In these early days, it is often misunderstood by society. People judge it as utopian or quite simply crazy; to a degree, it is persecuted.
Then with time, people see that this crazy project is working; they discover its values and its radiance. The community is no longer persecuted; it is admired and becomes renowned. It has friends which meet its needs. Gradually, it becomes rich. It begins to make judgements. It becomes powerful.
Then there is danger. The community is no longer poor and humble; it is self-satisfied. It no longer turns to God as it did before; it no longer begs His help. Strong in its own experience, it knows how to go about things. It no longer takes decisions in the light of God; prayer becomes tepid. It closes its doors to the poor and to the living God. It becomes proud. It needs to be jolted and to go through some serious trials if it is to refind its child-like quality and its dependence on God.“
On Saturday we had one of our community weekends. On usual community weekends those of us who live in my shared Christian community house invite a few friends over to stay and we spend the weekend doing stuff together as a church family- countryside walks, big breakfasts, bonfires, that sort of thing.
This weekend, however, we decided to do something together to build community outside of the walls of our shared house. We asked everyone who’s part of our house church (but not living in the house, sorry if that’s confusing!) if we could help them out for the day, do some work at their houses.
After juggling around places, vehicles and people we ended up mowing lawns, cleaning out houses and sheds, digging flowerbeds and cleaning ponds. All good fun.
Then came the main event on Sunday afternoon. Josh has been coming around to Anthem for about three months and has come alive in his faith in Jesus, it’s pretty amazing and refreshing to see. Naturally he wanted to be baptised.
As our Sunday evening meeting didn’t have any space for baptisms we crowded along the banks of a local river, just downstream from a water mill, to join in the celebrations.
About 120 of us turned up, at a guess. It was a beautiful time, even in spite of the rain.
We initially decided to get a flock of chickens as they’re excellent at clearing ground. We have been battling invasive weeds in our veg patch with weed killer and a strimmer since we moved in two years ago to no avail.
I designed and built my own hen coop which you can download if you have Sketchup.