’There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God’
…according to Psalm 46v4.
We launched our 3 streams of Kx 2.0 at the Coventry Community of practice earlier this month. I pray that our streams make God glad, and that they will contribute to the river of what the Spirit of God is doing in our nation.
1. Reimagining-Church (putting mission and discipleship integrated to shared-life communities front and centre of church life)
2. Micro-planting (New expressions of church being planted to reach unreached parts of our towns and cities)
3. City-reaching (flooding our towns and cities with missionary disciples and multiplying missional expression of church – 1 in 100)
I believe that these 3 streams, when working together and in collaboration with other churches in our city, could create an environment in which we, as far as is possible, complete the great commission in our towns and cities.
So that… ‘Everyone knows someone who’s life has been changed by Jesus and everyone knows of, and is in easy reach of a local group of believers where they can get practical help and go on a spiritual journey to faith in Christ’.
From Great Commission to Great Completion.. Imagine it! A church that has so taken seriously the great commission that we have become a bride ready for Jesus’ return. I for one would love that to be in my lifetime.
If not, that I may hand on a baton that is on the final leg of the race!
A unique opportunity to engage with inspiring training, personal life changing revelation, and a journey of discovery for your church as it seeks to discover the ways of Jesus in mission, discipleship and shared-life communities.
Isn’t it amazing how God has gifted us with imagination?
It’s probably one of the many things that singles us out from other animal species. I like to think of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit having a brainstorming session before the creation of the world, imagining what they might create. I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation!
And imagination is probably one of the most misunderstood and underused gifts that we all have. Essentially it precedes innovation. It has to.
So how do we use our imagination in the service of God’s Kingdom?
It’s not just artistic creatives that have the corner on imagination. It’s designed to be something we all use. It is probably best activated in some kind of space, both physical and diary, where we are undistracted and have time and space to tune into God speaking to us, or painting for us, something in our mind that didn’t previously exist.
Sometimes imagination comes from reading, watching, talking, listening, or walking. It can come alive when external stimuli, internal spiritual impulses and personal space combine to create conditions where new ideas are formed and fermented. It may just need permission to be aroused and brought into play in our leadership and lives.
I love the way that Rachel, from St Barnabas Cambridge, and Guy, from Birmingham Diocese, have employed their imagination in putting together their discipleship resources.
I admire the way that Bec, from Hope Whitby, has constantly refused to fit their growing church into an existing mould, but used her imagination to create new forms of church, as the need has arisen.
Imagination has led to Innovation (or invention). And this is how it should be. If we want to see the kingdom come, then we need to constantly be imagining what the new wineskin should be. Innovations of the 1970s, 80s and 90s need to give way to the imagination of the 2020s. As the prophet Isaiah famously said, ‘Behold I am doing a new thing’.
Our imagination has no limit, it is free to create something out of nothing. We will never reach the end of possibilities if we give God the time and space to help us co-create with him. He says in Eph 3:20 that He is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,’ As I said – no limits!
Innovation of course requires Iteration – to check out new ideas and find the ones that will work, bear fruit, and be sustainable. Permission to fail is required! We need each other in this process. Both to stimulate innovations of the future shape of church, and also to support each other through the pain of trying new things.
I pray that you would discover the power of God working through your imagination, the joy of innovation, and the emerging shape of kingdom and church that will follow.
How reframing invitations and welcome can build life giving community relationships
You know what it’s like. You walk into a room and everyone is already huddled into little groups, chatting and laughing together. You feel your palms get sweaty, you clear your throat and swiftly look around the room hoping to see someone you know.
We’ve all been there – new environments, new people, blood curdling fear.
That’s how most of us feel when we enter new places, and probably even more so when we enter a room where everyone else seems to know each other. Whilst we love to invite people to our missional community events, our church services and our homes we need to remind ourselves that invitation is more than just asking the question.
The Power of Invitation
I used to hate inviting people to church things. It brought out the most insecure part of me. What if they say no? What if they think I’m weird? What if they say yes?!
