Category: Infusing Culture

Riding the Next Wave

This post by Joth Hunt was originally published at Seventy Two

I’m not a surfer but I did grow up by the sea and I have always enjoyed riding a wave by body boarding. I understand that the best surfers are those who know which are the best waves to ride. They patiently watch the horizon to learn the language of the sea before choosing the largest and best waves. Missional listening and leadership is partially about watching the societal and cultural waves on the horizon and then, with the help of the Spirit, getting ready to ride those waves in the best way possible.

No one saw the wave of COVID coming, and if they had, they probably wouldn’t have realised what a huge impact it was going to have. It was like a wave that understandably caught even the best surfer unawares! However, as we see the vaccines roll out and the potential of life returning to some kind of normality, it is worth looking out to the horizon and asking what cultural waves might be heading our way and whether it is possible to missionally serve our communities by riding some of these waves.

I can’t say with great certainty what these waves might be, but I do want to suggest three possible waves worth considering:

Mental Health

The first wave I think worth highlighting is the potential for a wave of mental health issues as people come out of lockdown and restrictions. Many of us are aware of how lockdown has challenged our own mental health and wellbeing. Some of us have been quite surprised by how we have reacted to the challenges that we have faced. Personally, I have yearned to get out of the routine space of home and find a new scene. During the winter months this, of course, has been much harder to do. I have found myself become restless, frustrated and very tetchy and my sleep at times has been inconsistent. If we are aware that our own mental health has been challenged during these times, it can’t be too difficult to imagine the amount of mental strain there has been for others.

As we slowly come out of lockdown, I find myself wondering how the Church will be available to others in society to help them find their way out of this tough period. I’m fascinated that before COVID hit our shores the Wellbeing Cafe movement was well underway. My understanding is that during COVID a number of communities have begun virtual Wellbeing Cafes. Spaces for people to just be and to be listened to. Ruby Wax, the founder of Frazzled Cafe, once said, “Being heard, to me, has always been half the cure.”

I’m encouraged when I hear of churches that are beginning to consider how they might respond to this need through ‘Wellbeing Cafes’, listening services and support groups that will give people time and space to process what has happened but also rediscover their feet through new rhythms of health and wellbeing.

A Time to Grieve

One of the most difficult things during this time for many people has been the lack of opportunity to mourn and grieve the consequences of this pandemic. I am wondering whether there might be a wave of unexpressed grief both individually but also corporately. The vast majority of people will have known at least one person who has died of COVID or passed away during this time when a full and ‘proper’ process for giving thanks and the availability to comfort each other just hasn’t been allowed to take place. I fear that it would be very easy for this lack of formalised grief to be forgotten as we celebrate the easing of lockdown and restrictions. Churches could have a key role to play in giving people time and space to give thanks for those who have passed away and to grieve together in an appropriate and respectful manner.

We could also prepare ourselves to be available to pastorally support those who have lost loved ones during this period and who are still dealing with their own grief alongside the guilt of having a funeral process that fell below their expectations and needs. Churches again could be playing a key role here in revisiting those who are grieving and giving space and time to allow this extraordinary and unprecedented grief to be expressed and comforted.

A Time to Re-evaluate

The third wave that may be on the horizon is one of re-evaluating all that has happened and how that has impacted the things that we hold as being important. I can’t imagine that there are too many people who have not stopped during the past year and asked themselves some very deep and fundamental questions about their lives, values and beliefs.

I have been encouraged in recent months by a number of churches that have been hosting ‘Alpha’ type events online and found a good uptake of people wishing to engage. I have just heard from one of our pioneers of a number of people that have sought him out for conversations during this time of lockdown, wanting to find a person to reflect with and process their thoughts and emotions. This seems to me a real opportunity. Moments of disaster and crisis will always create a desire to question and to review.

I’m not sure how large this wave might be or how long it might last but I think it might be significant enough for those churches who dare to ride it to discover opportunities to share the story, values and beliefs of the Christian faith with people who are keen to re-evaluate.

