If we reduce God to our likeness, it should not surprise us if he has little appeal!
The God many do not believe in has never actually existed – and, the Jesus many do believe in bears little or no likeness to the Jesus of the Gospels.
Be faithful in sharing what God is like – and courageous in planting churches that portray Jesus as the radical person he was and is.
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS – 27 Sept 2012
Agen Church Goes Simple: The scattered 40 attendees of the Agen Adventist Church (in south France) have formed 5 simple churches/groups in their communities where they invite friends – gathering at Agen once each month.
Cottage Beck Cafe Church has No Congregation: ‘We don’t try to have a congregation,’ say planters Isobel and Bryan Webster. As ‘a prophetic voice’ in their town they offer ‘no strings attached’ support, a food bank, a base for ‘Street Pastors’, a centre for community dialogue and activities, a safe place for broken and at-risk people, and a community where Christian faith is lived! They say, ‘We don’t care for a congregation, we relate to the whole community!’
Multicultural ‘soup kitchens’: Working with government agencies, local authorities and community organizations the Helsinki International Church Plant regularly offers a unique community meal – always a special menu from a particular migrant community. ‘The Finnish community love it’, says Mariol Pilois – coordinator of church planting among migrants in Finland. ‘It is a surprise for Finns to find the food served are always special dishes from migrant communities – and many close relationships are developing’.
Laity Like Organic Church: ‘We are encouraging members to start small churches in the places where they live and relate,’ says planter and pastor Alberto Mambranca. ‘This is something members like – and can do.’ They invite friends, meet, share, eat, and discuss God’s Word. This can happen anywhere and at anytime. People are rarely available at the times we determine – but connect with God, worship and are church ‘on the paths of life’.
Comments heard at the Euro Planters dialogue –
# Planting churches only works when we connect deeply with our communities. It calls for long-term commitment.
# Today we are focusing more upon simpler forms of church than when we started.
# We focus on engaging the laity in planting – with supportive pastors as encouragers and coaches.
# We do not have a CPM but we have planted over 50 groups and churches – with 12 focusing upon the majority population. We now have 10 lay plants and 8 have coaches.
# Focused prayer is foundational. Some pray at 10.02 each day – praying the Luke 10:2 prayer.
# If you are afraid of losing control – there will never be effective mission. There can never be a movement if there is fear.
# I have learnt it’s OK to be messy!
# Church planting as postmoderns for postmoderns is dangerous – for we don’t know where we are going.
Our denomination is modernist in structure and form. We seek biblical and Triune centered frames, but not a model!
Ministry concepts –
# The Grocery Bag: The X-preszo team ask their friends to give groceries which they ‘bag up’ and distribute according to need.
# Open Mic Night: Teens who are hanging around the streets and into addictive substances – and community people, are invited to share talents at an ‘open mic night’ with ‘guidelines’.
# Burger Church: Young adults are inviting their friends in Helsinki for a burger – with music, a gospel message and invitation to give their lives to Jesus Christ.
# Church as a Second Home: ‘Church can be like a social project,’ says planter Alberto Mambranca from # Germany. ‘Kids meet to do their homework together. Families eat together. Life and faith is shared. Unchurched friends are involved!’
The Simple Forms of New Testament Church – and Today: In the last NEWS we looked at 4 aspects of simple first century Christian communities and their relevance for us. Here are four more –
1. Early Christians were urbanites. First century churches were primarily urban. It is difficult to imagine the squalid and dangerous conditions. The 150,000 in Antioch, the base for Paul’s missionary journeys, lived in an area less than 5 square kilometers. With public buildings (forum, agoras, temples, etc) taking up to 40% of the city, residential sectors were crowded beyond the extreme. Water and sanitation were limited. The stench and filth of the city would have been smelt kilometers away. Open fires for cooking filled the city with smoke – and the danger of fire. Poorly constructed buildings frequently collapsed. Knowing their crucified Lord had risen from the grave gave Christians courage to risk death while serving neighbors stricken by deadly disease and plague.
2. Church was on the path of life. Church was not a building Christians went to, nor an institution or denomination they belonged to. They were church in their cities and communities. They lived within their extended families – parents, children, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins; some as slaves, and others with servants and slaves. (35-40% of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves.) Animals (sheep, goats and donkeys) sometimes shared their homes. They mingled in their communities, aware of the needs and hurts of all, serving as ‘the body’ and ‘presence’ of Jesus’ – doing what he would do if he were physically present. (John 14:12) As church – the ‘two or three’ gathering in the name of Jesus (Matt 18:20) – they lived and witnessed on the paths of life.
3. They had natural inbuilt leadership systems. Households provided natural leadership for the home churches. Lydia would have been the natural ‘leader’ in her ‘household’ (oikos), as was the jailer, Jason, and Aquila and Priscilla in theirs. (Acts 16-18) It is only natural that Crispus facilitated the church in his home; as would Titius Justus, Pheobe and Archippus in theirs. The oikos church did not need appointed leaders. However, with many such churches in a town – Paul appointed ‘overseers’ to foster these networks. These were mature believers, not given to power-seeking – but encouragers, able to facilitate disciple making and the planting of new churches in unentered relational streams.
4. They were revolutionary conversational communities. Churches were conversational communities – eating, serving, sharing. In the early years, where synagogues welcomed them, Christians shared in Sabbath fellowship, scripture reading, and prayers. However, early churches reflected their households (oikos). As in families, their shared meals were testimony to their Saviour. Expressing gratitude for their ‘bread’ and ‘drink’ as symbols of the crucifixion of their ‘Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, family meals were revolutionary statements. Jesus Christ who had been crucified on a Roman Cross and was now alive as evidenced by the living presence of the Holy Spirit, was their Lord and Saviour – not Caesar, who loved these titles!
The next NEWS will explore further simple New Testament forms of church – including zero cost (for buildings, parking space etc), easily reproducible networks, freedoms, etc.
Resources (more resources & stories – www.newchurchlife.com)
Simple Church at Home: Check out www.SimpleChurchAtHome.com – and click on the ‘webinar video’ button for orientation to this Adventist simple church network hosted by Milton Adams.
Gospel Shyness! Check out what Steve Addison says about shyness towards sharing the gospel – http://www.movements.net/blog
Learning from Mistakes –
# Church planting by denominational pastors is high risk – for when transferred their successors often do not share their heart for the new plant.
# Simple forms of church struggle for acceptance in denominational systems – and find it difficult to understand what is gained from their monetary support of the system.
# Equipping events and X-changes need to be culturally relevant – events that bring planters of traditional forms of church together with creative/missional forms tend to frustrate both.
Resource for understanding inter-gender challenges: http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/me-my-sex-and-i/
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS