Many Christians are reaching out to share faith with family, work associates, neighbors and friends – in fresh ways!
While they know most of their friends will not connect with existing churches, they are not spending their energies criticizing established, inherited forms of church. They have moved on – and they are ‘taking church onto the paths of life’! For some this means into homes, parks or cafes; for others it means out onto the walking trails, into their fishing/surfing communities, or into their workplaces. It always means simple, organic, reproducible; and these churches are always conversational, participatory, encouraging, mission shaped and multiplying!
If you want to start a mission shaped faith group (church) for unchurched friends or family members disconnecting from inherited forms, download the conversation guide, Planting Churches that Multiply (April 2011) from www.newchurchlife.com. The textbook is the New Testament – the Gospels and Acts in particular. With a group of friends work through the ideas in this guide – and see where the Holy Spirit leads.
In this NEWS you will find two Australian stories – packed with ideas and encouragement to start something new and fresh today!
Be faithful and courageous,
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS – 24 March 2011 (for more resources go to www.newchurchlife.com)
Church Planting Movements: Mission Frontiers (March-April 2011) has outstanding articles on church planting movements from David Garrison, Bill Smith, Neil Cole, Steve Smith, Kevin Greeson and others. You will read about CPMs among Muslims, Hindus, westerners, etc – covering key principles and practical concerns. Check this out and download it from http://www.missionfrontiers.org/
Two Australian Stories …
Lee and Norman: From a New Age and totally non-church background, Lee, was introduced to Jesus Christ by a friend. She first experienced church in a charismatic setting. Because she was passionate about her new faith she wanted to learn, and signed up to study at the Wesleyan-Methodist Seminary, close to her home. There she experienced careful Bible reading, and there also she met Norman – another new Christian from a New Age heritage.
At a mission retreat, their shared convictions concerning both the gospel and the injustices of the world converged with their growing interest in each other and their visions of church being accessible to non-church friends. The church planting models they looked at did not appeal. They opened a fair-trade shop, JustPlanet, in Sunbury – the dormitory city northwest of Melbourne where they lived. They wanted to address injustices perpetrated in the global south. They incorporated a small café into this venture as an environment to interact more relationally with clients – to cultivate conversations, gatherings or church around food, Bible reading, worship and prayer. Recently they have opened another JustPlanet Café in Bendigo and hope to multiply a movement of fresh expressions in this way.
It has taken sacrifice. Lee and Norman live frugally and have really appreciated (and needed) a small reducing allocation from the Wesleyan-Methodists – designed to encourage while also avoiding dependency. They also value the accountability that comes with such denominational connections.
Chris and Dean: In contrast, Chris and Dean both had church background. They are passionate about Jesus Christ and for many years have sought to address the injustices of the world through a network of children’s care homes. Also, they have been involved in new church plants within denominational structures. However, this has not always been a happy experience. So, rather than remaining frustrated, they do church outside denominational input – gathering and multiplying new faith communities. And since they have chosen to actively live by the principle of ‘loving the person God puts in front of you’ many opportunities to share faith have come – including some that have been inconvenient!
Chris and Dean are convinced that church is ‘doing life together’ – and the best way to do this is around meals! Worship is a gathering for a meal – and interaction. ‘Every gift of food is welcomed, and I make a fuss over the dishes that new friends bring,’ says Dean. ‘We eat, we share!’ Because a house church can be insular – a huddle that does not interact with those around, they alternate between gathering for a BBQ in a park and meeting at their home. The BBQ in the park every second week attracts people. All who walk by are invited to join them for food, games or just to chat. Key people in their community of faith today were first found in the park. The gathering in their home every other week now regularly numbers 15-25 adults and about the same number of children – most without previous church or faith connections.
The fortnightly home gathering also revolves around a meal – which is always followed by a blessing. ‘Every time we gather we take our children on our knees – or we kneel before them, and express our thanks for them, telling each child individually what we appreciate about them and what blessing we desire for them,’ Chris and Dean explain. ‘People without a Christian background quickly catch on – and get involved, blessing their children!’ For those who are couples, husbands also bless their wives. The practice is taken from the Jewish blessing of families each Shabbat – ‘and children and families love it!’ Following ‘the blessing’ there may be 15-20 minutes exploring the Bible – and people are encouraged to read through books of the Bible in their homes.
Exponential 2011: On the Verge! Could the church be on the verge of something big? The largest gathering of church planting leaders on the planet – the 2011 Exponential Conference. The Exponential Conference and the Verge Conference are joining forces to host this historic, international event, On the Verge, April 26 – 29, 2011 in Orlando, FL. http://www.exponentialconference.com/
CHURCH PLANTING NEWS