Pioneer ministries and fresh expressions of church


Sunday 17 January 2010

Rob Bell UK tour

Many people have drawn from Rob Bell's books and Nooma DVDs for their inspiration in taking a fresh and creative approach to exploring faith.  Rob Bell is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan and has written a number of influential books such as Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians. He is on a tour of the US West Coast, the UK and Australia and New Zealand during the spring of 2010.  The tour is based on his new book, Drops Like Stars, and is an exploration of the complex relationship between suffering and creativity. The UK dates are 14-19 March and take in Belfast, Stoke on Trent, Swansea, London, Southampton and Perth. If you are near any of those venues I'm sure it would be worth getting along.  Tickets are £10.50 and can be booked online at:

Friday 15 January 2010

Project applications - form available

If you are thinking of submitting an application for a VentureFX project in your circuit or district, please note that the application form is now available as a download from the website (link at the right-hand side of this page). The closing date is 23 April and the Project Selection panel will meet on 24 May 2010 - Wesley Day!

Thursday 14 January 2010

New ventures in new directions

On finishing Al Hirsch's 'The Forgotten Ways' (which I highly recommend) I was quite awe-struck by a quote from Karl Barth in his final chapter. It comes from Barth's 1959 letter to a pastor in the German Democratic Republic who was anxious about the fate of the church under communism. His comments about the need for the church to look for new ventures in new directions seems highly relevant for mission in post-Christendom, postmodern culture.

No, the church’s existence does not always have to possess the same form in the future that it possessed in the past as though this were the only possible pattern.

No, the continuance and victory of the cause of God which the Christian Church is to serve with her witness, is not unconditionally linked with the forms of existence which it has had until now.

Yes, the hour may strike, and perhaps has already struck when God, to our discomfiture, but to his glory and for the salvation of mankind, will put an end to this mode of existence because it lacks integrity.

Yes, it could be our duty to free ourselves inwardly from our dependency on that mode of existence even while it still lasts. Indeed, on the assumption that it may one day entirely disappear, we should look about us for new ventures in new directions.

Yes, as the Church of God we may depend on it that if only we are attentive, God will show us such new ways as we can hardly anticipate now. And as the people who are bound to God, we may even now claim unconquerably security for ourselves through him. For his name is above all names…

[Letter to a Pastor in the German Democratic Republic, in How to Serve God in a Marxist Land (New York: Association Press, 1959) pp.45-80]

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Hinde Street lecture

I've just caught sight of the publicity for a series of lectures at Hinde Street Methodist Church, London.  They are being given by Morna Hooker and Frances Young, with the general title of 'What Mission?  Urban Discipleship.' The one which stuck out was on 16 March at 7.30pm, Frances Young's lecture is: 'The Challenge of "Establishment" - Did a Christian Empire help or hinder?'  This could be a very useful lecture for those interested in the impact on mission of post-Christendom.  If you are within striking distance of London it might be worth going along.  More details from or check out the website  Other lectures are on Feb 23, March 2, 9 and 23.  All at 7.30pm.

Projects about to launch

On Monday the Projects Selection Panel met to look at all the project proposals which came in.  It is fantastic to see what creative and exciting ideas people are working on and I wish the scheme could support them all!  It was tough having to make choices, but we decided on 5 projects and we hope that these will be able to be launched very soon.  We have pioneers lined up for all but one of them, so things should be able to happen pretty quickly.  It's too soon to publish the details - the news is still filtering through to the circuits and districts concerned - but we hope to be able to give those details within a couple of weeks.  Please pray for the pioneers as they prepare for some amazing new experiences on the roller-coaster ride that is pioneer ministry.  See the panel at the side of this page for closing dates for the next selection round both for projects and pioneers.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Growing Jesus-community in a postmodern world