Of course, I might be wrong about all these potential waves and there may be others that are heading toward the coastline but I do think all three are worth considering and possibly attempting to ride as we come out of this long period of lockdown.  The period of COVID that we have experienced has been unprecedented and challenging but the season that we are about to enter into may be one that brings waves of fresh and new opportunities. May the Spirit of God prepare his Church for such a time as this and lift us up onto each new wave, enabling the good news of Christ to be seen and shared with all that will hear.

 

The post Riding the Next Wave appeared first on Seventy Two.

There’s A Manger Over There

This post by Rachael Warnock was originally published at Seventy Two

I was struck by an idea for advent, which a college friend had tried in her locality. It would include attaining a life size manger and placing it in locations around the local community to be seen by passers-by, to inspire a thought or a conversation. A picture of the manger would be taken in each location and posted on social media, including just enough of the surrounding area to help people to find it.

I was instantly taken with the project. Such a striking image to pass by in the neighbourhood, in the “safe” spaces and the broken places too. A symbol of Jesus coming into the locality, into the beauty and the mess. Jesus would come to brighten the dark streets and the forgotten spaces.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Jesus, the saviour of the world was born to a young poor mother from an insignificant place – looked down on and on the margins. Those in the south would prefer to forget Nazareth existed. Jesus was born in a simple manger amidst the mess and darkness of a stable and societal struggle, but he would become the light of the world. Jesus would be hope in the hope less spaces. He would live out much of his life in the margins of society, spending time with people from diverse backgrounds, particularly those just trying to make ends meet. Jesus met them where they were, including at the dodgy end of the neighbourhood.

The Manger amidst the local community is a symbol of hope, pointing to the coming of our Saviour along with light, hope and justice. The manger says that God loves us so much that he comes to us where we are, even in the unkempt areas. He comes for all of us and certainly the poorest and those struggling the most. God’s grace and rule is present everywhere. We can find God on a simple street amidst the litter.

The manger travelled around Devonport and stories emerged from the journey. On Marlborough St it disappeared. I looked up and down, hoping I simply had not seen it. I spoke to apologetic shop keepers and hairdressers, disappointed it would not continue its community adventure. We asked for help on social media to #findthemissingmanger and the post was shared repeatedly. People cared and soon we received a message from a helpful shop worker – it was back on the street, having had a couple of nights inside another local shop. It was intact and ready to go!

The next destination was the local park. After a day or two I went to pick it up but no matter how much I searched, it was not there. Though something told me not to be despondent too quickly. The manger had already gone missing once and was found. I was sure God was making a way for it. I went in search of someone working on the land and happened to find the park warden who said they had placed it inside to keep it safe and that a youth group were planning to use it. So, again it had been valued, taken care of. The carpenter loved it. They said it was a conversation starter, a moment of excitement to find it. The manger was returned and a suggestion of where to re place it – in full view of everyone taking a walk along the path. We went again the next day and I was told by a passer-by that perhaps we should not move it, that it was being used to place plant pots in. So again, it was being minded and cared for, appreciated.

And onwards it travelled. It was placed outside the community centre and after a few days I went to pick it up, but it was not there. Perhaps it had gone this time, not to be found. But again, we asked for help to #findthemissingmanger and again the post was shared. We received a message – a concerned member of the community had popped it over the fence just in case it was “trashed.” Again, the manger was found. Valued and special.

It became clear to me that although we were aware that the manger could be taken and damaged at any point, it had not been harmed, but tended to. People may have barely known the Christmas story, but even so, just enough. Jesus was born there, and the world was waiting for Christmas day. Jesus was coming and they helped to take care, prepare and be ready. We encountered Kindness, thoughtfulness, warmth, hospitality, generosity, and care.

How can we continue the journey with Jesus among strangers in our community? How can we reflect Jesus’ generosity, hope and authenticity by actively joining in with Jesus, participating through the Holy Spirit with God’s renewal, healing, and flourishing?

Like Mary, it is important we are attentive to our interior life so we can be attentive to our communities and speak into them too. Let us remember Mary’s words of praise and all that God has done for us through Jesus including the marginalised, the cast out and the looked down on. Let us take time this new year to reflect on how we can be salt and light, reflecting God’s glory, generosity, and truth. Do we care? “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Luke 10:1-3.

