Pioneer ministries and fresh expressions of church


Tuesday 22 December 2009

Re-enchanting Christianity

I've just finished reading 'Re-enchanting Christianity' by Dave Tomlinson, a sequel to his famous 'The Post-Evangelical.' It is thought provoking and should spark some lively discussion about what constitutes orthodox Christianity. For me, the final chapter was the most helpful. It is called ' Mission Statement,' and it suggests 5 priorities for Christian mission in emerging culture. These are the 5:

1. Christian mission in the twenty-first century requires a kingdom orientation, rather than a church orientation. The kingdom of God is bigger than the church congregation and God is at work in the lives of people who don't attend church regularly.The key elements of the kingdom are empowerment, justice, liberation, hope, healing and new life. Wherever God's healing, reconciling, inclusive will is enacted on earth as it is in heaven, God's reign is present.

2. Christian mission in the twenty-first century needs to be focused on spirituality rather than apologetics. There will always be a need for the apologetic presentation of the Christian message, but we are seeing a return of the spiritual impulse and we need to interact positively with this.

3. Christian mission in the twenty-first century needs to be holistic rather than dualistic. Too often, even where concerns about the environment - or poverty, or social justice - do make it onto the Church's agenda, they are as add-ons to lend credibility to the gospel rather than as real gospel concerns in and of themselves. The gospel of Christ is good news for the whole person: body, mnd and spirit.

4. Christian mission in the twenty-first century needs to be dialogical rather than monological. The assumption at the heart of evangelism is that people will be changed by what Christians tell them or represent to them; it scarcely ever includes the expectation, essential to the process of dialogue, that such a transformaton or change in outlook will work both ways ... commitment to dialogue means that Christians involved in community ministry need to be open to the possibility that their faith and their view of the world will be changed as a result of that dialogue.

5. Christian mission in the twenty-first century needs to find expression through open, empowering church communities. Closed border models tend to draw quite clear boundaries around a community and are clear about who is 'in' or 'out.' There may be unconverted people on the fringes, but it is clear that they are not really accepted as insiders to the church. Open border models see conversion as a process. They offer a more journey-orientated vision of Christianity that sits comfortably with shades of grey where faith is concerned.

Tomlinson concludes:
'Christian mission in the twenty-first century reqires kingdom-orientated communitiies, places of radical inclusion and empowerment, which say: You are welcome - whatever your ethnic or cultural background, however you look or dress, whether you are a man or a woman, gay or straight, whether you earn a pittance or you're worth a fortune, whether you have kids, can't have kids, don't want to have kids, whether you are full of faith or riddled with doubts, whether you feel hopeful or fearful, gregarious or withdrawn - YOU ARE WELCOME!

Some of those headings need unpacking a bit, but they offer a good framework for priorities of contemporary mission which will engage with postmodern culture.

Monday 21 December 2009

Progress so far

Since the beginning of September we have taken some great strides forward. The selection criteria for pioneers and projects have been established. A pioneer assessment conference was held in November and seven people were recommended as being suitable. Proposals have been submitted for projects where pioneers can begin to work with others in forming new kinds of church for young adults with no church background. In early January we will be able to make some decisons about which projects to adopt and then try to match up pioneers and projects.

We are at a very exciting stage in the development of the scheme, and look forward to seeing God at work in new ways as pioneers are released to work on the edge, sharing good news with people who are not normally touched by the church community. We'll be holding more selection rounds during 2010 and details of the timetable are shown at the side of the page. The appropriate forms will appear in the New Year.