Sunday, 25 September 2011

Church planting consultation .... dangerous thoughts.

Last week we held a consultation on church planting in the WEBA region, led by Stuart Murray Williams, who's part of us, I'm pleased to say. From my perspective, it was a fascinating day and I had the privilege of listening to some of things God is up to through some of the people God has gifted to us.

Bearing in mind the primary group we invited were Baptist Ministers, two things have stuck with me though, although I'm not yet 100% sure what I'm hearing on either issue:

No one from our larger churches came long. In our region 'larger' stands for churches with a formal membership of 150+. Now, you might not think this is especially significant, but for me it is ..... and worryingly so. Traditionally, as Baptists the majority of our new planting has arisen from larger, better resourced churches (ie. of 150+). I know Stuart has not always been popular by reminding us we have over relied on the mother-daughter type model. However, he is only reflecting on the facts of our recent past. What I'm left wondering in our region, where we are looking at multiplying intentional planting, is where the future planting is likely to come from. Not the traditional sources is what I'm suspecting. If anyone can tell me why there appears to be little vision for planting out from our larger churches, then on a postcard please!

Secondly, I was particularly fascinated by the make-up of the group who gathered. It could have been almost assumed everyone who might come along to this particular consultation would be Baptist Ministers. Most were, but when I noted down who had attended a Baptist College AND was leading a Baptist Church I came up with 35%. This was a group who were invited on the basis they are leading, or thinking of possibly initiating a plant.

So, I have more questions:
What have we done to produce so few APE's?
Are we looking to narrowly at existing capital 'M' Ministers?
How do we release and channel the planting energy, which is clearly among a group of people.
Are capital 'M' Ministers in any way getting int he way of what God is up to?
How can we help more people see the need?

What was absolutely great, however, is not everyone had a card saying 'Baptist' on it. Of course, I handed out application forms ....

Oh boy, more work!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Transforming mission into missional?

What’s in a word?

I guess the first time I heard the word ‘missional’, as part of a decent conversation, was at Cliff College when Martin Robinson pulled a few friends together to explore how on earth we could help churches and congregations transition somewhere new.
We knew a few things: new is where we needed to go. ‘What kind of churches?’ was a question beginning to be asked, but too much of what was under the ‘emerging’ banner seemed to have little emphasis upon discipleship and too much emphasis on simply gathering around we didn't like with inherited models of church.
As I listened, I was partly irritated by the two people, from across the Atlantic, we were talking with, but simultaneously drawn in because, intuitively, I knew they were making sense. They wanted to avoid defining the word, the frustration of needing to go on an exploration was good for us, so they said!
A number of years on what have we made of the missional conversation here in the UK? Sadly, I fear, not very much. But then again, I think, we’ve moved a long way.
So what’s in a word? My fears come from hearing the word ‘missional’ used far more frequently, but primarily as a replacement for ‘mission’. My hope’s are rooted in some tangible expressions of people experimenting. The danger is we go for the fruit without paying attention to the roots – which brings us back to ‘missional’.
There’s a fair history to the word now, which began to appear with any kind of frequency around 1998. The publication of the book ‘Missional church: a Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America’ certainly began the increase in popularity of a previously little used word, but NB ‘North America’ – perhaps that’s when the UK switched off. However, listen to these guys and you’ll hear the two primary ideological roots are found here, in the UK, and in South Africa. Basically, this is down to the writing and thinking of two individuals: Lesslie Newbigin and David Bosch.
Returning home to England, Newbigin took up the challenge of trying to envision what a fresh encounter of the gospel with late-modern Western culture might look like. The issue he raised, focused (probably best) in ‘Foolishness to the Greeks’, in the form of a question: “What would be involved in a missionary encounter between the gospel and the whole way of perceiving, thinking, and living that we call ‘modern Western culture?”
David Bosch (I remember David Coffey recommending ‘Transforming Mission’ when he was head of evangelism, or similar, before becoming BU General Secretary), similarly advanced our grasp of the missio Dei:

‘Mission is understood as being derived from the very nature of God. It is thus put into context of the doctrine of the Trinity, not of ecclesiology or soteriology. The classical doctrine of the mission Dei as God the Father sending the Son and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit is expanded to include yet another “movement”: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world.’

‘It’s not that the church of God has a mission, but that the mission of God has a church’
-       both from Transforming Mission.

