Friday, 25 July 2008

a new way of thinking?

I’ve been thinking alot about Alan Hirsch’s thing about it being easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking much more easily than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting. I’d be interested to know, for example, how many of the small groups spurned by 40 days of purpose and projects started by 40 days of community are still going one year later? My hunch, from the examples I’m aware of, is not a very high percentage. Now, this is not a negative comment about the 40 days programmes because I genuinely think they have so much to commend them. What I think it's possibly more about is our natural inclination to return to our default position – why act on faith when we can get away with talking about it. Most of our small groups revolve around prayer and bible study. Most of the prayer revolves around people’s needs - which are usually more frequently expressed in terms of pray for this job interview, house purchase, etc. – that is, pray for me and mine. Most of the bible study revolves around what did the bible say to them then, rather than what is the bible saying to me, us, now? My guess is I’m pushing the caricature a little, but not too much.

What’s happened to small groups which are focused on ‘encouraging missionary disciples’ (the BUGB strap-line for our strategy). The big message, we’re in danger of sending, is: our discipleship ends when Alpha ends. My experience is discipleship has barely begun when Alpha ends, but I've watched many people abandon their home-made discipleship courses (we had to write our own during our Pastoral studies year at Spurgeon’s) and merely replace them with Alpha, or its equivalent, which are not even designed to do the same job. If you can get a small group to practice ways of embracing others beyond themselves I find you have a life generating cell, which is why NCD’s observation of small groups being more important to people than Sunday is a crucial factor in growing the size of a Christian community. The Western mind-set in our Churches seems to preside over the Hebrew mind-set. So we say if it works it must be shallow and not thought through. The Hebrew mind-set, on the other hand, says you haven’t heard the word of God until it’s part of what you do. So, which one’s more likely to produce the character of Jesus?

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