Monday, 4 October 2010

Mission Initiatives...

So we are one month into this church planting adventure and everything seems to be going well. We have met plenty of people and are getting a sense of various people and places that we could be involved with. Prayer continues to be our highest priority and we have real peace about how everything is going. David and Jan Coffey have very kindly set up a prayer group for us and the group met on Tuesday round David's. It's good to have that kind of care, prayer and support around us.

I was asked last week by someone if I felt any pressure with all this church planting stuff and I can honestly say that I do not feel any pressure at all. God's called me to pray and lay good foundations so I'm trying to be obedient, the rest is up to God. My Principle Nigel Wright at Spurgeons often spoke about a church's DNA (he called it their angel) and how throughout the life of a church there is often reoccurring behaviour because of this, sometimes good, sometimes bad. These early stages here in Newton Abbot are key as the DNA of the church is formed, which is why the attitude to prayer and mission, love and justice is so vital. We want good church DNA.

Talking about DNA, I've had a few chats recently about church 'initiatives' and whether we miss the point sometimes.

There are always new initiatives coming out for churches about how they can impact their community. Things get branded, marketed and 'sold' as the next new thing that will help the church reach their community with the good news of Jesus.

Such is the mission mindset or DNA of the church that everything is event based (I was told the other day that some churches in Devon want to hire a stadium and get Franklin Graham to come and speak...*sigh*). So each new initiative is event based so that the church can roll it out for a set period of time and then reflect on how it has been involved with mission and evangelism. What concerns me with all these new(? more like recycled) or 'big ideas' is that it might dis-empower churches to ACTUALLY be a part of their communities. If we keep peddling that an event every 6 months is serving our community then the churches end up ignoring or being ignorant of the needs that are going on in our communities 365 days of the year.

The Baptist Union often gives churches ideas for various initiatives to help them with evangelism and mission, yet I wonder if the ideas coming out from there are grounded in the reality of what is really happening with the people in our communities. Looking at what BUGB are putting out there I find it pretty irrelevant and out of sync with where are culture is at. And it is all so SAFE. Go here and have a look and see how safe it all is. Where is the risk and the adventure? And a cursory look at other headquarters websites tells a similar story.

Now I recognise that many Baptist churches are engaged in amazing ways within their communities as are many churches in general up and down the UK, but if we keep putting initiatives out there rather than encouraging and pushing our churches to get stuck in with the nitty gritty of community life so that we can give away life and share the love of God in powerfully prophetic ways, then we will have many Christian communities struggling to make head nor tail of what is going on around them in the lives of the people around them.

Sounds like I'm having a bit of a rant, so my apologies, but I believe we should think in different ways, more risky ways, more sacrificial ways when we are engaged in mission because I'm sure Jesus said something about a Cross when He calls us to follow Him...

7 comments:

Tom Haward said...

Inflatable Church?! What is that all about? Amazing that someone thought of it and other people thought it was a great idea. Haha!

Joe Haward said...

Yeah, it seems very strange doesn't it. Perfect example of wrong thinking in regard to mission.

Carl said...

Hi Mate! Good to hear things are going well!
You know I'm the last person who's going to argue with you about irrelevant and twee 'mission' initiatives that simply serve to lull Christians into thinking they're missionally active because they've invited a few friends to come 'Back to Church' once a year, or such like. But maybe what we are seeing here is the Mission Dept's attempt to resource 'the old' when in fact they are making some attempts to stimulate 'the new' in terms of missional thinking within the Union's churches as well. I took a bunch of folks from Watchet Baptist to a Crossing Places training day recently. I have to say that my expectations were low but I was pleasantly surprised! I think the day served to move us on in our thinking about contextualised mission within our community. I guess these training days are designed to help churches who have more traditional missional thinking (or none at all!) begin to think differently about how to engage with their communities - check out http://www.baptist.org.uk/resources/crossing_places.html .
I'm not disagreeing with you, and I'm not saying they've got the balance right yet between resourcing the 'old' and stimulating the 'new', but I'd want to 'big up' things like Crossing Places and encourage the Mission Dept to put much more of their resources into stuff like this while at the same time sticking a knife into the inflatable church ;-)

Joe Haward said...

Nice last sentence there mate!

I think Crossing Places has some real strengths, but I worry it just becomes another branded initiative that does the opposite of what it is trying to do.

I agree with you though that we need to start somewhere and some churches will be really unsure about where to even begin with mission, so BUGB are looking to help those churches.

BUT...

Where has it all gone wrong if mission is as watered down (or full of air...dya like what I did there?!) as this? I was thinking about my time in India and how when people become Christians their DNA is mission and evangelism. They get out there and do it in amazing ways.

I'm feeling tired today hence why I'm having a bit of a rant! ;0)

You're right though mate, there are green shoots of hope.

Maybe Jonathan Edwards and Ian Bunce should come and spend a month working on the ground in gritty mission with a couple of churches, might spark some real creativity in BUGB...

Carl said...

'Bursting the Bubble on the Inflatable Church: deflating the myth of event-driven missional initiatives'... will this be Rev Haward's next Baptist Times contribution?... the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind...
ok, I'm done!!

Tom Haward said...

"Feeling deflated? Come to Inflatable Church for a lift."
"Lost your bounce in life? We have the answer."
Seriously though, I find it hard to think why I would step inside a church to find solace and reassurance. I seem to find that people are very welcoming, but start to scratch under the surface and suddenly you find conditional 'love'. If mission is to be effective then results are not the way forward. As an atheist I would like to be a part of a community of love which doesn't expect me to believe what they believe.

Which is what I love about so many friends I have - they love me regardless of what I believe. It feels like church life won't truly accept you unless you eventually subscribe to their doctrines... but then I do have negative experiences to meditate on.

Joe Haward said...

I will write it but what dya reckon the chances are of it going in Carl?! ;0) Nice line though! :0)

Good one bro!

I think this is a key issue about whether we love for loves sake or beliefs sake, and if its the later than its not really love.
But then I wonder if in secular society there are similar issues. People often mix in groups of like minded people, and that is fair enough. But are they friends for loves sake or beliefs sake?

I think a church engaged in radical powerful mission will be the most loving community you've ever laid your eyes upon...