But really, the person receiving the invitation is the person on the spot. Do you know what they are thinking? Wow, they must really like me to want to spend time with me outside of work… I’m busy that night, I hope they’re not offended if I say no… This is great! I never get invited anywhere!
Whilst we are busy worrying about what they think of us, the reality is that the person you invite doesn’t want to upset you. People like to get invitations, it lets you know that someone was thinking of you, that they think you are with their time and energy. It reminds us that we are worth getting to know.
A Good Welcome
Once you’ve started inviting people to your missional community social, out for a walk, or maybe to a church service, some of them are going to say yes. That’s a good thing. This is where people get to experience the beautiful expressive family of God as we introduce them to our wider community. How we welcome people matters, when we feel welcomed, accepted and heard, we want to spend more time with those people.
Our missional community has been talking about a good welcome recently. Some of our youth have started secondary school and we have people who have moved to the UK from other countries join, so the topic has been on our minds. You’d be surprised at the super simple things that have made them feel welcome:
When someone remembers my name
Sharing phone numbers and messaging me in the week
Inviting me out for a coffee or for lunch
Taking time to show me around the city
Sitting with me during lunch so I wasn’t on my own
Let’s be clear, whilst all of these things made people feel welcome, they were not all done by one person. When we are part of a community, everyone has a part to play and can bring their best contributions.
Maybe you love having people over and feeding them, the students in your community will definitely thank you for that! Perhaps your best contribution is to help someone move some furniture, to recommend a plumber or let them borrow your lawn mower. Or maybe you’re the king of funny gifs.
Whatever it is, bring your best contribution as you welcome new people into God’s family.
Authenticity is Attractive
If there is one thing that you can do to help people feel welcome, it’s to be yourself. Authenticity has always been and will always be attractive. When we are willing to show up as ourselves, faults and all, we open the door for others to do the same.
Authenticity allows us to have conversations that go beyond the surface and gives opportunities for Holy Spirit to step in and bring transformation. When we are authentic we give others the permission to do the same.
People were drawn to Jesus not just because he had compassion for those in need, not just because he was a great teacher with wisdom and knowledge or even because he was a radical troublemaker! Jesus was authentic. He didn’t pretend to be someone else to impress people, he was honest, loving, challenging and gentle.
Imagine what our communities would be like if each person who interacted with us was invited in and welcomed both into community and relationship. This week, find an opportunity to invite and welcome someone into what you are doing and join in with Holy Spirit on the greatest adventure.
It’s exciting when we begin to see so many others starting to speak our language, especially when the territory we have been exploring has been on the margins of what most churches have considered important for decades.
Whether the language is missional communities, house churches, microchurches, or new worship communities, it makes little difference. So many in our post-Covid landscape are seeing the need to get the church out of the building and into the unreached parts of our communities, towns and cities.
I’ve been talking to many leaders of large churches who have built their reputation and growth on the big, gathered, attractional expressions of church; where programmes, ministries, and small groups have all been built on the back of, or in support of, the Sunday gathering. But now the tide is changing and many leaders are making the uncomfortable discovery that ‘what got us here, won’t get us there’. And new movements, like the Myriad initiative of the Church of England, are looking to plant 10,000 new scattered expressions of church over the next 10 years.
So micro-planting is here to stay. It’s been a growing emphasis in Kx for the last 3-4 years, and this February (at our annual Community of Practice in Coventry) we will be launching a national network of Microchurches, to support the pioneers who want to take new ground. I’m very excited about this!
The church, for most of its history, has been seen in terms of both its Modal expression (Maintaining, centred, gathered, stable, established resource base), and its Sodal expression (Sent, extending, apostolic, pioneering, missionary network of planters). I believe we are moving more towards a better understanding of how our movement will better and more fruitfully express these two historic modes of the life of the church. Who knows, perhaps in our day we will rediscover a movement that, as with the early church in Thessalonica in Acts 17:6 (ESV), ‘turns our towns and cities upside down’.
Looking forward to being with many of you in Coventry.