From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Participants in the zoom “Godsend” training sessions are now just over halfway through the series of five Monday evening sessions in November. Fifteen people were part of the recent third session, including eleven people from Canberra Region Presbytery. There were also folk from Illawarra, Parramatta-Nepean, Sydney, and Mid North Coast Presbyteries.
The third session focused on the importance of community in starting and growing a new Christian community. These communities are sometimes called fresh expressions of church, missional communities, church plants, organic church, simple church or new worshipping communities.
In the half hour video interview presented by Mike Moynagh and Simon Goddard from the UK, Mike helped our thinking about community by describing three kinds of community: Welcome to My Home; Welcome to Your Home; and Welcome to God’s Home.
The kind of community in “Welcome to My Home” resembles what it is like for someone to come to my house for a meal. It is my house and I have probably set the time when they might arrive, I have chosen and prepared the meal and my house rules generally apply. The general understanding is that my guest is welcome to fit in and to join in being part of my home on my terms. This may be what it is like when we are starting a new Christian community. But if we remain in control, the end result will be just like conventional church. Think about it. If someone new is wanting to be part of my local conventional church, there is a set day, time and place for worship that they need to fit in with. There is also the way that worship happens with various customs and practices that will be followed. Really, welcoming a new person to my conventional church would be like welcoming them to my home on my terms.
The second type of community that Mike spoke about is “Welcome to Your Home”. This is like two or more of us flatting together. It will be your home as well as mine. We each have a say in how the home runs. Mike advises that a new Christian community needs to move from being “my home” to being “your home as well as mine” in order for it become our community. It will not be our community unless we lead it. So, it is important for a new Christian community to have all people involved in planning and leading from the start.
Mike told a story of moving from “Welcome to My Home” to “Welcome to Your Home”. It is the story of a fresh expression that simply began by people who wanted more community meeting up for social activities together – playing board games and sporting games and sharing a meal in the church hall. Over time the group wanted to include some worship component to their gathering. Everyone was involved in the worship planning. They formed groups, each with particular responsibilities, and together they arranged their worship times. Everyone was involved in leadership from the start.
The third kind of community was described by Mike as “Welcome to God’s Home”. This is a shift to understanding that this is God’s community. God is the host, and we belong to God. This is an important shift for a community of faith in Jesus Christ. It is a sign along the way for an emerging church. There are regular rhythms that aid in this shift. Mike gave a few suggestions. For example, the new community could decide upon a rhythm of taking time once a week or once a day to pray for, or have positive thoughts towards, others. Another example is sending a daily email to the community that includes a short prayer they can all pray. A further rhythm could include inviting community members to take time during the week to read the same Bible story. Rhythms like these help incorporate a person’s daily life into the corporate life of the community that is God’s community.
This video input for the session stimulated great discussion among the fifteen participants. It urged on two of the group to begin rethinking how they were going about organising a social outdoor gathering/picnic with various groups in conjunction with their church, with the hope that passers-by would also join in. They began to see their current plans as being more in the space of “My Home” where they were setting the rules and making it look like a conventional church event, when they were hoping it would be an event more in the space of “Your Home”.
Another group member shared her joyful story of being loved into faith in Jesus Christ. The story included how she was helped to move from seeing a Christian group as just their community (which she didn’t want to join, based on previous experience of a different church) to being “my home as well as yours”. It was a brand-new surprising experience of church. She learned how to pray with the group, and soon saw it as God’s community as she came to faith in Jesus Christ. Her life was totally transformed by the love she was shown, and now she is so passionate about others having the opportunity to experience something like what she has.
It was another great session, and we are looking forward to the remaining two sessions from the Godsend App about:
You are very welcome to join in to get a taste for how this resource might be helpful for your congregation as an encouragement toward further mission. If you are interested, please email me so we can make arrangements for you to connect with the sessions.
The Godsend App is free, and you can download it to your mobile device by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play.