Earlier this week I went to the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity in London for a conference that was part of the Imagine church program that may run. They began looking at a vision for whole life disciple making. They talked about the Front line which is where people were 110 hours of their week, rather than the 10 hours they spent in and around church. This is echoed the Baptist Union’s concept of a Crossing Place where people are encouraged to see the opportunities that arise out of their everyday lives. The trainer commented that people are already in the right place for mission – they just don’t recognise it. They usually see mission as something that happens in the gathered church but failed to recognise that the church is also scattered that they are full-time Christian workers exactly where they are. The question was how do we equip Christians in the 10 hours for the 110 hours they spend outside of the church, how can they make a difference where they are. It was suggested that we needed three perspective shifts:
- we need to have confidence in the whole life gospel
- we need to have clarity about a whole life mission strategy
- we have to have a conviction about pastoral equipping
One of the challenges was that the church has often given the impression that God is enrolled in our cause so that we can live life better. We were challenged that actually Jesus enrolled us for his cause and that if Jesus really is King then our lives have to be re-orientated. They quoted Eugene Peterson:
“Jesus is metaphor, the kingdom of God, defines the world in which we live. We live in a world where Christ is king stop if Christ is king, everything, quite literally, everything and everyone, has to be re-imagined, re-configured, re-orientated to an obedient way of life that consists in an obedient following of Jesus”
We were reminded that there is no sacred/secular divide, all of the world is God’s, and we need to see God at work through us in all of the world. It was suggested that the normal mission strategy for churches is to recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the missionary initiatives of church paid workers. The challenge was to see a mission strategy that included both the neighbourhood local to the church, the front lines where people worked, or had their leisure time, and the global perspective. We were told of a survey of 3,000 people at Spring harvest where 40% admitted that they struggled to apply faith to their lives, and 38% struggled about how to witness to Jesus in their daily life. How do we change from pastoral care world to a pastoral equipping world where each and every Christian is trained encouraged and motivated to be Christ where they are. In other words, how do we grow disciples? One challenge was how to change people’s focus from God as our problem solver, to us as God’s agents of change in the situation? The examples given of someone at church one Sunday morning confessing that he felt stressed at work and needed prayer. The usual response to this was that the person was praised for, that the stress would be removed and the situation at work improved. We were challenged to turn this around and, whilst acknowledging the stress that the person was under, to ask a different question: ‘how come we pray for you and all your work colleagues, how come we pray for God to equip you to be the agent of change, or comfort, in that situation?’. The challenge to us as Christians, and to leaders of the church, but how do we open people’s eyes to the way God sees their situation, to see where God is already working in that situation and to equip them to join them? They came up with seven questions that we all need to be asking ourselves, under the heading:
How am I……?
- Making good work
- modelling Godly character (i.e. the fruits of the spirit)
- Ministry grace and love
- making a culture (of kingdom principles)
- making disciples
- and mouthpiece for truth and justice
- and mouthpiece for the gospel
The apathy that sometimes surrounds Christians was challenged in a tweet from N. T. Wright recently: “You must not presume that because you are baptised Christians you have reached a level that requires no further moral effort or restraint.”
It was suggested that we needed to change church culture by 1° shifts, using the primary drivers of preaching, worship, and small groups. One of the suggestions was that there needs to be time within services for people to reflect on the things that they have heard, and maybe also some reflection questions maybe to be put on the weekly sheet, that people could take-home ( a Take-away!) and continue to think and pray about.
We were asked whether people who have attended worship left having been given a bigger picture of God, feeling more faith filled, and happy to risk more for Christ? Miroslav Volf was quoted as saying that worship is both adoration and act: how come we transform individual Christians perspective on the situations that they deal with day by day so that they can be true Disciples of Christ in the whole of their life.
One picture of Ministry was that as the player manager of a football team who gives a half-time team talk helping the players to regroup by equipping them and strategising with them for what will happen when they leave the locker room. How do we discover the gifts and talents of our congregations, how do we equip them to see that God can use them wherever they are, that they are the right people in the right place for the right reason serving the kingdom of God. that this too is worship?
The aim is for Christians to be asking themselves how can I make a difference where I am? Or how can I help others thrive by/in your work? Encouraging people to examine their lives and to see if they work with integrity, work to the best of their abilities, and care for colleagues, employees, and where relevant customers. This conference gave me much to think about when I return to Ministry in the local church. How can I, through worship, preaching, Bible studies, talking with people, equip them and encourage them to whole life discipleship?