Friday, May 22, 2009

missionary order of voluntary local community ministry bridge builders

On Wednesday evening, I shared with the church about the development of bridge builders in our midst at Opawa. It is one of those “I have no idea where this is going, but I do wonder if God is up to something” moments in the life of Opawa Church.

Picture person A. who comes to see me, with a real heart for the community, who is in a business in which all staff, because of the economic climate, have been asked to consider working a 4 day week.

Picture person H. who for years has dreamed of working in the local community and has a job with some flexibility.

Picture person J. who has worked part-time for many years, and in recent years has found herself growing in ministry and in confidence.

What if God is stirring up in people a passion for loving people outside the church, and if, in our current economic climate, and in an era of increasing job flexibility, they are being offered more leisure time. What would it mean to be the church in such times? What would discipleship, take up your cross and follow me, discipleship look like?

Hence bridge builders. At Opawa we have “boxes” in which we put pastors (part-time) and ministry leaders and volunters. And perhaps we need a new “box.”

- Bridge builders would give one day per week into Waltham community.
- All bridge builders would be expected to seek out some 1-1 input (supervisor or mentor or spiritual director) to grow them.
- All bridge builders would be expected to gather with other bridge builders for shared missional practices of prayer, Scripture reading.
- Each bridge builder would undertake a unique individual ministry, based on their gifts and passions. They might deliver firewood, offer discipling for kids after-school, visit the struggling, gather parents around parenting issues. The scope is unlimited, as long as it is accountable, focused and outward.
- In response, the church, who wants never to use people, but always to grow people, provide an office to work from, a coffee machine to gather around, a person to run the shared missional practices, training opportunities to improve skills and caring capacities.
- The church will also provide a “ministry enhancement allowance”, our way of taking growth seriously and which the bridge builder can invest in books or supervision or art galleries, or whatever feeds and sustains their soul.

Currently we have three people who have said yes. It is enormously humbling as a pastor to have person A. and H. and J. sit in my office and process this somewhat costly, radical step. It is enormously exciting to be offered the gift of three days of “community” ministry to add to our capacity as a church.

Bridge builder might just be a way to honour this sacrifice and resource these people and respond to such an economic time as this.

But I suspect it’s much more than than. I suspect we might have found a way of calling Western, middle-class people to radical discipleship, of offering the possibility that at some time over their working life they can take a bit of a financial squeeze in order to love their community, knowing they will be resourced and working in a community with others.

Anyone else getting just a bit excited?

Posted by steve at 06:44 PM

1 Comment

  1. I am! I have been trying to think about what we would do with people that now have a 4 day work week. Loving the ideas, think I will put this on our church website and see what people think.

    Thanks Steve.

    Comment by jono — June 1, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

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