In the morning we focussed on evangelism and looked at it in the wider sense of various approaches to reaching people and some underlying concepts of why we do what we do in both serving and saying. Based on the man of peace principle it really develops on the friendship evangelism model popularised by the like of Willow Creek and emphasises sensitivity to missonal opportunities in those relationships and other regular activities that not-yet-Christians can engage in.
A good point raised in the sessions was the relational chemistry certain people can have together and not beat ourselves over the head if we’re not connecting with people and look to link with those with whom we can link. This liberates the church from the professional evangelist model where members see it as the responsibility of one guy to head up all the work.
A point during the session that I strongly agreed with was that the place of the evangelist is actually in the church building and preparing people for ministry and Christian ministry at its heart includes sharing the gospel in words. There were two parts to the evangelism session which led to lunch.
Following the meal we took a lighter approach to wind down the whole session and considered networks and sharing opportunities. This kind of resource will prove to be invaluable to churches as they grow and discover more about the variety and diversity of ways it can express itself within a given community, culture or sub-culture.
We were then heard four testimonies of fresh expressions or projects that could lead to fresh expressions taking place in the area. One was a thriving youth church in a rural context that was blossoming despite opposition. Another was a ministry to senior citizens that met the aims of serving them whilst also sharing the Word called Bible and Bingo. There was another youth project highlighted which was a combination of youth from an Anglican church and a Methodist church so there had been some opposition there among churches as young people were engaging with their outlet but not attending on Sunday to the mother churches. Thankfully that resistance has been turned round completely so that both are fully supportive of the church and plans are in place to further develop it with full time staff. Finally we had a report on a project taking place in a forest where people visit regularly and the project has been to set up a place for people to leave prayer requests and sit and ponder reflectively on spiritual things. It’s a creative initiative that’s got coverage from local media including BBC Midlands Today. There are plans in place for Easter activities and beyond that God only knows how the project will continue.
These were really encouraging stories to hear of the reality of endeavouring to do church and spiritual engagement with the world in imaginative, creative and not that complex a way. It encourages me about what could be done at the YMCA.
The last portion of the day involved breaking of the bread. I do enjoy doing this. The church to which I belong commemorates the Lord’s Supper annually and doesn’t actively promote ‘communion’ at any point throughout the year. Having said that, I haven’t seen anywhere that discourages it, but then I’ve never asked. I always find those occasions where I share the communion with others deeply stirring occasions. We were in groups and where other groups were doing elaborate efforts of the sharing, our table just quietly shared the bread and drank the wine whilst meditating on the significance of the act. Whilst the focus by the facilitator was on preparing for times of lament and understanding the suffering that we have to go through, I was taken to the reality of the completion of redemption. I was contemplating on the victory of the risen Lord and how He had overcome death itself to be able to offer life in all its fullness. This as ever got me fairly emotional with a couple of tears making their way from me eyes. Were I to really express my feelings I’m sure it would quite disturb some of my brothers and sisters from more contemplative sides of Christendom. It was a really beneficial session though and got me thinking about doing something similar at home on a regular basis between family members.
My overall feelings about the weekend are overwhelmingly positive not only were the sessions on the whole informative and insightful for future practice but on a personal note it was a time of healing on certain issues and God’s grace was overwhelming in highlighting where I am in the whole scheme of things and possible connections to expand what’s going on ministry-wise and personally.
Many thanks go to the people with whom I engaged over the weekend like Di Saxton, Catherine Murray, Roger Fairhead, Evan Cockshaw, Mother Mary and especially the URC minister in the Wulstanton area David Halsam. Special thanks are reserved for my friend Gordon Crowther who once more showed that friendship in taking from Stoke to Swanwick and back home. The journeys and conversations I get to share with him are really good in scope, depth and vitality. I love Gordon so much he’s a great guy to know and hearing about his own journey and challenges helps me to keep things in perspective as well as longing for the opportunity to do some more partnership or support work with him. The fun of these kind of friendships though is the time God takes to allow things to blossom, so in the meantime it’s good just to link up and discover more of each other.
I would strongly recommend the Mission Shaped Ministry training strongly to anyone who wants to look at fresh expressions of church in a rapidly changing culture. One of the things that came out of this weekend was just a reassertion that church should see itself as a movement rather than an institution and that way as it’s a dynamic organism it won’t have to be so slow and cumbersome in responding to the issues of modern life and maintain the commitment to the foundations and focus of faith. That’s why I’m excited about the stuff I learn from the course it’s application from a YMCA perspective and even, hopefully, eventually, from a COG perspective.
For His Name’s Sake
da man cd