From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
This series of articles is following the five zoom “Godsend” training sessions on Monday evenings in November. Thirteen people zoomed in for the second session. Four of these joined in for the first time after a member from their congregation told them about how the first session went and encouraged them to participate in the remaining sessions. How good is that!!
“Godsend” is a learning for mission App. The App is free, and you can download it to your mobile device by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play. Part of the purpose of the training sessions is to showcase the App and how it can encourage and help you in mission.
The second session was about stretching our imaginations for what could be the start of a Fresh Expression of Christian community. Keep in mind that the focus of this session was on the start of a Fresh Expression. The bigger picture of what we are building toward in a Fresh Expression can be seen from the following working definition:
“A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
In the video for the training session Mike Moynagh pointed out that a good way to stretch our imaginations for what could be the start of a Fresh Expression is to follow our passions and interests. Ask the question of yourself: “What am I into?” Follow this up with another question: “Are there others I can share it with?” That sharing with others might be one of the ways of loving them.
Mike told the story of a person who loved canoeing. He decided to love others by offering free canoeing. He advertised on social media, and the group that formed went off on canoeing trips. As part of the trips, he told Bible stories to the children and noticed some of the adults showing interest. So, he offered to them to come to his place on a weeknight to hear more stories from the Bible. That was the beginning of a Christian community. It all started from canoeing.
One of the points that this story raised for those in the session was the importance of being open and transparent about the spiritual component of the canoeing trips. Mike made it very clear that this openness and transparency is critical. It would be wrong to invite people on a canoe trip and then spring on them some spiritual component.
This transparency can be as simple as describing the trip as “canoeing with a difference”, and then going on to describe the difference as being the telling of a Bible story to the children part way through the trip. Sure, this will mean some people will decide that this is not for them and they’ll decide not to be part of the trip. But there will be others who love canoeing and are OK with their kids hearing a Bible story and will be happy to join in. The important thing is that they know what they are getting – it is open and transparent.
Mike went on to say that these principles can be applied to any setting of your personal interest. He mentioned that social justice interests are another great place to start, and posed an example about “Climate Action with a Difference”. The difference could be laid out as each planning gathering of the Climate Action group asking the question: “If God exists, what would he, she, it think about … [this issue of climate change]”. From such conversations you may notice that one or two people seem interested in exploring more about a Christian response to climate change and who this Jesus is. You could invite them to meet up with you another time to take this further, and so begins a Christian community.
Another example that Mike shared was “Random Acts of Cakeness”. This idea came from some Christian folk who loved cooking cakes and wanted to love their neighbourhood by cooking and delivering celebration cakes for any noteworthy event. Word spread in the neighbourhood to let these cake cookers know of any events like birthdays, getting a driver’s licence, starting or finishing school, completing a course, getting a job. Cakes would be delivered to share in the celebration.
When people in the neighbourhood asked what this was all about, their answer went something like this: “Jesus is regarded as one of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time. We seek to follow his practical spirituality. You are welcome to join in the planning group for Random Acts of Cakeness.”
Mike believes that this kind of thing is within the reach of everyone, and the Godsend App has been set up to help people along the way. You are very welcome to join in one or more of the remaining sessions to get a taste for how this resource might be helpful for your congregation as an encouragement toward further mission. If you are interested, please email me so we can make arrangements for you to connect with the sessions.