This is a challenging quote – what do you think?
“As evangelicals we have tended to see the church and its public ministry of Word, sacrament, and oversight of spiritual and material needs of the body as “maintenance” for those who were evangelized once upon a time. They’re already in. But evangelism and mission have to do with going outside the church and its ministry to say and do something else. The cleavage between church and mission is often stated explicitly in evangelistic appeals: “I’m calling you to believe in Jesus, not to join a church.” But what does it mean to make disciples—what does that really look like on the ground? Furthermore, how do we deal with the challenges of religious pluralism and the rising sentiment in evangelical circles that salvation does not require explicit faith in Christ?” Michael Horton
Gathering a prayer team is critical for us as we begin the new community. There are those that pray on the ground in a local setting and those that are more distant. Our target is 100 people praying from outside the locality and this has been surprisingly simple to set up, the age of social media is your friend in this.
We have spread the net wide and have chosen a ‘zero policing’ policy, so I will not be checking up on who is following through on their commitment but have deliberately kept the bar low – pray intentionally at least once a month and I will commit to pray for them too, as well as informing them regularly. So the plan is as follows;
- 100 people in the wide net – these folk are gathered from friendships, contacts and social media. They commit to pray intentionally once a month and in return they receive information to fuel their prayer and I have committed to pray for them too. They receive information via email or a private Facebook group, maximum twice a month.
- 12 people in the boat – these 12 are close friends where I can share more deeply in the issues for prayer. These folk will be those that have shared a much deeper interest and are known to be warriors in prayer. This takes a while longer to set up and is still a work in progress, but vital.
- 3 Officers in charge – 3 prayer commandoes who meet to share guts and all, for prayer and encouragement.
It is impossible to know who wants to join prayer lists for ‘nosey faith encouragement’ but if people make a level of commitment, you must trust them. The close at hand people have to be trusted friends because you are sharing more personally. This is only right.
I have been blessed with a prayer team and whilst still in formation, we have seen many good answers to prayer and have known our arm is strengthened in ministry. We value our prayer support team, they are incredible.
In my previous post on starting a missional community from scratch the first point was to “adopt the posture of a learner” but what does this mean? How do we do this?
Adopting the posture of a learner demands patience, time, listening, observation and most of all, an attitude of continuous learning. When you are in a new environment and do not know people, where do you begin? How do you progress?
- Observe: where do people gravitate to? Watch were people go shopping, where they gather to relax, which community events are on, what is happening within the community. This will teach something of the lifestyle of the people around you.
- Listen: As you open up conversations, listen to what people are saying and why they are saying those things. This is critical in listening and most often forgotten. As you listen, assume that you know nothing, put aside your own viewpoints, your own learning. The people whom you are listening to are the professors and you are the child in kindergarten – this may help you to listen well.
- Patience and Time: Do not rush your listening, you will never have all the answers and if you jump to the wrong conclusions you will find yourself less effective. Time is the greatest gift that you give to your community.
- Attitude of Continuous Learning: There is not a time when you know it all, the community constantly changes (especially if it is living!) and the answers from a previous season do not always translate to the latest season. We are all aware of people who have stopped learning and growing, their stagnation smells horrific, don’t become that person but be willing to learn afresh, change your ways and act accordingly.
The posture of a learner keeps you humble and prevents you from “lording it over others” – missional communities should be a place where we are constantly in change, growing, developing and loving. Adopt the position of a learner and see what happens…..you may be glad you did.
I wonder if the rise of courses like Alpha and Christianity Explored have encouraged Christian evangelists to lose some of their cutting edge in ministry? Before these courses, and others like them, it was not uncommon to hear those involved in evangelism make a direct call to either accept or reject Christ. Whether in the open air or from a church pulpit, there was a time when a call to stand, move forward or collect a tract would demand a physical and public response to the message of salvation that had been preached. Today, it appears that this is less likely and that there is usually an invitation to a course or a conversation, rather than a direct challenge to make a decision immediately.
This summer a question was asked of me; “have we gone soft in our evangelism?” The question was directly related to the lack of direct response when people shared the gospel of Jesus with others and the perceived reluctance to ‘seal a deal’ when talking to those interested in salvation. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit but there may be occasions when we have held back from asking for a response that would help underline the Spirits work. This may be down to a host of reasons such as fear, nerves, uncertainty and so on, but does it point to a loss of cutting edge? Does it suggest that we have ‘gone soft’?
Personally, I do not believe that we have gone soft but I do believe that we have sometimes taken an easier path by allowing courses (and their leaders) to do the work that we could be involved in. If we are truly unashamed of the Gospel of Christ then we would not be nervous of a negative response to the question, “do you accept Christ?” Asking such a question of others should be the responsibility of every christian and not just a select few, we must not abdicate our responsibility to be witnesses and we should not fear the responses we may receive from others by asking such a direct question.
This said, it is not always easy to be direct in a multi-faith and multi-cultural environment that requires sensitivity and political correctness but if we live for truth we can accommodate this and still be direct with others.
My experience tells me that people are far more open than we believe, more willing to listen than we have been told and happy to give an answer to the questions that we have. Let’s not be afraid but full of courage.
Finally, let me ask you, Do you follow Christ?
After being a little absent on the social networks these last few weeks, it has been interesting to review things that are happening and seeing the responses of people. One of the things that has caught my eye is the amount of vitriol that can come from the keypads of Christians when somebody appears to step on some of their own strongly held doctrinal viewpoints, or another ‘champion of faith’ is brought into question.
It is right that we contend for our faith and that we are careful to guard our doctrine but too often we have allowed ourselves to slip in to a barrage of abusive behaviours to others. Disagreement is a part of life, differences of opinion are to be expected but the line is surely crossed when we begin personal attacks that are, at best, abusive.
“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” is the verse that springs to mind – words that Jesus used as he predicted his betrayal and just before his conversation with Peter regarding Peters own denial of Jesus. In the darkest moments, love one another….it is the thing that marks out God’s people from others. Surely if we are to make an impact for the gospel, we should bear this in mind in the way we communicate with one another….even more so in the public forums that are available to us. Recently, many have gone beyond saying ‘You fool!’ (see Matthew 5:21) and that leads to destruction – let’s be people who are strong, yet loving, courageous, yet gentle and let’s love one another so that we may see many more enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a result of our witness.