Posted by: mikebackup | June 13, 2009


Matthew 28.16-20
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Let us concentrate on five words from this passage – ‘Therefore go and make disciples’ and link those words into our reflections on taking Boulton Lane on a new missionary journey. To go from church shaped mission to being a mission shaped church is no small undertaking for us. So often mission is some add-on to what the church does and that add-on has to conform to what the rest of the church does and is comfortable with. To see mission as the reason we are here turns everything on its head. It means being challenged, and doing things that we are sometimes not comfortable with. We have to consider that being a missionary disciple means what we do in church has very little to do with what we as individuals personally like. It has everything to do with the people we are trying to touch and move forward in their journey of faith.

A good example is our recent family service, which I know a number of you were not comfortable with. Being a missionary disciple puts to one side personal comfort and embraces the fact that families with young children find it very hard to be touched by God when we have a traditional service. If you don’t agree with that, let me tell you that service was the only service since I started here that Lisa did not feel stressed, uncomfortable and not want to be here. It is the only service I have seen where the families actually looked comfortable and involved themselves. They will not come to service like this.

This is not to say that we abandon traditional forms of service taking, because you as the faithful need feeding in a way that nurtures and enables your discipleship. However if we go down embracing a missionary and revival focus, then we will need to address the imbalance between traditional and mission focused worship. At present we have 62 normal services a year and just 9 of them are dedicated to families or other groups. We would need to have far more services like the last family service which have a message and are missional. At those different types of services, you as the faithful would be here not to sit and be comfortable, but be challenged to move forward in your own discipleship and really try and show that you are forward thinking and truly welcoming of all. Not many of those services will be as loud as that last one, but you have to be aware that you will probably not personally like parts of those type of services. Noise was a focus of that service because raucous noise was at the heart of the first Pentecost. Children engage with and love noise, so noise brought together the message with mission.

Then there are the special services at Easter and Christmas and these will become mission focused. Last Christmas we were blessed with so many people at our carol service that never attend church but they were not here for the old reasons. For those that weren’t here, when we began the first carol, While Shepherds watched their flocks by night, no-one stood up and the resulting singing was barely audible. Through the service, I could see the congregation particularly liked the nativity. The congregation responded very warmly when Diane thanked everyone who contributed to Girls Brigade. People also listened well during periods of reflection. However, when Carols were played and prayers said the congregation did not know what to do or how to react. This was not because I was insensitive to them I tried to explain very clearly what was going on, but I was faced with the fact they had no idea about what went on during a traditional church service.

When it was clear very few people knew O little town of Bethlehem I realised we were somewhere new. The vast majority of the congregation had not come to sing their favourite Carols, they did not know any. They had not come to hear the Christmas story as they knew nothing about it. They had not come for traditional nostalgia, because this was their first time. All the reasons people may have traditionally attended a carol service were not evident. On reflection it is very encouraging and exciting that these people attended the service, because they came for new reasons. The challenge is to understand those reasons and engage with these people. So going forward on a new missionary journey will mean a change this Christmas in an effort to engage with those that no nothing of Christ.
It’s important to dwell on this, because at our next Church Meeting you will need to air your views and vote on our future direction. Ian Drummond will chair that part of the meeting and I will be absent so enabling everyone to comment freely. To vote yes on mission and revival at Boulton Lane will mean it will affect you on a week by week basis. Saying yes will not mean that I get on with stuff you don’t attend in the week. It will mean that everyone has to be forward thinking, flexible, and open to challenges. It will mean I approach appropriate people to be involved in new outreach. Mission has to be empowered with everyone, so that when I, Maureen or anyone else moves on, the work that has started does not come to a grinding halt.

So if you say yes, in the future when we discuss a new initiative or different type of service that is mission focused, the comments will need to be above what we personally feel comfortable with and focus on how the people we were trying to show the love of God to reacted and what they took away with them. So please be aware that saying yes will change the way we all must think and be prepared to engage positively with.

As part of our current reflection we have already been engaging in new forms of mission to help us see the way forward more clearly. By starting the film club, it is amazing how doors have opened and the spirit has stirred. If you remember at Easter we piloted the film club. By giving out personal invitations and also asking the local paper to run an article it went very well.

The second time we ran it we did the same and this time the local Surestart centre found out about it and were very supportive in telling the families they are involved with. Being a mission shaped church means working with other organisations that have the same goals of community nurturing and involvement. This enables joined up thinking and strategic planning. So by talking with this local Surestart centre we’ve got a greater insight into community issues and where we can fit into the gaps that exist that will enable us to show kingdom values. These conversations have directly affirmed a number of mission initiatives we have been considering as part of our mission reflection. They have been asked by many people for a knitting club and a computer course.

It has also directly led to myself witnessing to a family that have had the stirrings of the Spirit. They want their youngest child to be blessed, but want it to mean more than getting their child ‘done’. This family doesn’t go to church and neither does the wider family. So we are having a conversation about them having a large family gathering at a family members home where I will go to them and lead a very personal service of thanksgiving and blessing. It is a marvellous witness opportunity that is incredibly Gospel. You never read of Jesus saying ‘oh you must come to my building in Galilee, feel uncomfortable with people you don’t know and have a hymn sandwich’. No he went out to the people and witnessed in amazingly creative ways. So from starting the film club , new, exciting and unexpected opportunities have arisen

Churches are often very good at saying the church is the people, but insist that everyone comes to their building. Being a mission shaped church means going back to Jesus and the early church and seeing how they engaged in mission. They had only one choice, do nothing or go out there. With God’s blessing at Boulton Lane we are potentially at the start of a journey that will truly see us going out and making disciples.

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