I have been having several conversations about mission as the church on the edge project has been discussed wider. My encounters with Flow recently have challenged many of my preconceptions and helped me question. Many conversations have been about how do we build a mission movement with enough velocity to break out of the current pull of historical Christendom shaped faith we encounter. Chris Neal from CMS speaks about how we have double wrapped faith, in culture and in structures and this was where i first heard the velocity question. He uses the analogy that in order to break the gravitational pull the earth a rocket needs to travel at something like 28000 mph and it should reach the moon in a few days but due to the pull it takes much longer. (I cant remember the exact science and speeds but you get the idea).
The are few key themes that seem to be emerging for me as I reflect on mission in what is essentially an in-between time as the grip of Christendom loosens, but we continue to live where much remains as it so mixed in with culture. So what is it to be missional today?
Firstly we need to engage in MISSION FROM BELOW – many approaches to mission (either in the emerging church or elsewhere) seem to be responses to the cultural conditions we find ourselves in and are often more a response to what the grand ideas of the time seem to be saying about the current culture (ie shaped by a post modern deconstructionist view) rather than a response to the local culture as encountered on the ground. It is great that we are informed of these larger (often academically shaped) questions/concepts so we can raise our own awareness and understand motivators within ourselves, but questionable of their value on the ground. Paul raises some interesting issues with postmodernity
I am aware this raises issues why do we need to break out the gravitational pull mentioned, have we diagnosed wrongly, is it present etc, but I would argue that as I seek to live in a missional way locally and encounter people locally and nationally the pull is manifested and an ever present reality which brings me onto my second point.
FINDING A NEW LANGUAGE – Our current christian language is pretty much bankrupt and unhelpful as we encounter people on the ground, not least because the multiculturalism present. On occasion they have not heard any of the jargon but in the majority of cases it still carries massive preconceptions shaped by a corrupted version of Christianity either encountered or perceived. Tied up in these first two ideas is also the idea of BEING AND VOICING THE CHANGE you want to see. Using the new language, and speaking with and up for the communities you serve.
BECOMING POWERLESS -what does it mean to engage in mission from a powerless position. Obviously we always have different aspects of power, but taking Christ as an example may mean something different if we reflect on the powerless approach. The power issue is central to the process of finding a new language and mission from below and will raise the issue of the need to engage in a kind herectical imperative as part of the process of encountering the God who is present in our partial understanding and beyond our comprehension. It raises a myriad of questions eg Is our concept that we carry (a) truth a position of power? If we have a name or language for God that is only partial but we take it as a whole are we exerting a form of ideological power or other power position? It begins to question our current interpretations of what it means to be incarnational but as we work from this position it fuels us in the process of finding language and provides a reference point as we seek to engage with God mission from below. We allow those from below to interpret the scriptures and value the insights and processes, we may offer the historic interpretations but carefully and with the permission of those we serve.
Thirdly DEVELOP MISSIONAL SPIRITUALITY where we move beyond the ideas that either we are the bringers of good news or that we simply find God in dark places but rather a process that integrates mission and the ongoing search/journey and sees mission as way of going deeper into the life that God has called us. This is not about being more engrossed in doing mission but becoming more fully human through pursuing the missional God who is always beyond and always close. Mission may be what it means to live your life as one of worship or enables you begin the journey to learn what it means to pray constantly.
REFLEXIVE JUSTIFICATION – I wrote as part of the series about a redefinition of church on Do-Be-Do and this is a continuation of that process. When you are not sure what to do get and do something and reflect as you go (hattip to Pete Rollins). It is reflexive justification rather thank reflective because as we DEVELOP MISSION SPIRITUALITY we find our spiritual/mission reflexes are developed, we engage in the dance of God with creation.
Finally for me there is something about FINDING AND TELLING STORIES THAT BREAK THE NARRATIVE. This is mainly in relation to other Christians, telling stories that are out of the box, sourced from those engaged in MISSION FROM BELOW, and embedded with MISSIONAL SPIRITUALITY, stories from those who are learning a NEW LANGUAGE and finding strength in BECOMING POWERLESS. As we live and tell these stories and find others we create fissures in the current narrative and pathways for others to go beyond us.
i love this story that Keith posted over at Under the Acacias :-
Pastor Jean-Baptiste tells this story of when he was a teacher in a Christian school:
“There were two Muslim girls in my class. They were intelligent girls, but they would fall asleep in class. I called them to come and chat.
