Friday, May 07, 2010

mission that’s out of the valley 4: grounded in a local church community

(Last post in this series I promise. For the introduction go here, for the motivation go here for the material go here.)


Last week I blogged the fact that according to 2006 National Church Life Survey data, only 5% of Uniting churches had offered significant training at a congregational level for lay people in evangelism.


That’s not many. Which got me thinking about my ministry. You know, the old “reality” check – was I a leader in a community practising what I was/is preaching? So I shuffled through the following dates ….

2004 – Evangelism as process – I preached 2 sermons on the topic of evangelism. A good deal of energy resulted. A church community forum was held and as a result a number of new community contact initiatives were launched – including Koru, a youth programme and a family film night.

2005 and 2006 – Opawa’s energetic Evangelism Ministry leader, Hugh, used a video series to offer training in faith sharing. This happened once in the church foyer and a second time in a local home group

2007 – God at work – a 3 week course on “Where is God on Monday?” run by (then) Anglican ministry candidate, Nigel Wright, all the way from UK. About 25 Opawa folk participated, reflecting on being salt and light in all of life. As a result a God at work group formed and met regularly, keeping each other accountable in this area of faith-sharing mission.

2008 – Biblical pictures of witness – A four week preaching series that explored the themes of

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

followed by Wednesday evening discussion evenings. (For more, see here.)

2009 – Mission collectives, including the living collective. This meet four times a year, led by a lay person, in their workplace, (See here for an overview and here for an example of a night). It sought to offer encouragement, resource, prayer, ideas in terms of faith sharing.

Why blog this?
First, it’s a list of dates that I found mighty encouraging, because it shows a regular, year by year commitment, to encouraging and resourcing faith sharing.

Second, it illustrates one way to look at leadership, not as a linear process, but as a spiral, rotating around certain themes.  Hopefully not a rut! but a spiral, building on what has gone before, learning from the past, recircling to allow new people to join, unavailable people to check in.

Third, it’s just one embodied example of what encouraging in faith-sharing can look like in a local community context.

Fourth, I hope it might spark you to think about what has happened in your context. Let’s share our ideas. What things have you seen done, or been part of, that would be ways to get beyond that 5%?

Posted by steve at 06:22 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