The post There’s A Manger Over There appeared first on Seventy Two.

Have we forgotten the poor?

This post by Michael Shaw was originally published at Seventy Two

One of my former Deacons used to pray “break our hearts for what breaks yours”. I remember while prayer walking Devonport, where I minister, with him and seeing the poverty and knowing that it breaks the heart of God. A few days ago Carl Beech Tweeted “There are two conversions in the Christian life. Conversion to Christ and when God breaks your heart for the poor.”

Over the last few years the church (like much of society) has had a focus on gender and racial justice and issues on human sexuality, and quite rightly so, but in the process the issues of class have been forgotten. The working class have been forgotten by the church and not just the poorest. A point made eloquently by Canon Gary Jenkins in a recent blog post on the issue (https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/where-are-the-working-class/)

It is my experience that the church is becoming increasingly middle class, to the point where the working class feel that they don’t see people like themselves, not just in the pulpit but also in the pews.

This plays out in church planting. Most new churches are clone churches in areas of similar socio-demographic areas or in “student” areas. With very little church planting into deprived or marginal communities (estates or inner-city). You see this in books, conferences or festivals where most of the speakers/writers are from “successful” suburban churches or para-church organisations, very few from small or inner city churches, very few indigenous non-tertiary educated speakers or writers get the same profile.

So areas like Devonport are not just “de-churched” they have become unchurched, while there are 5,000 people here, there are only two small churches, one with under 10 regulars; if you found that in any other part of the world, you would call the people of Devonport an unreached people group. And yet we exist in the United Kingdom.

The wonderful poem in Philippians 2, which Paul uses to explain who Jesus was (so we could be like him), includes the wonderful phrase “When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human!” (MSG). As Red Letter Christians we focus on the words of Jesus, but sadly we don’t get many words of his in the Nativity account, but actions speak louder than words we are told! So what does the incarnation of Jesus teach us?

As we begin preparation for Jesus coming at Christmas, it is good to look at his first coming. Before he is even born he is an outcast, rejected by his own family and the people who do visit are not royal dignitaries, as befits a King, but dirty, smelly shepherds! They were considered not just working class, but an underclass, they were irreligious people who worked hard, broke the Sabbath and ate what they could (for a full explanation of the scandal of the Manger read David Instone-Brewer’s recent article in Christianity Magazine – http://www.biblecontexts.com/2020/11/the-first-christmasfamily-argument.html)

I wonder what would happen if some dirty, smelly shepherds turned up in most churches on a Sunday morning, how would they be treated?

The problem is most Christians have not been converted twice, just the once, they have not understood that when Jesus said he came to preach Good News to the poor, that he meant it, and that as followers we were meant to do the same. We have not understood that to reach the poorest, we can’t do that at arms-length, because Jesus didn’t do mission in that way, instead he incarnated the Gospel.

So what do we need? We need Christians to live, work and worship in marginal communities. Not for a few years but for decades. Incarnating the Gospel, being salt and light, living out the Kingdom of God among the poorest in our nation.

 

The post Have we forgotten the poor? appeared first on Seventy Two.

Seventy Two 2020-10-12 07:11:09

This post by Alex Drew was originally published at Seventy Two

Following their recent announcement that Table Talk for Wellbeing is now available to preorder, The Ugly Duckling Company‘s Sharon Lanfear recently asked Renew Wellbeing’s Ruth Rice a few questions about wellbeing.

Ruth Rice is the founder of Renew Wellbeing, and one of the co-writers of Table Talk for Wellbeing. We asked her a few questions about the background of this game and how it fits in with her work.

What are the ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing?

The 5 ways to wellbeing are widely used by a variety of services and community groups. Developed by The New Economics foundation with the Government’s Foresight report in 2008 it was found that Connecting, Keeping learning, Getting Active, Taking Notice and Giving were all good ways to attend to your wellbeing. This gives us all a shared language across care systems and faith and community groups to talk about wellbeing which is a really positive way to engage in discussion about our mental and emotional health. We all need to be looking after our wellbeing and finding ways to share good habits with one another.