‘Monsieur’, they said, ‘it is because we are hungry.’
I checked out and found there were 20 people in their families with hardly any food. I was given some money and bought their families five sacks of millet. I told them to use the millet for the whole family, but that there was one sack for each girl.
The father of one of the girls thought I wanted to marry her, and that was why I had given the food! I told him that it wasn’t that, but that they were intelligent girls and I wanted them to come to school with a full stomach so they could study.
That girl became a Christian. Today she is the minister for Human Rights in the Burkina government. And she loves Jesus.”
Now I have your attention, can i remind people of that the Occasion is happening on the 11th October 9-45am to 4pm and as it is the fifth year we are pushing the boat out.
Press release Press release Press release Press release
Frontier Youth Trust calls for urgent investment in young people.
9 months of research into the future of Christian Youth Work in England
has culminated in a urgent appeal to Government Ministers to take youth work more seriously and to Denominational heads to motive their Churches to action.
FYT is calling for Churches and Christian organisations to commit 25% of their income on working with young people, particularly marginalised young people, in order to take the needs of those outside of the church more seriously.
‘With the media tending to demonise young people with such negative reporting , many of the general public are afraid to be in conversation with them. Christians need to sloth off their fears and engage with a generation that will soon give up entirely on the church if we are not careful,’ says Dave Wiles, Chief Executive of FYT.
Working in partnership with ‘2009: Year of The Child ’, Frontier Youth Trust is currently developing a FREE resource to assist Churches in celebrating young people in their communities and empowering them to reach their potential. Entitled, Young People’s Sunday, the resource will offer material and tools to help churches celebrate young people throughout 2009.
Church leaders are asked to pledge their commitment to working towards these objectives and specifically respond to the challenges with a firm undertaking to take appropriate action. Churches are also being prompted to lobby politicians to implement a commitment to long term funding of Christian faith based youth work by writing to MPs and Government ministers.
For further information, or to receive a resource pack for Young People’s Sunday, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Are people aware that contact point
is being rolled out nationally over the next few years. Contact point will have every young person in Englands basic details, such and name dob, address, parents, school, doctor, lead worker ect. It is in response to the report following Victoria Climbie’s death and will automatically update as soon as a parent of yp access a service eg doctor, school, dfes. At one level it will be a great tool for suitable trainned and authorised staff such a youth workers to find out who else is supporting the young person. On the other hand there is no right to privacy for the young person or parents to opt out. There is a sheilding process to protect vulnerable yp from their info being made available, but every yp will be on the system.
I am preparing for a MA lecture on Flow Spirituality and wondered if this makes any sense to anyone else but me?
In How not to speak of God Pete Rollins explores some of the mystic tradition and for me mission and the Christian mystic tradition have always been closely aligned so here I want to explore some of the implications for mission/us when we embrace a mission spirituality shaped by this and how that that fuels the kind of mission I am engaged with through Church on the edge
Meister Eckhart God rid me of God – the God we know cant be God because God is always more, so what does it mean to engage in mission with the unknown God, where is always more?
If we reduce theology to a formula we see God as transcendent- beyond and then God as imminent – close, almost as if the only way to get our heads around it is a formula that says god is sometimes transcendent and withdrawn and sometimes imminent and close, but what kind of God is this – the mystic tradition teaches that God is imminent because she is transcendent, God is in all, and so close we cant see – God is hyper-real
The unspeakable is very thing we must not stop speaking of – desire is not born in the absence of God but in the presence of God, so we speak of God not to tell others so much as to discover the hyper-reality of God for ourselves, religion is the response to the God event, and this God event is a missionary event, where we are embraced by the Father, who sends the Son, and where the Spirit is left to engage us in the ongoing embrace. God is a missionary God – missio-dei and as such if we truly desire God our mission is not so much as to find him as to reveal him to others but by embracing God in others so we reveal more of the hyper real God to ourselves and help others see the trancenent God that is imminent.