When it comes to getting started on Fresh Expressions of Church*, those who write about such things offer us various (yet similar) key components for building loving relationship with people in our local communities with a view to seeing how the Spirit might be leading toward Fresh Expressions of Church. For example, the Godsend* material we have previously considered includes a cycle of listening-loving-community-sharing Jesus-emerging church-repeat. Mike Frost in “Surprise the World – The Five Habits of Highly Missional People” includes habits about blessing (acts of kindness) and eating with people as important for building loving relationships.
When I am engaging with people to encourage them in loving people in their local community through acts of kindness or eating with them or some other form of loving service, it is not unusual to hear voices of dis-ease at the suggestion of being strategic in loving or at having some kind of checklist for blessing people or eating with them. I feel that too. I would much rather prefer that these loving acts for building relationships naturally flowed out in my everyday life without me needing to be mindful of manufacturing them.
I was helped in my thinking about this recently when watching a live stream featuring Mike Moynagh from Fresh Expressions in the UK. He talked about organised love. He observes that one of the places we engage in a lot of loving is in our family units, and much of that love is organised love. It is love expressed through planning for meals – shopping for the groceries and then the cooking. It is love expressed through arranging to catch up with family members for birthday celebrations. It is love expressed through timetabling for the family taxi service in getting people to where they need to be at the right time and then picking them up. It is love expressed through sorting out when you will have a date night and what you will do to make the date night special. Mike makes the point that all of this is organised love.
For this kind of love in the family we often need to be strategic and we often need a checklist to help us attend to all our loving ways. This helps me then in how I think about loving people in my local community as part of building relationships to see where God is moving toward Fresh Expressions of Church. It is OK for it to feel like organised love because that is one of the main ways I love my family. It is Ok for it to feel like strategizing, or checklisting, or manufacturing, because that is how I express love to the people who are most important to me.
You might also find it useful in your Bible reading to keep in mind a question something like: “How is the love in this passage a form of organised love?”
*Definition from Mission Shaped Ministry: “A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church.
* The Godsend App is free, and you can download it by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play.
Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister – Congregation Futures