Sparking creative missional thinking

The journey of those seeking to embrace the missional church approach is often a very confronting experience to say the least. The younger generations seem to embrace this way more readily than slightly older pilgrims. One reason is that the emerging missional church speaks easily into their lifestyle and cultural framework. For slightly older and more crusty ecclesiological enthusiasts (like me), it is a tad more difficult as there is the need to “let go” entirely of the paradigms for doing church that have shaped many of us over the years and to learn a very different method and way. My wife Mandy and I lead a fledgling community, “the Wateringhole” in Darwin under the auspices of the Baptist Union of the NT. We embrace the worker pastor model and are both involved widely in the Darwin community through various Chaplaincy opportunities and part time work situations.

Our community has been developing over the last three years. Presently we meet fortnightly for sharing and contributing to each others’ journey. We are slowly learning and growing towards finding ways of expressing community together, and are sympathetic to a range of important values including; relating and responding to the poor, understanding our spirituality in the everyday, grappling with holistic discipleship and community living, as well as exploring ways of welcoming people from unchurched backgrounds into our lives.

A number of people know us for our “Fair Go” market stall which we currently run twice a week at the Mindil Beach Markets here in Darwin. The stall seeks to advocate for the poor, promote fair trade, and to engage people appropriately in the market context. It is also a significant vehicle for our community expression.

Here, then, are some of the things that I have learnt so far on our journey as we continue to develop the “Wateringhole” in the NT, under the umbrella of the Baptist Union of the NT.

1. The difference between doing and being church.
The missional church experience calls disciples to seriously offer the whole of their lives to mission. This call is intrinsically bound up with what it means to be the missional church. It is a call that reaches into the entirety of our lives and recognises the validity of mission in the everyday activities of life. This in turn welcomes the formation of new and organic structures in terms of how mission, worship and community living are organised through the rhythms of our lives. I call this being church rather than doing church.

The integration of church and lifestyle also facilitates a certain freedom in how we witness and share our faith. Our sharing becomes more an explanation of why we do what we do, or how it is that we do what we do. In many instances it happens naturally and without any feelings of guilt or need to then invite people to “a service”. The holistic approach of church and lifestyle invokes an invitation into life.

2. Creativity and the Spirit.
It has been exciting to discover fresh aspects of God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God as a central agent in the creation narratives speak to us of God’s love for creativity expressed so beautifully in the created order. Our journey here in Darwin has been exciting and challenging as we have discovered how to worship God in the marketplace of life through our mission. We have tapped into special community connections as we have sought others to share the load with us, and discovered delicious new freedoms in how we gather and grow together.

Of course one of the lessons here that is so important, (the Corinthians had to learn this), is that this does not mean “everything” is allowed. We might do some interesting things when we gather together that for us translates into freedom in worship but it is important that we remain grounded in the Person of Jesus Christ and His teachings and Gospel. In this way we can continue to test and be challenged by our decisions and lifestyle.

3. Relationships determine form.
One of the central reasons behind the birth of the missional church movement must be the raw longing of Christians to simply connect meaningfully with those around them in their respective contexts. The journey of the missional church is then wholly relational. Relationships are never Christian “scalps” or mere opportunities to witness. They are the gracious context that God calls all believers into, and the sacred place where the stuff of our lives can be experienced and true community offered.

It can often seem “cool” to be different or caught up in the mode of what we’re involved with and seemingly forget the primacy for relationships being formed and developed, into which we can speak into and live out the witness of God’s reign in our lives. Be careful the mode doesn’t become the main thing.

4. Finally, the missional journey is hard work and messy.
The missional journey is about life, and living out our faith in the real world. It is not scripted, nor does it always fit nicely into denominational constitutional ideals (this is another topic!!). This journey is about stepping out into unknown situations, to build relationships with a whole cross section of people and to share and do life together. It is in this intimate space where we and those around us can taste and see the Kingdom we belong to.

It is profoundly messy to build community into this very vulnerable approach. However, as we enter into the mess of the unknown and all that means, it is exciting to discover people – many often unchurched – open to you, often hankering and longing for the authenticity and honesty of our struggle that comes with this real life witness.

The difficulty with this, though, is that you open yourself to experiencing pain and rejection at very deep levels as well. These experiences are sometimes hard to get used to, but the journey into the mess of life and to possibly be rejected as we pour out ourselves for the sake of others, puts us in very good company.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you as you step out and become holistic witnesses for His Kingdom, with all the mess and hurt that means.

nGage: Sparking creative missional thinking in changing Australia, “LEARNINGS” ON THE JOURNEY, By James Cox. prac7.