What is Renew Wellbeing, and how does this game fit in with it?

Renew Wellbeing is a charity helping churches to set up quiet shared spaces where its ‘OK not to be OK’. These are simple community spaces where anyone can attend, bring a hobby/ share a hobby, and join in simple prayer rhythms if they choose to. They are spaces for people of any faith and none, run by local churches in partnership with mental health professionals. Table Talk for Wellbeing would be a great resource for any renew centre helping good discussions emerge around the table in a natural way.

For those not able to set up a Renew space the Table Talk cards could be a wonderful resource to help us have meaningful discussions in online forums and in small gatherings . This resource could be a great way to connect church and community as we navigate these difficult days and find shared language around our mental and emotional wellbeing. With smaller groups allowed there would be an opportunity to play table talk in homes, cafes, pubs and churches as we help each other reconnect.

Why is there a picture round?

The picture round in this pack focusses on emotions, and is an extra to the great questions that those who are familiar with Table Talk will have learned to love. The pictures give a chance for a more open-ended discussion, for us to form our own questions, talk about emotions or keep it light hearted. The questions and pictures are designed to promote good chat about wellbeing and the picture pack will make sure this is available to anyone of any ability.

Table Talk is fun to play as well as encouraging good honest chat — every church needs this pack. Probably every home does too, certainly we would love to see every Renew centre playing Table Talk for Wellbeing!

Table Talk for Wellbeing can now be preordered here.

 

The post appeared first on Seventy Two.

Love God, Love each other and Love Weston-Super-Mare

This post by Nicky Harper was originally published at Seventy Two

Since starting Re:Imagine, we have met regularly as a leadership team to discuss and pray about where God is leading us.

The word “simplify” has been mentioned many times. We have been challenged to look at areas of church life which do not serve the purpose of bringing people to faith and are therefore not necessary.

Alongside Re:Imagine, we have been reading the book “Simple Church” by Thom S Rainer and Eric Geiger and as a result of this, we have developed a simple statement which is becoming the foundation of everything we do and are about, as a church of people at Milton Baptist Church:

“Love God, Love each other and Love Weston-Super-Mare”

Love God is the ‘up’ i.e. our worship to God through Sunday services. These are currently on YouTube!

Love each other is the ‘in’, through small house groups. These have become increasingly important through lockdown.

Love Weston is the ‘out’, where we seek to serve our local community and reach out to those in need.

We have begun to recognise the huge impact that COVID 19 is having on people’s mental health and this has spurred us on to follow our dream of opening up a Renew Wellbeing Space in our local area. We had previously discussed the possibility, but nothing had fallen into place until just over a month ago and we’re now in the process of securing a shop on a local high street!

This will be opened up, hopefully working alongside existing businesses (a mental health charity shop one side and a café on the other) and will be a place where people can come and just ‘be’. They can take part in activities which promote good mental health e.g. colouring, art, crafts, chats etc. There will prayer times throughout the day where people can join in if they feel they want to and volunteers will be trained to be able to come alongside people who enter the building.

We also recognise the need to provide something for young people, to support their wellbeing in these difficult times. With this in mind, one evening a week will be set aside for this age group.

We are very excited about the future of this venture and through the Re:Imagine process, we have a clearer picture of who we are/who we want to be as a church and where God is leading us to be effective in our local town of Weston-Super-Mare.

Milton BC are on of the churches working through the Re:Imagine process together. For more information on Re:Imagine, click here.

 

The post Love God, Love each other and Love Weston-Super-Mare appeared first on Seventy Two.

Live, Work and Worship

This post by Michael Shaw was originally published at Seventy Two

In his book on American Politics, Jim Wallis says when he asks about Poverty, the key verse Christians quote is John 12:8 “The poor you will always have with you.”, he says that the church has accepted poverty as inevitable and unchangeable. But Wallis goes on to talk about how the verse is not about acceptance of poverty by proximity of the church, and Christians to people who are poor. A better translation is “you shall always be among the poor”.

