In the March/April edition of Theology Journal I wrote about the Three Keys to Mission used in the planting and establishment of Glo Church. Here is the third and final part of the article; the whole text is available at bit.ly/3keystomission.
Three keys to mission: Kingdom, incarnation and discipleship
Jesus commanded his disciples to go and make disciples.(30) The faith we have received is the faith we are to pass on: through the church which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. ‘The church must make clear that anyone may come and find acceptance, no matter their lifestyle. But coming to Christ and becoming his disciple requires a life change,’ writes Stetzer,(31) while Cray suggests that ‘the ultimate test of any expression of church…is what quality of disciples are made there?’(32) He continues, ‘character formation is the object of disciple making. It is achieved through habit, through godly repetition.’(33) This concept has formed Glo Church in two ways: one incarnational and the other institutional.
Incarnationally, we have five practices that define our life together using the acronym BEATS. Inspired by Michael Frost, we considered the practices that might help us live the kind of life-long learning to which Jesus called us,(34) not through intellectual consent but through actions.
The ‘B’ is ‘Bless’. Inspired in part by Godwin, who notes that ‘most people find [speaking out blessings] quite difficult to learn’,(35) – we try to bless one person inside the faith community and one person outside the faith community each week.
‘E’ is for Eat; Jesus had many meaningful interactions over mealtimes, and our determination is to spend time over food and/or drink with, again, one person from inside the faith community and one person outside each week.
‘A’ is Ask, our discipline of prayer. Following the monastic tradition of praying regularly in community, we pray at 7.00 a.m., 12.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m. These are rarely gathered times of prayer – we ask everyone to pray for someone inside the faith community, someone outside the faith community, and say the Lord’s prayer. A team member may also send a prayer by text message. In this way prayer fits with the vocations to which God has called us, wherever we find ourselves. Those who can also gather to pray at 9.00a.m. each morning at Glo Central, our drop-in, before the work of the day begins.
Discipleship is in the T: ‘Train’. Paul mentions the ‘strict training’ needed by athletes.(36) We are aiming to fulfill the potential that God has put inside us. As Jesus has called us to both be and to make disciples, we talk about ‘giving and receiving support and challenge’: pastoral support alongside accountable relationships, where we encourage one another to grow in Christ.
Finally, the ‘S’ stands for ‘Sent’, and invokes St Ignatius of Loyola’s Prayer of Examen; at the end of each day asking, ‘Where did I work with Jesus? Where did I resist him?’
These five practices shape our individual and communal lives, and give new believers an idea of what life is like as a follower of Jesus, learning to develop our relationships with Christ, the church and the lost.
Institutionally, discipleship happens through structuring the church with small groups, called huddles. Each huddle has a specific mission focus and is the context for support and challenge. In this way we are seeking to learn together, before God, how to hold together the previous two frameworks of kingdom and incarnation, as ‘missionary encounter requires that we hold together basileia (the reign of God), as the content and goal, and incarnation, as the essential strategy’.(37) Becoming more fully obedient to Christ is the way we live in the kingdom and how we incarnate the gospel, following Guder who writes, ‘Jesus Christ forms his church for its incarna- tional witness by making disciples who become apostles.’(38) In these ways we seek to embody the mission of God, which is, according to Bosch, ‘the good news of God’s love, incarnated in the witness of a community, for the sake of the world’.(39)
Strengths, weaknesses and future challenges
As with any church there are weaknesses and challenges. The strength of the drop-in centre is that we are able to give people volunteer opportunities in a place where local residents can socialize and access the local foodbank, other projects and council agencies.(40) However, Glo Central is dependent on grants and funding; some also argue that foodbanks are a symptom of rather than a cure to poverty.(41) The question is whether the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, and in this instance our answer is that Glo Central is useful; Stockport Council’s Offerton Neighbourhood Management Board said that it was ‘essential’.
We want Glo Church to be long term, self-sustaining and indigenous; on an estate with considerable challenges, this proves quite a task. We are working to establish some Social Enterprise businesses: the challenge will be to maintain the faith element, so that we do not become simply a business consultancy, but a church that helps others in Jesus’ name. We are starting a new missional community in the other residential area covered by the BMO – this will take some of the team away from Offerton Estate. Other ‘distractions’ include the Bishop of Stockport asking us to share some of our learning, supporting the establishment of The Bridge School of Mission and Church Planting, funded by the Church Commissioners.(42) In encouraging others to invest in mission, our focus could easily sway from reaching out to Offerton residents. Another challenge is to consider the future of Glo Church and its relationship with Church of England structures. The BMO was established for five years, meaning we only have two years left. What happens then? These questions demand answers across the whole institution as Fresh Expressions continue to grow and develop.(43)
A possible future is considered by Nick Spencer in his Parochial Vision, looking back, again, to our monastic forebears. He develops the concept of the ‘Minster Church’, one church overseeing the spiritual life of settlements with an average distance to the Minster of six miles – the distance modern Britons travel on an average journey.(44) Might deaneries become more fruitful areas to consider, with a mixed economy of missional communities and churches serving ‘micro-parishes’ – residential areas and neighbourhoods within the deanery? Then laity and clergy alike could serve around the deanery, supporting and encouraging the different communities of faith, using church buildings as sites for training, support and even business activities generating income.
Glo Church was established through taking Osmer’s four tasks seriously. Three key theological motifs define our life together: kingdom, incarnation and discipleship. These are outworked through individuals and the institution, underpinned by Jesus’ fulfilment of Isaiah 61. It is the role of our church to raise up others who might realize their God-given potential; and it is my role as the leader to help keep the church focused on these three frameworks, that we might be ‘built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’.(45)
Note: scriptural translations taken from the NIV.
30. Matt. 28.19.
31. Ed Stetzer, Planting Missional Churches: Planting a Church That’s Biblically Sound and Reaching People in Culture (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006), p. 264.
32. Graham Cray, ‘Why Is New Monasticism Important to Fresh Expressions?’, in Cray, Mobsby and Kennedy (eds), New Monasticism as Fresh Expression of Church, pp. 1–11 (3).
33. ibid., pp. 5 and 6.
34. The Greek word for disciple, mathetes, means ‘learner’.
35. Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts, The Grace Outpouring: Becoming a People of Blessing, 2nd edn (Colorado Springs: Zondervan, 2012), p. 31.
36. 1 Cor. 9.25.
37. Hunsberger and Van Gelder (eds), The Church between Gospel and Culture, p. 75.
38. Darrell Guder, The Incarnation and the Church’s Witness (Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf and Stock, 2004), p. 21.
39. Bosch, Transforming Mission, 519
40. For example <http://www.stockportflag.org.uk/>, accessed 27 January 2014.
41. <http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/aug/24/food-banks-symptom-failure>, accessed 27 January 2014.
42. <http://www.thebridgechurchplanting.co.uk>; <http://www.churchgrowthrd.org.uk/UserFiles/File/Development_Funding/ Development_Funding_Project_List.pdf>, accessed 27 January 2014.
43. <http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/news/anglicanresearch>, accessed 27 January 2014.
44. Nick Spencer, Parochial Vision: The Future of the English Parish (Carlisle: Authentic Media, 2004), p. 87.
45. 1 Peter 2.5.