From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Sixteen people were part of the fourth 1-hour zoom session in the series of five “Godsend” training sessions on Monday nights through November. This fourth session was about exploring faith and sharing Jesus.
The bigger picture of fresh expressions of church that comes from the Godsend resources can be plotted on a wheel. As you move around the wheel you start with listening to get a sense of how God might be leading you to simple ways of loving your local community. Through loving these people, you find yourself in greater relationship with them and a new community begins to emerge. As life is shared in the community, it includes opportunities for exploring faith and sharing Jesus. With an almost complete turn of the wheel, something of church takes shape, and then you repeat the turn of the wheel again. Of course, it is never as neat as that with transitions from one point to the next around the wheel. Rather, experience shows that fresh expressions seem to jump from one point back to another to keep on listening or to express love in new ways or give further attention to another part of the wheel as we continue to experiment and adapt.
Still, the wheel is useful for keeping the bigger picture in mind as a kind of map to help with being intentional as we engage with these new ways of being church. It is important to keep the bigger picture in mind especially as we approach the exploring faith and sharing Jesus part of the wheel. That bigger picture is about loving people. In the video interview for the training session, Mike Moynagh expresses it this way: “Above all, be a good friend”. We remain being a good friend whether or not a person becomes interested in exploring faith or following Jesus. For some of these friends the new life they are experiencing in the loving community of a fresh expression will include finding even fuller life in Jesus. Others will choose to stop short of this. That is their choice, but it does not stop the loving community that surrounds them and of which they are a part.
Going back to the wheel, Mike suggested four routes for moving from the community stage of the wheel to the exploring faith part of the wheel. One of the routes is starting up a separate group from the main group. This separate additional group would be for those who are expressing interest in exploring faith. This way the main group continues as the same loving community, and the new group can take on an additional shape about exploring faith.
Another route assumes that there is a core planning group for the loving community of the fresh expression. As people experience that loving community they may well ask: “Why are you doing this?” The response could include an invitation to the core group that meets fortnightly to plan, with the understanding that the group is interested in practical spirituality based on the life of Jesus who is generally regarded as one of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time.
A further route arises if the whole of the loving community is happy to begin exploring faith. This route involves introducing some elements of worship to the whole group, for example, an additional time toward the end of a usual gathering. A final suggested route is one-on-one Bible study.
For each of these routes Mike offers a simple way to shape how faith might be explored. Some of the beaty of this shape is that it doesn’t lead to right or wrong answers, it doesn’t require anyone to be an expert, and there is need for little preparation. He refers to this shape as discovery Bible study. All it requires is a printout of an account from the Bible of something Jesus said or did, and people to ask these four questions:
In the Godsend App (which is free, and you can download it to your mobile device by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play), there are suggestions for other versions of questions like this that may help you tailor to your particular group of people. There are also further suggestions for stimulating conversations about faith, eg “Discussions with a Difference”. The difference in these discussions (could be discussing anything, including a movie or book club discussion) is that it includes a question along the lines of: “If God exists, what would she/he/it think about what we have been discussing?”
If a group from your congregation is interested in being part of a series of these training sessions, please let me know so that we can make arrangements.