Monday, August 02, 2010

Joining in with God’s Spirit: a great missional resource

God’s mission is greater than any church, and it is in this wider movement of the Spirit that all the churches in the world participate. It is within the greater purposes of God that we find our unity. The missio Dei is not confined to any locality; it spills over, crosses boundaries and is carried across the world by the wind of the Spirit. It does not have a single origin or one direction but comes and goes as the Spirit wills. However, it is one movement because the Spirit witnesses to a unique person, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified and raised, who reveals the Father in heaven, source of all things. We have yet to realize that the cosmic Christ is manifested in the unity of local churches in the mission of the Spirit. When we do, we will connect world church with local mission. We will be able to join with the Spirit who moves over the earth sustaining our world and our life – the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who is given to bring about good news in the whole creation.

Conclusion from Kirsteen Kim’s Joining in with the Spirit. It’s a great book. While I don’t agree with her analysis of Fresh Expressions, this is still a book rich in contemporary missiological insights.

Books like these are essential to the missional church conversation. They offer the Western missional church the gift of dislocation. When you read chapters that start with the insights from contemporary mission in Africa and Korea and India, you are offered a missiology that is so much richer than your own. You are reminded that the missional God is up to so much more than patching up a declining Western church. That mission is so much deeper, richer and wider than bringing back the young people!

So I used Kirsteen Kim’s quote as a devotional beginning at our Masters of Ministry class last Monday. Each of us were invited to sit with the quote and as we did, to identify the phrase that most spoke to us. After sharing, we then prayed for the person on our right. Then together we said the Lord’s Prayer. Just a few minutes, but a great way to place ourselves, each other and our ministries in the caring context of God’s globally local mission.

Posted by steve at 08:55 AM

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

mission that’s out of the valley 3: evangelism as mission

  • being a mate – sharing with friends
  • having a yarn – announcing the good news
  • crossing the ditch – incarnational mission

(These are highly Aussie phrases and they came to mind while reading Darren Cronshaw’s most excellent Credible Witnesses, Companions, Prophets, Hosts and Other Australian Mission Models, Urban Neighbours of Hope, 2006, and that give shape to the most useful Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission)

Being a mate – sharing with friends
Look at how people find Jesus in John 1. It’s through friends – Andrew, Philip – who simply invite people to “see.” So mission that’s out of the valley starts with inviting people to see lives changed. It’s not words, but seeing lives changed.

And so a discussion question: How were you evangelised? How do you feel about that now? A chance to remind ourselves that overwhelming the gospel is transmitted through relationships. Equally a chance to share negative stories and so detox ourselves from

Having a yarn – announcing the good news
The book of Acts is interesting, for a third of the content is public speeches. There are 20 speeches in total and grouped together, give us a window into how the early church had a yarn/announced the good news.

An extremely useful exercise can be to place them alongside each other. Take Peter in Acts 2, Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14, Paul in Acts 17. Look at what resources they use in announcing, consider their punchline and analyse the response.

What do we learn? That there is no one way to announce the good news. The content changes, the resources used range from Scripture to creation to contemporary culture.

In other words, having a yarn is not about dropping a body of content on someone, it’s about starting with what makes sense in their world. This for me is where the gates of the cross becomes so useful.

For discussion: Does any gate make sense of how you find God? Or do you need another, 11th gate? Share that with the person beside you.

On Saturday a great burst of noise arose, as people shared how God found them. And I had great joy in giving them feedback: I see a whole bunch of people announcing the good news, in ways uniquely appropriate.

Crossing the ditch – incarnational mission
When I read the Zaccheus story I realise that mission happens in Zaccheus house. It is so easy to get caught up in thinking that mission is about people coming to us and our (church) space.

Mission as crossing the ditch is about going to Zaccheus home. Hang out with Zaccheus mates. We form a church at Zaccheus place, not our place. This changes the way be a mate – We join Zaccheus youth group. This changes the way we announce the good news – we start with what God is doing in Zaccheus world.

And if you want a contemporary example, check out the work of Richard Passmore, working with young people outside the church. (Hat tip Jonny Baker). He depicts mission as crossing the ditch in 5 stages:

  • A Contacting Community – Through detached youth work
  • A Growing Community- Through ongoing contact and residential
  • A Connecting Community – Through undertaking a rite of passage committing to journey together
  • An Exploring Community – Through connecting stories and life
  • An Ecclesial Community – Through living together with a missionary DNA

And for a powerful example of announcing the good news in this context, check out his story of Abs and Flow. It’s a superb example of post-Christendom, Western, contextualisation.

My next post is about how this works in an ordinary congregation ..

For earlier posts in this series on mission that’s out of they valley, go here

Posted by steve at 08:23 AM

Friday, April 30, 2010

mission that’s out of the valley (1 of 4)

Updated: for what I said –
1) in relation to mission motivation, go here,
2) in relation to faith sharing, go here,
3) in relation to practice at an ordinary church, go here.

I’m speaking to youth leaders from around Adelaide tomorrow, at a training day called Out of the valley. I was asked to speak about mission and as I’ve been reflecting, I want to focus on the sharing of faith. More evangelism, but still a subset of mission.  I hope to do a number of things

  • free people from a 1 size fits all understanding of faith sharing
  • help people grasp more of God’s story
  • help people find their own unique story within God’s story.

(Update: according to 2006 National Church Life Survey data, the denomination least likely to have offered significant training at a congregational level for lay people in evangelism is .. yep, you guessed it, the Uniting Church! Only 5% of congregations in the last 2 years said they had offered congregational training in evangelism.)

Below is one of the tools I’ve just been working on. It offers 10 different ways people might understand the gospel. It’s based on Understanding the Atonement for the Mission of the Church but I’ve attempted to summarise (mangle) it in a few sentences.

What I hope it does is help people find an echo of their story and a way to link their unique story with a Biblical frame. I’ll let you know how it goes, but if you have time, I’d love to know which statement which might describe your experience. (For me it was, and is, the peace gate). If none do, can you sum that in a few sentences. (more…)

Posted by steve at 06:28 PM

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

sydney bound for mission, discipling, leadership

The Taylor family head for Sydney on Friday. We have two weekends of “exploring Sydney time.” In between, I am working, teaching a 3 day intensive for ACOM (Australian College of Ministry).

Here is the blurb:

We are living in times of rapid change. Many existing patterns and paradigms face challenges. This course will explore the implications of ministry in a culture of change, with a specific focus on local church ministry. It provides practical case studies on mission, discipleship and leadership and subject these to theological reflection, in order to encourage creative and critical thinking on the nature of mission and ministry today. It will not be prescriptive but will encourage participants in their ability to dialogue between context and Christian texts, offering theological imagination in response to what God is doing in the lives of individuals and communities.

And here is the lecture outline.

I normally accept one “academic” intensive outside New Zealand a year, so when ACOM asked about 18 months ago, I said yes, little knowing that by the time to course rolled around, I would be living in Australia and trying to settle. So the timing for me is less than ideal. I need a break during study break, not more teaching!

Nevertheless, there 15-20 students, which is a great sized group to work with. And as per usual for the creative Steve, every course presents a chance to update my material in light of current reading and refecting. So this will be an essentially new course for me – one that is pulling from Missional Church Leadership, Sociology for Ministry and the Breathe intensive last year.

I’m looking forward to being around a Sydney-side table with some keen minds working on mission, discipling, leadership.

And for the rest of the Taylor family – it’s a holiday in Sydney. I will absorb their joy!

Posted by steve at 02:00 PM