Wednesday, July 02, 2008

a shifting mission?

Currently, three evenings a week, smaller gatherings occur at Opawa. They provide a snapshot of our changing mission

: Tuesday is espresso, a conversational congregation. Over the last few years, it has provided a place for those inside and outside Christian faith to talk, argue, learn, laugh.

: how to read the Bible is a 8 week block course on a Wednesday, that includes a number seeking faith and wanting to consider the place of the Bible.

: Sense making faith is on a Thursday and has a different set of participants, who bring with them existing spiritual experiences outside of organised religion.

It is fascinating to realise how mission has shifted for us as a church: away from Sunday attractional services to smaller, more relational groups. Each group has a different interest, funds a different type of conversation, engages with a different way of spiritually searching – questioning place, thinking place, experiencing place.

In saying this I do not want to advance an Incarnational VS Attractional divide. Sunday remains important because it is our most visible place and people often start there.

The image I use is of a physical presence. Most businesses have shops, most clubs have clubrooms, most cafes have seats. Without these, you would struggle to find them. So mission as the funding spiritual search needs a place in which people can “land.” But what is key for us is the development of multiple spaces, so that when people “land,” they are not offered a one size fits all, but a variety of ways to continue their search.

Posted by steve at 10:55 AM


  1. presumably, these many groups that begin as new people arrive and need a different place to land and express their search, also sometimes have endings ? i am interested to now how you manage those and still keep them part of the story of who you are over the longer term ?

    Comment by julie — July 3, 2008 @ 5:54 am

  2. i have no idea julie. i don’t really make long term plans. we are always evaluating, wondering what’s next. but our ideas can only be formed around the energy of those gathered.

    i don’t define sucess as “longterm” life. instead i prefer to think of seasons and the need to be faithful in particular seasons. if we are a way station, i am relaxed.


    Comment by steve — July 3, 2008 @ 9:01 am

  3. me too – but sometimes it is important to remember seasons past – not as a measure of success, but as a way of tracing patterns of spirit movement in retrospect that become important stories we celebrate – our little stories in God’s big story – it seems important to keep track of those – one of the things i think we do poorly in the church is know when to bring things to an end, how to finish well, to celebrate the the deaths that become new beginnings – it sounds like you do that well, so i was just wondering how you managed it that’s all

    Comment by julie — July 3, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  4. it seems strange talking about endings when somethings have only just bcgun.

    wed and thurs are 8 week courses with a final week for evaluation and for asking what’s next. we often throw ideas into the pot and depending on what the groups want.

    eg how to read nt might lead to a monastic study room tied to our lectionary readings eg sense making faith might lead to a regular gathering around senses. we will see

    espresso is a congregation and we evaluate it each year at it’s birthday.

    evaluation is simply asking what is going well, what could be better and letting people talk. if it’s a safe place, which is what we hope they all are, then it should lead to an honest group decision.


    Comment by steve — July 3, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  5. i feel like i need to restate that the point of this post is simply to note a change in mission life and to ponder on the significance of that cf ways church es might have done mission in the past.

    i am simply excited that we are part of such a diverse life,


    Comment by steve — July 3, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

  6. i think it is really exciting – i love that you hold everything so loosely and are happy and relaxed around the managing and the moving on – i can imagine that people feel very comfortable about that kind of inclusive, easy going attitude – it is quite inspiring actually to hear about situations where being missional in focus does actually change structures within churches – thanks for your responses steve,


    Comment by julie — July 4, 2008 @ 3:37 am

  7. How did these groups start? Were they a response to people’s needs or someone within your congregation wanting to reach out while staying within a known environment?

    Comment by Mark — July 5, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  8. each is different Mark. each is a story in their own right.

    i teach a course on this, missional church leadership, 10 gatherings with leaders – in other words, it is hard to explain in one blog post. however, Luke 10 is pretty key, i seek to be a listener, seeking to discern what God is doing and creating next steps in partnership with people.

    so it is both “reaching out” and meeting people’s needs; yet it is not reaching out nor meeting people’s needs cos both of those are ways that modernity reduces the church.


    Comment by steve — July 5, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  9. Many thanks Steve for these reflections which I found helpful reflecting on trying to insist on not doing everything for ever – because we did it last year doesn’t mean we have to it next year.
    much of the life of the church is taking place in other groups and many of those people are not there on a sunday
    the image of offering people multiple spaces fits in with some thinking in France on this – Paul Keller has done some work on “espaces multiples” I think – don’t know where that book is anymore…

    Comment by jane — July 10, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  10. Steve
    Mission does shift – and sometimes each new person causes a ministry to be ‘reshaped’ to fit new needs. I guess the challenge is knowing how far one can stretch before the purpose of a ministry is fundamentally changed and no longer meets the transformational needs of the original group.

    I also like your point about ‘reaching out’ etc. I noted this at which raises some interesting points about being incarnational.

    Comment by Nigel — July 13, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

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