Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The seed of the gospel

I read this awesome quote tonight over at Steve Addison’s blog » World Changers. Before I mention the quote I want to recommend Steve's blog. I've found it very helpful, wise and insightful. If you are reading mine and haven't read his then you've got them in the wrong order. :-D

“The gospel is like a seed, and you have to sow it. …Now, when missionaries came to our lands they brought not only the seed of the gospel, but their own plant of Christianity, flower pot included! So, what we have to do is to break the flowerpot, take out the seed of the Gospel, sow it in our own cultural soil, and let our own version of Christianity grow.”

D.T. Niles of Sri Lanka

This is fantastic, exactly what I think mission-shaped churches need to be considering. Let's be bold enought to break the flowerpot, take out the seed of the Gospel and do the hard work of working out how to sow it in our own cultural soil. It's very obvious that the soil has change a lot since it was originally planted in this area. I wonder what our own version of Christianity that grows now will look like?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

In, up, of and out

Another snippet from emergingchurch.intro on the idea of 'In, up, of and out' as core dimensions of the church.

- An "up" dimension towards God. As the community reaches up to God in sacramental, word-based or other forms of worship, God comes "down" to transform individuals' lives and make them more like him in character.

- An "in" dimension, as the community fosters high quality relationships between its members. The community seeks to become inclusive, like the Trinity, with room for everyone.

- An "out" dimension. The community goes out to the world to care for it and redeem it. Evangelism is one aspect of holistic mission. Just as the Spirit constantly moves out to the world and in towards the Godhead, so does the church.

- An "of" dimension, as each community identifies with the whole church - "We are part of the church flowing through history, lapping round the world today and rushing forward to eternity." Might this also be an "around" dimension, as Christian communities look around to make links with their wider family?

I find this framework very helpful. Simple, clear, easy to hold up against ideas. It also seems balanced and well-rounded, plus it includes a recognition of the connection to the broader church which is something I feel quite lacking in the emerging church. Any comments?

A U-Church for an I-World

A U-Church for an I-World is the title in the chapter of a book I'm reading at the moment called emergingchurch.intro. It's talking about how consumer culture has infected the church, that many people become reliant on getting what they want or feel they need to grow spiritually from church, particularly the Sunday service. Now in part there is nothing wrong with the church providing what people need for their spiritual growth, but as this book says 'The trouble is that it has often bred an over-dependency.' People don't take responsibility for their own spiritual growth, it's not a part of their everyday existence, it's just something that happens when they experience worship or a sermon or the sacraments. We 'grow up with a faith disconnect: belief is not part of' our everyday lives. We go on Sunday or to small group and get a fill up. Our spiritual health is not our own responsibility, we see it as the church's and when things go wrong ... we blame the church. Something is definitely wrong here.

I guess this is some of what I am keen to challenge when planting a mission-shaped church. I think the church has a key role in encouraging and increasing people's spiritual health. We need to help people grow in their relationship with and understanding of God, but we shouldn't take that responsibility away from them. We need to empower people by equipping them to grow, resourcing them to grow and giving them opportunities to take it beyond theory into the reality of their lives. I guess this is another reason why I think the church today needs to take the practice of mission more seriously. If we aren't modelling a walk with God that puts into practice what we believe then 1) it becomes mostly theoretical 2) it so easily becomes a consumer add on to their lives. I want to plant a church that draws people away from thinking that being a Christian is only about their personal relationship with God and what value it can add to their lives and guides them down a path where they start to see God's agenda and helps them to think about what they can do to further that.