Recently I met with a leading theological college lecturer and I was sharing with him some of what we are doing in Brighton. He listened for a while and then said “it’s not that weird or different really – is it? It’s actually fairly simple and basic”” I completely agreed with him – it is simple, straightforward and mostly common sense!
So I then found I was asking myself what are our distinctives? What is it that defines who we are?
Here are a couple of thoughts
1. Perhaps the most crucial defining factor is that we are seeing ourselves primarily as a missionary team rather than as a gathered community. That said, of course we do gather as a community, but this is because missionary teams need to gather to nurture and support one another and to learn together.
Conceiving of yourself as a missionary team means that we are primarily there to engage in mission and whatever else emerges is because we need to sustain ourselves in that mission. I sense that most ‘church plants’ actually begin as Sunday service plants with the hope that as people do evangelism people will come to the Sunday service and it will grow.
2. We currently have very little structure and programs and we intend to remain as light as possible in this regard, at the same recognising that everything needs some level of structure. It means we have little organisational stuff to sustain and we can avoid getting bogged down in the all consuming ‘meeting monster’ that so often is church life. Most of us remember when our lives were so entangled with the church that we never had time to meet those outside our programs and activities – usually the people we lived next door to! Now the focus is on spending time with neighbours and local people in everyday settings – barbecues, fishing, house finishing etc.
There are probably other defining marks, but right now these two are the most significant for me.
Our sense of identity as a community will strongly shape who we become – see ourselves as a gathered community and that will consume our time, focus and energy – see ourselves as a missionary team and mission will be our primary agenda.
As for me” I am as happy as a pig in mud! Lately I’ve been spending lots of time with people I never would have encountered as a busy pastoral team leader of a larger church. The evangelist in me comes alive to the movement of the spirit in these new relationships and the apostolic side of me is buzzing with the excitement of developing teams, seeing a big picture and creating something new.
Can you tell that I feel like one of the most privileged people on earth?!