So, beware the un-definable, but work at giving it a shape!

Monday, 19 September 2011

mission an idol?

I'm pretty disturbed (some would presume this is a massive step forward in my growing self-awareness!). However, what's disturbing me is the way in which we seem to be intent upon separating what God has joined together. One reason why I use and welcome the word 'missional' is precisely because it enshrines the recognition that mission is not merely the domain of narrow-minded and theologically inept pragmatists: it is about both being AND doing, incarnating the gospel AND being attractive disciples, etc.
What is disturbing me is how, in the UK, we seem to be picking up on divides from across the Atlantic, which really should not become our concern.
Some of it is language - 'mission' and 'missional' have become inter-changeable words, which seems to my way of thinking a mistake, not universally accepted, or understood and mis-communication results are rife.
So, Mike Breen writes a blog entry: 'why the missional church will fail', which is all about how important discipleship is: 'if you make disciples, you will always get the church, but if you try and build the church you will rarely get disciples'. Agreed, but is this our point of tension? Mike's, from the UK, but now based in the States (incidentally I have huge respect for Mike and this is in no way critical of him) and I suggest it may be an appropriate challenge there. It may a relevant conversation in the USA, but where discipleship AND mission are seen as being intrinsically missional??
So, we get an article highlighted on the BU new sweep, again from the States, 'Has mission become our idol?' I can see ways in the States where the way in which this question is posed and the challenges is presents to some people and agencies, but is mission our idol here in the UK? I think, if mission had the place where it could even begin to be considered as a question, we'd be alot furtehr down the road than we are. At present, we're a couple of light years away!
So, I think 'On the Verge' is a great book in many ways, but are we on the verge here in the UK? The chance would be great thing.
So, when it will dawn, we are in the UK and not the USA? 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

On a journey?

Well I'm on a journey ... I think! Literally I'm still hoping to get to Spurgeon's for a DMin workshop today ... but I opted for the bus. The Megabus is great for one thing - price. With deficit budgets everywhere you can get paranoid about such things but I still get 'why do/don't you'...
It's had it's interesting moments - listening to the conversation between two people about her shooting, drugs and sport. Peace seriously disrupted by the lady on the phone who us an excellent communicator -if the object of the exercise is to let everyone else know how she feels about the fact she was the first one on this f***** bus and now it's full (sorry)!
Plenty of conversations, but no engagement.
How do you just jump into someone else's? You just don't do you, or do you? Well, I haven't .. yet!
I'm reading about George Barna's new statement the US is heading for a population of 310m and 310m religions. It'll be interesting to know more as it's based upon research of the last ten years only. We're further down the road on that one.
Also thinking about On the Verge - very good, but we're not in the same place. We're not on the verge of missional movement even though it's where it would be lovely to get there.
Still on the bus - increasingly late now so I'm sure John Drane will be good but wondering whether I'll find out first hand!
Ironically, whilst on the bus to explore something around missional transitions and the feasability and capacity of Baptist regional associations to become effective in that etc - I'm also engaging in an e-mail conversation, which someone looking at could be excused for questioning whether there's any point - some would doubt whether there is a future church.
We need to face realities ... the bus is late, will we get where we're going?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

last lap, or first?

Should I have been in a Sunday worship this morning, instead of running the Bristol half marathon? Well, I wasn't and I did turn up for a service this evening, which I guess will count for those of you appalled by sentence one! The one sadness was 9:11 didn't get a mention - i can only hope that happened this morning.
It's taken today to kick start by post holiday blogging again - for  it's a habit, which when broken can be fatal - not unlike many other things we engage in. Habits are not necessarily 'bad', which is the press they mostly get.
Anyway, bizarrely to some people, I can think and pray when I run and this surprise to me has been one factor, which has kept me going in between the 'targets' like today. One of the recent avenues of thought of running has become a growing concern around the desperate need for Churches to engage the 20's to 30's generation.
Popping down to Momentum recently, just for an evening, started me off down this avenue and the concern is growing within me and the desperate situation become ever clearer. If there's anyone out there remotely bothered about this, I'd appreciate your prayers, because we really do need to develop some strategies, which connect.
This was the first year my daughter Emily and I both ran the half. I guess the majority of runners were in in their 20's & 30's, but most would probably rather be running than worshipping God, but then they neither know they have the option, nor they are not mutually exclusive.