Its been a while since I have spoken about my travels and my pioneering stuff. I am conscious, too, that a few people have joined me on this journey via the blog over the last few months and read from a distance but join while not fully knowing or grasping what I think is going on or what we are trying to achieve.
The under girding philosophy of what I am feeling called to do may be found in a short article that I have called ‘the dream’. This can be accessed in the right hand bar of the blog or by clicking here. The dream is then added to in an article I wrote here for Fresh Expressions. A little while ago I wrote a prayer letter (too long ago and so I will be writing a new one soon) which shows some of the reality of what I am involved in. If you are interested in that as well you can read that here.
Essentially those articles talk a lot about the exciting things and the privilege I genuinely feel of the stuff that I am fortunate to experience and be part of. I have a tendency, however, to play down the tough side of the role that accompanies those who have a task of ‘creating church’ with nothing and no one to start ‘creating’ even to the extent of not knowing where to create either. Some have suggested I put those thoughts and what I think I may have learned into a book – maybe one day I shall think about that.
There are a number of ways of attempting to build church and a number involve church planting. While that is a model that produces church it is not a model that I am trying to use or follow in my ministry. I rate the model (please don’t think I don’t!) but it is not a model I feel called to use. Church planting, per se, produces plants which are very similar to what we have already. They may be new hybrids, but the agricultural terminology gives the clue that what grows in a plant will be similar to the place from where the seed has come from.
I guess I am attempting to create a different expression, something that does not exist here in the area already and so there is not really anything to draw seed from. Rather than planting and growing in the way of a church plant I have the words of Bono more in mind in the U2 song ‘Walk On’, particularly the words:
You’re packing a suitcase for a place
None of us has been
A place that has to be believed
To be seen
It’s not the easy thing
The only baggage
That you can bring
Not the easy thing
I’m on a journey, with others, to a new place, where none of us have ever been and a place that has to be believed to be seen! So, when I am out and about I am searching with my suitcase for people who might want to join me on this journey. I’m not out to coerce, to convert or to force people in to a model of something that already exists. I am searching for fellow travelers who search for that new place. What I am finding is that God is starting to bring me into contact with these people because God, it seems, is working in the lives of these people and its clear that church, as it currently exists, just ain’t gonna work for them. Is this fresh expression of church, is it emerging church, is it neither or both … I don’t know and actually not sure I care at this point in time.
I do find it interesting, though, that some people I have come into contact with have been reconnected to church in the cathedral expression and while I did not expect people I met ‘out there’ to start attending the cathedral regularly just shows that God is working in may different ways and at many different levels in peoples lives. I guess that’s why I search and observe rather than seek to convert – if I just go out and ‘do what I do’ it’s up to God to organise the rest.