Bart Woodhouse offered this reflection on the challenge of forming Christian community among unchurched young adults at the recent pioneer selection conference.  Bart and the project where he is working (The Beacon, near Dartford) were recently co-opted into VentureFX to bring experience and learning as the scheme develops):

It is my world not some foreign place
It is a Facebook account and my hourly status
It is the corporate machine seeing how hard they can push
It is the blog I read, and the one I mean to write
It is the politician’s word-spinning promise
It is a police force that I don’t trust
It is the family that I don’t know
It is the Buddha on my mantle piece
It is the crucifix around my neck
It is the intoxicating paradox of blended of ideas
It is both the mortgage and the endless demands in red
It is the wanting of “wanting”
It is the need of my next “Bench Hoodie”
It is X Factor
It is Strictly Come Dancing
It is the celebrity in me
It is a thumb straining text conversation
It is a numb feeling of condemnation
It is a haemorrhaging meaning – a fractured truth
It is a world of choice – my human right
It is the condom I need to wear
It is the next viral scare
It is my hunger for experience
It is my virtual X-Box life
It is my longing to be deeply known
It is my fear that I’ll be on my own
It is my pursuit of an accepted identity
It is the company of my iPod shuffle - knowing what song I need to hear
It is CO2 emissions and my energy saving kettle
It is my fifth holiday with Ryan Air
It is my SMART car parked on my drive
It is a Coldplay lyric haunting my vulnerable head
It is a sense of hopelessness – being out of control
It is global poverty sanitized and always elsewhere
It is the science of “Dolly” the cloned sheep
It is globalisation – homogenisation
It is an American cultural coup d’├ętat
It is the uneasiness with “Modern Britain”
It is a fleeting thought about the BNP
It is an embarrassing adolescence that seems unable to end
It is a world I hate
It is a world I love
It is a world I don’t trust
It is a world that no longer has a sense of its future

And to create a Jesus community in this world existing on its own event horizon:

It is to listen and listen some more
It is to hear the Spirit
It is to hear the whisper of GOD IN THE WORLD!
It is to listen to the cry of his missional whisper – Kingdom!, Grace!, Hope!
(can you hear it?)
It is to recognise the red-eyed face of God at mission and join in!
It is to listen to the robust and needful questions in this world
The “why?”
The “who?”
The “what?”
The “where?”
It is to listen to the complexity – the hopelessness
It is listen as a conversation partner
Familiar and yet different
It is being part of a penniless community of lottery winners
It is imagination
It is Spirit dreaming
It is a conversation with no final sentence
It is to create a place of
It is a dangerous place, an edgy place
It is arguments
It is difference
It is Relationships
It is encounter
It is transformation
It is community!

Simply it is an out stretched hand, and invitation to discover “why you are who you are” and to step into the rhythm of the Kingdom life, that because of the cross, has forgotten how to stop…

I hope you will find this useful for your own reflection on pioneering ministry in this culture.  It isn't copyright but please ask Bart before reproducing this material.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

What was Jesus doing for 30 years?

I'm in the process of reading Al Hirsch's 'The Forgotten Ways' (Brazos Press, 2006) and finding it very stimulating in terms of orienting the church for cross-cultural and incarnational mission. I suppose I should have thought of this before, but haven't:

'The fact that God was in the Nazarene neighborhood for thirty years and no one noticed should be profoundly disturbing to our normal ways of engaging mission ... it says something about the timing as well as the relative anonymity of incarnational ways of engaging in mission' (p.133)

It just underlines the need for long-term commitment to presence within the community where we are trying to mission - pioneer ministry needs significant time spent in listening and exploring and discerning (what the community is saying - what the Holy Spirit is saying).  It also reminds me that we don't always have to work quite so hard as we sometimes do at being noticed.  Making a noise and making our presence felt can sometimes be counter-productive.  Simply being with and alongside people without banging a drum can be equally if not more effective - no one noticed that God was in the neighbourhood for thirty years, but the ground was being prepared for people to notice his saving activity when it came.