Thursday, November 04, 2010

mission as partnership: learning from the other in fresh expressions?

Just had a fascinating and rich coffee conversation about mission. It involves one of the Master of Ministry students, who has been interviewing people returning from short-term mission. A rich data set has emerged, packed with honesty, emotion, insight and question.

It opened up a great conversation. If we are a genuinely “catholic” church (to use the Creed – one, holy, catholic, apostolic) then the current global church is a gift. Every part of the body of Christ will have a unique charism, insights that can challenge and grow us. In the old days missionaries went to “save and serve.” But with the presence of God now in so many countries, mission is about listening and solidarity, learning with and from each other.

Might it be that people in short term mission become the literal “eyes and ears” of a local expression of church? They help the local expression of church, limited by it’s geography and culture, to see the gospel more fully.

(If so, genuine reciprocity needs to happen, in which we receive short terms as well as send short-termers!)

The implications for fresh expressions are obvious. It was old-fashioned colonialism that celebrated “save and send.” What does listening, solidarity and partnership look like? This is a Fresh expressions “ideal” model …

… which suggests that a fresh expression goes through a number of stages in their formative journey. It starts with listening to God’s call, moves to loving service, then is followed by forming community and disciple-making. The result is church emerging in a fresh space, opened up in response to the creative work of God’s Spirit.

The renewed insight for me from today was the reminder of the importance of beginning with listening including to the people we find ourselves among, of loving service not as us doing something for the other, but of finding ways to partner in service, of community forming not based our how we engage relationally, but on the patterns of the host culture, of disciple-making which is a mutual learning.

I hear echoes of what happened here with the Opawa Spring Clean (6th one happened just last weekend), in which we worked to serve with the community, and in doing so found new ways to relate together.)

I also hear echoes of various Christian artists depicting Philips encounter in Acts 8, as a mutual disciplemaking, which is outlined so helpfully in Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission.

Posted by steve at 09:47 AM


  1. that is very helpful
    I heard an echo of this in a free counselling session offered in our community by the Adventist church last night – all things work together for good I guess as the aims did seem self serving but the outcome was interaction between other local people of faith and seekers. despite my doubts I was glad of the gift

    Comment by Jo Wall — November 4, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  2. thanks Jo. Seems to me that often church mission is actually self-serving ie we do mission because our churches are declining – isn’t that actually an act of self-serving preservation,


    Comment by steve — November 5, 2010 @ 9:03 am

  3. true and I accept there is a place for the institutional church to survive and continue to serve- it is just quite hard to live in a “target market” that I have been seeking to listen to. it went so far as several forceful invites to me to do church sat and sun … but a new connection with a local hero in his 80s who acknowledged we had the same God.

    Comment by Jo Wall — November 6, 2010 @ 4:30 am

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