We often make excuses for not doing anything about Poverty, so we will quote Blessed are the poor in Sprit from Matthew’s Gospel, ignoring the fact that Luke’s Gospel does not say that. And while we have made a whole theology of conversion of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus in John 4, making it universal for us to be “born again”, we say the conversation with Jesus and the Rich Young Man in the Synoptic Gospels, where the man is told to sell everything, give it away and receive from God in order to follow Jesus, is specific to that individual.

While many in the church are involved in alleviating the causes of poverty through food banks, soup runs or debt relief counselling, the reality is that these are often niche groups within the church, and more and more staffed by volunteers not from churches.

Sadly, the church in our inner cities, in sink estates and especially in “traditional” post-industrial white working-class areas is either dying or dead. More and more churches are focusing on big “centres”, either in student, suburban areas of cities or in market towns. This has left poorer urban and rural areas devoid of churches, and where there are churches, they are often small and elderly, with very little ability to reach out to the people around.

The current Covid crisis is going to make this worse.

Christians who were called to be among the poor are now among the middles class, often doing disembodied outreach programmes or giving financially, but not doing anything to be among the poor on a day to day basis.

If you look at many of the great Revivals, they often begin in the margins, among the poor. It is where John Wesley preached, it is where the Welsh and Azusa street revivals began. If we want to see God truly move in our nation, we need to inspire Christians to live, work and worship among the poor. This may mean giving up our comforts, not living in our “dream” home, or taking that “dream” job or going to the latest “cool” church, and it might mean living in a Downwardly Mobile way, living counter to our culture (Romans 12:1-2).

Jesus was often found among the crowd (ochlos), the rabble, the unwashed. He had no home or possessions, relying on the charity of others. He died the death of a thief and was buried in a borrowed tomb. He became one of the poor. Paul writes in Philippians 2 that he became a slave. If we want to truly follow Jesus, then why do we think that we are allowed to live differently from him?

 

The post Live, Work and Worship appeared first on Seventy Two.

‘Normal’?

This post by Ross Maynard was originally published at Seventy Two

‘I can’t wait to get back to normal’, is a sentence I’ve heard so much lately. It fills me with two very strong emotions. The first emotion is a deep sense of longing. This emotion agrees whole heartedly with this statement. I long to be back to normal. I long to have more freedom. I long to meet and hug friends and family. I long to go to pubs and restaurants. I long to walk to work. I long for my old daily routines.

This longing, this desire to go back to normal is quickly followed by a deep feeling of unease. My longing for normal is a longing for comfort and a romanticised view of the past because of some of the challenges of the present.

  • Our ‘normal’ utterly ruins the environment and the beauty of our natural world.
  • Our ‘normal’ destroys family and community, with a work obsessed individualism.
  • Our ‘normal’ fosters an economy centred on consumerism, rather than fairness and the collective needs of all.
  • Our ‘normal’ is violent. Violence in the home and violence between nations, communities and neighbours.
  • Our ‘normal’ is creating an environment in which mental illness is thrives.
  • Our ‘normal’ sees the Western church lost in the whirlpool of a quickly changing world.

Our ‘normal’ is not good enough. I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’! We have been gifted an incredible opportunity to imagine, question and act.

We can IMAGINE a new normal: God’s normal. Imagine if we could honour those who lost their lives during this horrific pandemic by creating a better world? A world more like the kingdom of God.

Imagine if our world now, in the present, was more like the future, like heaven. NT Wright puts it better than me:

‘[Jesus’ kingdom vision] … is a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God’s promised future; because that future has arrived in the present in Jesus of Nazareth. It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up. Try it and see.’

Can we imagine our present ‘normal’ as if it were the future ‘normal’: God’s normal? Can we imagine our present ‘normal’ incorporating the great visions of the Kingdom of God painted beautifully in Isaiah and Revelation?

‘He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.’

(Isaiah 2:4)

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

(Revelation 21:3-4)

Until our normal looks like the Kingdom of God, as embodied in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we’ve got work to do. Until heaven and earth become one and the brokenness of our world is fully restored to God’s original intention, we’ve got work to do.

