Wesley Nails The Missional Stuff

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.

Booyah.

Red moon

We say ‘Come Holy Spirit”, He Says ‘Go Holy People’

This is an extract from the book ‘Red Moon Rising‘ by Pete Greig and Dave Roberts. I highly recommend it.


“The church has been gathering to say ‘Come, Holy Spirit,’ and in His grace He has come. But perhaps the tables are turning. Perhaps it is now the Holy Spirit’s turn and He is saying to us, ‘Come, holy people.’ Perhaps the Holy Spirit is waiting for us to attend His meetings in surprising places.

Just as Jesus 2,000 years ago spent His time at parties, engaging with the disreputable and apparently non-religious, so today He seems surprisingly comfortable among the crowds of partygoers, the non-religious pilgrims of our time. Perhaps He longs that we would vacate our buildings from time to time, that we would turn our temples into tabernacles, that we would become like Him, the friend of sinners. We are the light of the world, but no one wants to stare at the bulb. We are the salt of the earth, but a whole plate of the stuff will make you sick. The people of God are called to scatter and mix, to mingle and move, in influence from a position of weakness, like a small child in a large family, like yeast in a loaf, like a mustard seed beneath a pavement.

Could it be that the Holy Spirit is weary of attending our meetings and hungers for our presence at His? Perhaps He’s dreaming up a thousand new meeting places, where new sounds and sights burn the eyes and break the heart! Maybe the time has finally come when it will no longer be possible to encounter the fullness of God in Christian conferences and classic meetings. Maybe this is a new day in which the fullness of God waits us in the streets and clubs and pubs. But will we hear the  Holy Spirit saying, “Come, holy people?”

He waits with Jesus in the darkness until we come, and yet we wonder why maybe He didn’t show up the way we hoped at some of our grand events.

Of course, God will still attend our meetings – Jesus has promised to come whenever we gather in His name. And He is, let’s remember, omnipresent! But perhaps there is a weariness, even a reluctance in His heart, as He gazes back over his shoulder, out the church door, and into the street.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” – Matthew 9:36”

Red Moon Rising

Enjoying Being With People

Well I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this weekend.

Saturday was a beautiful day of rest. Did some gardening, joined in an impromptu prayer meeting (the lively and worshipful kind where God speaks clearly) then we finished the day with a decent evening meeting.

Lunch time
Saturday lunch

As for today, there was a mixup with who was supposed to be leading our morning meeting in the eastern district of Northampton so after half an hour of gutsy and free worship we pulled into a nearby car park and started offering folk free car washes. Others picked litter or swept around the community centre while some knocked on doors to ask if there was anything we could do for them: mow their lawns, get them some swings, whatever.

image

After lunch 10 of us headed off to Peterborough in a minibus to visit the Green Backyard, which I’ve written about before on this blog. Some of us hadn’t been before.

image

Lovely time relaxing with the folk there. We had a little sing-song while René did what he did best: taught willow weaving. While Fred weeded Alan and I got stuck right in to a compost bay turning it all over, Alan just wearing his crocs!

I was bare shattered all throughout the evening meeting but perked up back home at supper time. About 22 of us in the lounge (most but not all of those being residents) celebrated Pat’s birthday with cake & big laughter. I think koinonia is the word: a New Testament Greek word meaning participation in fellowship.

Generally speaking I love this life, living for Jesus is Christian community. Weekends like this one make it extra precious.

Fire

What a great few days

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.

IMG_20140331_172603
Etienne, myself and David

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.

Good fun.

Mark with his double bass
Mark with his double bass

When Churches Die

Interesting.

“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.

How can we burst our community bubble?

Poor Church, Right Place

This is another guest post from a skonkworker, a friend of mine:

It’s estimated Jesus walked up to 20 miles a day to spread the Gospel. He travelled light. He wasn’t looking for earthly possessions.

Jesus was looking for a relationships. Jesus was looking for people. As a church we intend to follow the example of Jesus, sowing the kingdom of God, seed by seed among the people we interact with.

Money seems to bring with it a desire to expand personal space.

The more money the bigger your property. The wealthy generally have more land and property than poor people, and this isolates them from their fellow humans. The houses of the poor and the rich aptly illustrate this:

Property

The same principles seem to apply with the growth of a church. A church that exists primarily in big groups meets in big properties. The risk is that a church with a large turnover, properties and meetings can become distanced from the people it’s trying to reach.

I would rather see twenty poor, small churches that live among the people than one large, impressive and self-sufficient church that serves itself and protects its assets.

Large gatherings are good. Organised voluntary sharing is good. But treat money like manure, of very little use except when it is spread around (Francis Bacon Sr). Let faith and action always rule.

Lets address the balance, not too focused on being a city on a hill that we forget to be scattered salt. Money must never distract or block our connection with people. The church must reposition itself where the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.

Church blueprint

Vision Don’t Kill People, Instructions Do

Back in April 2013 a few of us were sent on a visit to the Woodlands Church communities in Bristol. They have 11 communal houses across Bristol with about 150 people living in community (and growing). We stayed at one of their community houses on the Friday evening and joined them for a whole day conference about community the day after.

They impressed me at how they’ve kept both fresh and focused over the last twenty years. Their focus is on one stable and simply defined vision. From this vision come their practices and principles which have been kept flexible in order to stay true to their vision, their calling. Calling & vision is like the wine for which principles and practices are a wineskin.

Pondering this some more I came up with this list of primary and secondary things in church life:

Primary things
(Must be remembered & protected)
> Secondary things
(Must be kept fresh & flexible to be true to what’s primary)
Identity
Calling
Vision & values
DNA
Relationship
Wine
>
>
>
>
>
>
Activity
Outworking of calling
Practices & principles
Skeleton, structure
Law
Wineskin

Now, in the church it can be tempting for us to insist people follow a blueprint, this seems safer. A blueprint is everything in the right hand list.

However no one gets as inspired about a blueprint as much as a vision. People will sacrifice greatly for a vision but not for a blueprint. James Normal recently said “People will sacrifice a great deal for a pioneering vision; less to maintain a status quo; hardly anything just because they’re told to.” And a vision can grow into so much more than any rigid blueprint.

All these primary things can produce these secondary things, but secondary things can’t produce primary things. Primary things are from God and secondary things are generally more man-made.

Regarding “vision mentality” over “blueprint mentality” Neil Cole commented:

“When we start putting together systems to make sure that future generations obey, what we end up doing is building an institution that conforms people to a pattern. They don’t have their own faith, they’re living off the residue of faith of a previous generation.”

To a degree today’s radical Christian should look different to a radical Christian twenty years ago. Radicality is relative. Same heart, new expressions.

If you’ve got to the end of this article and you’re thinking “yes, but…” or even a “no, because…” write your “yes but” or “no because” in the comments below.