Moving Forwards (Slowly)

A busy week last week meant that didn’t get much more time to wind up my series of posts on how we are working to help our church become an effective missionary community.

So this will be the final post in this series until there is more to write, either positive or negative.

The last month or so has seen us raising the awareness of mission among our people and putting it squarely on the radar as a priority for us at this point. When I first felt disturbed by what I was seeing developing (a safe, happy, comfortable community) my default ‘organise something visible’ response kicked into gear. If we all ‘do something’ very consciously and visibly then that will help… Fortunately I’ve been living with my defaults long enough now to know that they are usually my reactions and while a few others may share them, many won’t.

In fact one of the things I am fairly sure I was feeling was a discontent with my own life and I was then projecting on that onto our church community. I’m a bit frustrated with my own mission efforts and I don’t seem to be making a dent = you aren’t doing much of value either.

Not helpful for those who are, but whose lives I can’t see – and chances are there are plenty. (Makes you wonder how much of our leadership driving actually stems from our own internal frustrations and how much is from a genuine concern for effectiveness?) So what began as a full frontal assault morphed slowly into a more reflective couple of weeks as we encouraged people to consider who God has made them to be, where they are positioned in life and what their natural gifts and abilities are.

I don’t know that it will translate to ‘tangible visible action’, but then I’m confident it will translate to action of some kind – perhaps a truer form of action. If there is a drum we have beaten to death at QBC its the one that says, ‘learning more information about God/Jesus/faith is absolutely useless unless it converts to some form of transformed life.’

I doubt anyone would have escaped that regular tirade. And I make no apology for that. I really believe that many of us are educated beyond our willingness to obey and that further information is pointless. Its like filling a car with petrol and then continuing to fill it even though its spilling out of the tank, but never actually driving the car anywhere… yeah… dumb.

I imagine some would be reading these posts thinking ‘I wonder what the answer is?…’ or ‘I wonder what the key is to getting a church moving?’ Well I’m likely going to disappoint you because I think if we take the evolution road then its a long slow change (and to continue the metaphor) sometimes impossible to observe while you are in it. I’m happy to let you know what we are doing, but I don’t believe there are any specific ‘one size fits all’ answers. There are likely some principles and broad brush ideas that can be transferred but I reckon that’s about it.

Some of what we have done over the last few weeks to stir people’s hearts has been to:

Earth stuff biblically – sadly the whole idea of mission has become trendy and has become a bit of the flavour of the month. So people can see it as the next fad. By taking our cues from Acts I think we get to really engage with the biblical story and see that although we live in a different age, the hope of seeing the gospel spread and the kingdom come is one that is constant. And we can learn from the stories in Acts. For those who think we have ‘gone all emerging’ or are doing something dodgy they need to argue with the scriptures rather than us.

Bring people in to tell stories that will inspire – Andrew & Sharon work among the gay scene and the sex worker communities and Sharon came to share some of that journey. Alisha lives in a slum in Thailand with the UNOH crew and she came and share her story also. I think its good for people’s imaginations to be stirred and to be encouraged to see paths that can be taken outside of running a craft group and a playgroup. To be fair, for some people a playgroup or craft group is a fantastic idea, but I sense our imagination gets stunted after a while and we find it hard to see beyond these regular church gigs.

Reflection on Who We Are As Individuals – last week Billy led us in an excellent process that caused us to reflect on who God is, who we are as individuals, and how we are placed in life. The desired outcome was “to help people use their uniqueness to make a big deal of God every day of their lives.” It was good on several levels. In church that day we spent a lot of time in pairs helping each other reflect, so there was a strong relational dynamic at work, but there was also real value in validating who people are as individuals and helping them to see that there isn’t a ‘type’ they need to conform to in order to be validated as a missionary at QBC. Everyone could go away hopeful.

Reflection on Shapes Mission Can Take – Yesterday I took the final session in our 5 month series to tell stories and get people interacting around some possibilities. We did an interesting exercise that looked at how confident we feel in mission situations and asked people to physically move and stand on a continuum from feeling very confident to totally lacking confidence. Some of the discussion that flowed out of that was really helpful. One reflection I found particularly helpful was when I observed one of our newer South African immigrants standing right at the ‘low confidence’ end when it came to mission. She is a confident woman so I asked her why she found herself there and she said that it was because she didn’t feel confident with sharing the gospel in Australian culture yet – she was still feeling her way. Very cool – because she was doing what missionaries do – learning the context before barging in.

We moved from there to asking people to form groups around various different (and some times overlapping) expressions of mission.

I set 8 different boards up around the room with the following categories:

a) Programs – church organised, specific activities that mix Christians and non-Christians

b) Hospitality – making a welcoming space for others in your life and home

c) Community Activities – joining in existing community based activities and being salt and light in those places

d) The ‘Dark Places’/Needy – going to groups that others see as outcasts and showing God’s love to them

e) Service Projects – using practical skills to serve and bless people

f) The Workplace – seeing your workplace as the primary place where God wants you to demonstrate his love and reach out to others.

g) Organic relational mission – connecting with people in the flow of life

h) Another Idea – Another idea I haven’t thought of

People headed off to sit in different groups and share some learning around the focus they felt was most natural for them. This activity really needed an hour to be of any benefit, but it got truncated to 20 minutes. Hopefully it allowed people to think a little, meet others like them and spark some fresh ideas. Interestingly the only group that had no participants was ‘Community Activities’. It wasn’t a perfect scenario as people obviously move across several groups, but it did cause people to locate themselves and engage.

I am fairly convinced that anything that requires a physical response of us as well as some verbal reflections is likely to evoke more learning than a simple sermon.

So as we get to the end of this we haven’t made any more tangible plans. We don’t have a 5 year strategy for changing the world, but I think we have stirred people and we will continue to appropriately poke and prod, encourage and challenge over the rest of the year.

That’s all for now on this series of reflections, but I will update this ‘category’ as I see it necessary and as things develop.

5 thoughts on “Moving Forwards (Slowly)

  1. Thanks for this “series of reflections” Hamo. I always appreciate your honesty and have enjoyed reading your perspectives on your church journey in recent times. When it comes to “mission” I am constantly wrestling with what it really means to “preach the gospel”. I am all for feeding the poor, connecting with people, sharing meals, serving and even praying with people who are not Christians… but I wonder what it actually looked and sounded like when the early believers “preached the word wherever they went”?? Acts 5:40-42 and Acts 8:4.

  2. Andrew – I am all for ‘preaching the gospel’ too. I guess people need to be willing to hear and secular oz culture isn’t all that willing so it means we need to pick our moments. I reckon if we don’t pick our moments we will just get shrugged off.

  3. I guess It depends on what shape or form your “preach” looks like? Hamo what is your understanding and perspective of preach? Asking this generation what preach is, compared to 30 years ago will get two very different understandings and perspectives??

  4. yeah for sure Jeremy – I see it as the ‘verbal’ part of our mission. I don’t mean being in front of a crowd with a microphone (although there is that). I just mean being willing to intelligently speak of Jesus in a way that connects with the people we are speaking to.

  5. Great to read this series …

    I was up your way over the weekend and prayed for you guys and QBC as I drove past your neck of the woods …

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