As we imagine what God’s normal would look like on our earth, we can begin to QUESTION our own. We can ask the ‘why’s’, the ‘what’s’ and the ‘how’s’.

  • Why are we investing so much time in Sunday services? Is church become all about Sunday’s? What could church look like when we can meet again?
  • How are we going to continue to use technology and social media positively? Could we keep doing some meetings on Zoom? Could we continue to invest in our social media presence to influence change?
  • Why do people believe the Christian faith is irrelevant? Why is this normal? How can we change this?
  • How do we respond to racial inequality and discrimination, once again highlighted by the murder of George Floyd?
  • How do we make sure that all the homeless who were given accommodation during the pandemic, have shelter after this is all over?
  • How do we make sure that the cleaner air and water that we’re seeing across our damaged earth, because of lockdown, continues after this is all over?

None of this imagining and questioning is anything if done alone and if it doesn’t lead us all to ACT.

  • Could we gather groups of people to ask these questions in regard to our churches, but also in regard to the broader issues facing us as a country?
  • Could we join Tearfund in their Reboot campaign. They have loads of resources available to help with the very things we’ve been exploring.

Finally, of course, all of this imagining, questioning and action will come to nothing if not absolutely saturated in prayer.

Father forgive us for accepting what is considered ‘normal’
Guide us
Enliven us
Be with us
May we be your tools to carve out a new normal

‘I can’t wait to get back to normal’, but not the normal we have now. I want a new normal. Our God calls us to his normal. ‘It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up. Try it and see.’

 

The post ‘Normal’? appeared first on Seventy Two.

Holy Spirit, come like a rushing wind

This post by Rachael Warnock was originally published at Seventy Two

Today the world looks different to pre COVID-19. We are emerging from a global pause and stepping into something new, with all the possibility and opportunity this brings. Economic systems and paths which lead to societal and environmental destruction need not continue. There is a chance to pursue something better together.

At Pentecost Jesus’ followers were filled with the Holy Spirit, empowered, and released on the streets to be flames of light in the world. This would mean going out into communities and declaring and participating in God’s good news. They would restore, renew, cast visions, and reimagine a different way to be as the spirit journeyed with them.

At this tentative time, I worry our leaders are not heeding warnings regarding our societal and environmental brokenness. I am concerned they are not now taking the opportunity to action on climate change and to focus on a more sustainable economy for all.

I believe God desires for us to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit’s energy and power. Jesus summoned his disciples to go beyond their comfort zones, into deeper water, though he never left them alone. Now Jesus gives us his spirit, so we too are not alone. The Spirit moves with us, offers courage, strength, energy, and direction if we ask for it. With the spirit we too are empowered to join in with God’s restoration project in our local communities, we too can move for justice and act on hope. As we move out into unknown waters, we can engage with a new normal, but even better- we can create it.

Through Jesus and his spirit, a new world was born. At Pentecost Jesus’ followers were sent out in energy and spirit, to help build a world full of God’s truth, love, justice, and hope. Well here is a fresh opportunity to jump into the new thing that God is doing in our communities, as we seek direction, energy and the Spirits equipping.

After being filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus’ followers proceeded to share their possessions, to eat together and share life together. They proclaimed and lifted up God. They exercised gifts of the spirit like miracles and healings. No one was without. Our lives are not meant to reflect exactly the stories of Acts- we live in a different time and place. Though they offer us a helpful prompt.

Organisations like Tearfund are inviting us to consider our future, to enter the conversation and action shaping a better future together. With the Holy Spirit we can engage in togetherness and we can dream dreams. God with us means so much is possible.

I refuse to believe because systems have existed long term along with ways of doing things, that just because deeper change seems beyond me personally, that these are reasons for the status quo to remain.

In the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we are now invited anew to walk forwards boldly and hopefully together to make a difference in this world. Holy Spirit come like a rushing wind.

 

The post Holy Spirit, come like a rushing wind appeared first on Seventy Two.

