Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Missional church: their needs not yours

"You don't realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have."
Tim Keller

Three of us at our early prayer gathering @ 6.30 all woke at 3.30am and then couldn't go back to sleep which is a funny old thing. We prayed Psalm 40 together then went for breakfast. Recommended if you feel in a fix today -the Psalm not the breakfast :)

Sometimes people ask me how it is possible to find time to write a blog and why I bother? I tend to write a post first thing in the morning and I am generally up early with the lark. Other bloggers may be nocturnal types which I am not.

1. A blog can be a place that is easy to create. Actually, it doesn't take very much time to get a blog going and one like this could be up and running in 15 minutes and then it's a case of starting to write and share a few things. Google reader is the secret to my quick information collection.

2. A blog can be a place where you can pastor and influence for good. Many in the city are not 'in church' (whatever you think that means) except for an hour or two on a Sunday. A blog enables disciple-making Monday to Saturday as people do life which Jesus died and rose to give them in all it's fullness didn't he? Is it a profitable use of one's time you may ask? Who knows? I do wonder sometimes but it seems to bear quite a bit of fruit every now and then as people read some books, download talks and find ideas which does I suppose pass the John 15 test. I have a few Vicar pals who use Facebook in a similar pastoral way to promote theological debate but there is a lot of competing noise that there isn't with a blog. Facebook it seems can suck time away and leave you with little to show for it other than the 'I've just had a cup of tea' notifications. Mike Breen former Vicar of St Thomas Crooks in Sheffield (who sadly left these shores for the US) is a good example of someone using his blog as his main vehicle for communication and is fruitfully bringing influence and change through it to the wider church.

We do sometimes talk of being 'at church', organising people to 'do church' and turning up 'to serve the church' and do more 'for church'. Here's a brain-stewing thing. The church is a people who are sent out on mission and very many now live rightly or wrongly on social media. (1 Peter 2). Sally, who I was at Vicar Factory with, has turned her social media status into a thing of growing influence and celebrity, C of E style, and even appeared on You and Yours recently as well as often on Sky. Fame indeed:) Don't get me wrong 'I believe in preaching' and 'doing church' is important- some say on a good day I'm not half bad at it. I am currently immersed in a message on 2 Timothy 4:1-8. But there's more to the kingdom than just preaching and being very busy doing church there is connecting and understanding too.......

3. A blog can be a place where you can share some of yourself - thoughts, humour, reading, listening, concerns and experiences with any passers by. Some people have loads of bookmarks on their computer- I have a blog so you can see them too and share in them. It is also part diary and all-access spiritual journal.

4. A blog is a place where you can write. I enjoy writing and more recently people have encouraged me to do more of it. I reflect and work out questions on my mind about culture, theology, contextualisation (posh word for doing God stuff in a place), mission and church issues in this fine land and beyond. Sometimes I just write a bit and bob that strikes me.

5. A blog is a place that can resource others and accessibly store things. It fits the way God has shaped me as a resource investigator i.e a recommender (my BCofE employers spent £000's sending me on countless courses one of which was a day on Belbin). I have a lot of things I am enthused about, reading, thinking and you should be glad I bung it all here or I would be driving you mad with my badgering recommendations and enthusiasm.

6. A blog is a place that you can encourage others. I try to encourage friends (some of whom live in foreign parts), people in our church, pastors and leaders with a few things that quite frankly I pray might keep each of us all running the race and following Jesus. The race is a hard one if your experience of following Jesus has been at all like mine and many who are in leadership so often get burnt out or bereft of hope and ideas.  My prayer is that this is a blessing to a few saints which is I think the grand plan of the Covenant.

7. A blog is a place where people who don't yet 'come to church' can hear about Jesus: I am amazed that 441 people have read 'What's it all about?' ('clicked on' is not the same thing as read I realise) which started life as an email I sent to my work colleagues nearly a decade ago whenever they asked why I was leaving to become a Vicar. It sits tucked away on the sidebar which is why I am so surprised. Were this a booklet among the thousands in a naff Christian bookstore no one would have read it. Do print it off, use it, send it, turn into into a leaflet, email it and share it if it's at all helpful to you in communicating the gospel to your not-quite-yet-follower friends. Is the blog not possibly a teeny-weeny bit of the church coming to the people?

8. A blog is a place to put follow up resources from sermons and events. I post material I come across as I prepare sermons and following them share things. A quote here, a thought there, and idea written out or a book referred to. Hence my post on Prayer-walking which I spoke about on Sunday.

9. A blog can be a place that connects you with social media. I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook but I do have the blog available there via a link. The same in true of Twitter. You might think 'twitter witter woo' as some pastors do but if you want to be heard where the world is making a noise then it's there I'm afraid. It's what the Resurgence call 'the air war' on the internet putting good news in the midst of much that's not good at all.

By some miracle I do now seem to have quite a few readers (a few thousand hits a month) which astounds me considering I have no proactive means of acquiring them other than word of mouth. Thank you for being a reader if you are one and haven't just clicked here while surfing for American biscuits :)

Here is my thought for today. If you get involved in church things the danger is that you spend a great deal of time thinking about what you want 'our' church to be or do for us. What music do we like? What are the children's groups like? Does the coffee taste nice? What time suits us best to meet? Now all these things might be dandy but your non-attending community couldn't care less about such things. It's why Reggie McNeal's thoughts (a really really really good way to spend 45 mins) together with Keller's thinking are so very profound and contain some of the most important paradigm-shifting stuff I have listened to in recent years.

"Your job is to bless people- period. Don't have an evangelism strategy have a blessing strategy"

Reggie McNeal

His book Missional Renaissance is very helpful for mission in post-Christendom (but it is set in the US which does not have a parish system and is full of Americans :)

The starting point for your church should be the Kingdom of God. The King is at work if we only took the trouble to look. As Peterson says God is particular. I know about all the other stuff and you need to do that too but don't do it to the exclusion of loving those who aren't yet coming and don't do it unless you're also working out what the father is doing. Tim Chester's book Total Church really captures this.

You might also be helped on this by watching  Go, See, Feel, Do

A dear pal rang me up and was so excited about Redeeming our communities and its possibilities for their church. He was doubly excited he knew about something I didn't and also said to read Debra Green's books. However, I did send him Scott Hodge who has some thinking on this and his team loved it.

"We have to get really good at sending people out"

Scott Hodge

Where's the need of your community? Ask the police is one option seemingly. We have discovered this to be true as we have launched Street Pastors this year. This might be a way in for your church to meet its communities needs and love your neighbours.

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Saturday blog-sweep

 Some interesting books for pastors The State we're in Attack at dawn Joseph Scriven Joy comes with the morning When small is beautiful