Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Creating churches where you are

Creating and building new congregations is not rocket science but something much more difficult indeed. I don’t think it should be, but that’s the reality.

The problems which present at the very start of the process (rocket or church) dictate the path taken. The problem is that too many people assume that all that’s required to bring about the desired outcome is the use of the amazing ‘one size fits all’ solutions when they glibly talk about planting new churches. Wouldn’t it be great if the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Burnley (or some other worthy) could just pass over a handful of their magic beans and then, having watered then, had us all stand back to watch the new church grow?

But, to quote Jan Struther’s marvellous hymn, “Back into storyland giants have fled, and the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.’ We have no time for the distractions or empty hopes and forlorn last ditch stands wrapped in sensational and dressed up in empty hyperbole; for hyperbole is never to be taken as anything meaningful or real - it’s just a smoke and mirrors extravaganza!

If we are to engage in planting churches where there are none (something I desire and long for) then we are going to have to go to places where ‘church is not’ in a style perhaps more suited to the desert fathers and those Celtic types who took themselves off to the wild places. This is about going to the places where ‘God is perceived not to be’ looking to make Church a reality for those who are not!

This is what we have been trying to sell to the established church as ‘Fresh Expressions’ for what seems like a very long time. But for those for whom this is new (and having met a cleric very recently who claimed never to have heard of the term) let me give you a stock definition:

‘A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church. 

It will come into being through principles of listening, service, incarnational mission and making disciples. 

It will have the potential to become a mature expression of church shaped by the gospel and the enduring marks of the church and for its cultural context. 

Fresh expressions of church: serve those outside church; listen to people and enter their culture; make discipleship a priority; form church.’ [and that church is a sacramental reality - my words]

Would that there were really such a thing as the 'Church in a Box' product. But the reality is that there really isn't a ‘one size fits all’ solution. What's more, putting aside the hopes views of some that the cavalry, in the shape of a church plant (which appear to be more often than not church partnerships or adoptions), will be coming over the hill to save us, we find ourselves in a wonderful position of opportunity to do something amazing for God and our nation.

We have the opportunity to create ‘intentional’ (a term I so often dislike as it is so misused) and unique expressions of Church in our communities. I’ve obvious read too much of the ‘series of unfortunate events’ as I feel the need to say, “Here, dear reader, the word ‘intentional’ means ‘done on purpose - being desired and intended’. We need to engage with communities, get in step with the mission dei, and serve those we find around us who are not Church.

A real opportunity to win our estates for Christ :-)

Having had the fifteen-minute timer ping (meaning it’s s time to stop splurging the contents of my brain on the virtual paper) I’m going to draw stumps here and go make some tea and do some praying, for there is fuel enough thus far for a month of ‘God bothering’.

Apologies for typos, weirdness and ‘vicisms. ’. I leave Jan Struthers with the final words:
“Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed 'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed; 
And let me set free with the sword of my youth, From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth”

Think I need to focus on ministers and ownership when the next mist descends



Anonymous said...

Have you tried dioralwrite?

Best place for this sort of brain dump is your C-drive. Left to cool overnight it will sometimes reveal bits worth developing to the point where sharing is useful. For basic therapy, print it all and then experiment with ritual destruction of the document.

Church is an expression of people who are Christians (or are aspiring to be). How do you (as a professional Christian)begin that process or guide others to do so? Where to start? Deprived area or well-off - in both the need may be identical. Magic beans don't work but a process like crystallisation may be relevant, where seed crystals kick off the growth. In particular how does an established "church in a box" need to be redesigned to work better/properly? It needs to be more attracting and it needs to be better at building "belonging", the step past welcoming that makes space for and retains a newcomer long enough for the rest of the message to connect. FX has chosen the "new plant" mindset so it is not surprising that "old plants" aren't paying attention - they are excluded and that model is not where they are.

I should probably have left that on the C-drive......

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Never - it’s always good to talk, even when it’s only to virtual paper -and it an start some extremely good conversations too!

Having thrown out the runes I can see three or four directions emerging. So that’s another win I guess.

Onwards and sideways - thanks for the post,


Rob C said...

I think its great the way you 'splurge'. I find myself challenged, frustrated and cheering at various intervals.

As I an one who didn't know that a fresh expression was I have found this most helpful.

Keep on with the brain dumps. I'm not sure what a C-drive is, but don't use it if it stops you posting.

Thank you,


Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Thanks for the comments Rob

If you don't know what a c: drive you're possibly an Apple person ;-) Which is great.