Church Generosity

This post by Michael Shaw was originally published at Seventy Two

We are in a world that has stopped growing! Up until the last few weeks, our world has been based on Growth, exponential growth. But a small virus has prevented us from growing, over the next few months the world economy is likely to contract to a level unseen in almost a century.

Sadly many of our church models have followed the world, in believing that growth is the most important thing. But we have forgotten that growth without reproduction is fairly pointless. Even church planting models – like HTB “resource” churches are not based on new growth but breathing life into dead things.

Most church growth models intend to reach new people, by making their services attractional. This often include a focus on professionalised worship, simple teaching, wide use of social media, high quality children’s work, and emphasis on Millennials and young families. And while this does indeed attract people from outside church, the unintended consequence is high levels of transfer growth.

What this means is that often there is a drain from small inner city or rural churches to city centre and town centre, so while the churches in the centre do grow, the cost is paid by smaller churches that cannot match the “quality” of these highly resourced churches.

So while church growth models are commendable, they also come at a time when the church as whole is in decline. We need something better!

So I believe we need not church growth but church generosity, churches need to give away rather than hoard, and while many churches do give circa 10% of their income away, I wonder if we could think about Tithing (a tenth) in a different way. What about it every year, churches looked to give away a 10% of their people. So how could that look like?

  • Churches between 100-200 people could give 10% of their membership to a smaller, struggling church (including their giving) to help enable that church to engage in strategic mission in their area
  • Churches over 200 could give 10% of their people to plant a new church, 20 members could be a sustainable small church in an under churched are
  • Churches of 500+ churches could plant several churches in their local area, or a mix of church planting and assisting a small church locally

I wonder if we saw Church Generosity as the aim, the result would be a Kingdom of God focused Church Growth strategy, seeing the whole Church grow!

 

The post Church Generosity appeared first on Seventy Two.

Sabbath, Gleaning and Jubilee

This post by Michael Shaw was originally published at Seventy Two

Like most people the words Corona Virus seems to be the only words on my mind, I have already heard of people dying, family members who have symptoms and even a couple of people in my church have been self-isolating with a suspected case. But there are three words that have been circulating in my head and they are Sabbath, Gleaning and Jubilee. I believe these ancient words, which go deep into the old testament law, speak into our current time.

Sabbath

We have been living in a 24/7 world which is built on a model of continuous growth, but suddenly we are told to stop doing what we have been doing. To slow down and stop. Our world is going through a global sabbath, and it comes at a great cost to human life. But in the process pollution is being lifted, birds song is being heard, canals are getting cleaner, policemen are serenading people in the street, we are learning to appreciate shop workers, cleaners and doctors. We are connecting with people who we wouldn’t normally speak to. I know we will go back to the way life was, but maybe we can learn a lesson that we don’t need 24/7 as much as we thought we did. It is good to pause and stop, to appreciate the small connections we make each day.

Gleaning

While stock-piling has been headline news, many others are buying extra, but not for themselves, there are stories of generosity of people as well. Foodbanks who were struggling are now full, other smaller local food banks have sprung up for those who require emergency food. People are taking take aways to their elderly neighbours.  The pictures of empty shelves do tell us that there are many people out there who are living selfish lives, but there are hundreds of stories that we will never see, of people stock piling food to give away.

Jubilee

Too many people have bought into the lie that Capitalism and Democracy are Christian values, they are part of our Western Christian culture, but the fact is that the Bible references neither of them. But, even for many well-read Biblical Christians , Capitalism and Christianity go hand in hand together. Many will politically argue for a small state, low tax economy, as if that is what the Bible states. The Bible writers would have no concept of Capitalism or Socialism as economic systems. But we have somehow missed that. We often do not think it is for Governments to balance out wealth, hoping Multi-millionaires and Billionaires will voluntarily give away their excess, and while this does indeed happen, the financial impact of this global problem will mean that the redistribution of wealth, the release of debts and the balancing out of our society will have to happen. If the Bible offers one economic model, it is that of Jubilee. I believe that we will have no other option in the next year than to see a Jubilee happen.

Three words: Sabbath, Gleaning and Jubilee

 

The post Sabbath, Gleaning and Jubilee appeared first on Seventy Two.