Friday, August 15, 2014
Community church – Part 3: Practice
Mark Melluish at New Wine 2014
The timeless gospel, spoken into a rapidly changing context:
1 Peter 1:24-25
All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.
WE HAVE been looking at priorities and planning from Mark Melluish’s New Wine seminar. The final part rounds up his points and answers to questions, on good practice.
1. Openness to questions
People come in to us with questions but – Mark pointed out – they don’t necessarily want them all answered straightaway. We need to be free not to know all the answers, and free from wanting to give all the answers. It’s better to create a culture where people explore together. There is grace in treating questions as being as important as answers, and if we encourage the questions, answers will emerge.
2. A tailored experience, not a tailored message
Mark said that the message of the gospel is timeless, and it does not need to be changed to accommodate outsiders. What does need to evolve is the way we do it. There is always a tendency in church to allow mission and outreach to swerve back under a pastoral pull. The real problem is that we become exclusive with it – addressing our own little closed community and sometimes doing things and saying things that no outsider could relate to. Mark gave an example of a church which had been learning to keep a focus on the visitor experience, then swerved at the end of a service with some wanting to sing for someone’s birthday (with no explanation beyond a Christian name). This suddenly presented an internal and exclusive focus which confirmed for those who were looking in from the outside, that they were outsiders. These distinctions will cause disagreement, Mark said. But disagreement is fine, because there can be no genuine exploration without learning to disagree constructively.
3. Those who lead and preach should lead!
If mission and evangelism is a priority, those who are speaking or in a up-front role need to be modelling it and bringing it into whatever they are speaking on. We cannot ask people to do what we are not seen to be doing, and leaders are there to give a lead.
4. Changing the mix
Mark talked about events that has been planned to appeal to certain generations, and other which had been intentionally multi-generational. Some events had been around particular interest groups. It was good to balance events that are aimed at the whole church with those which are intended to be smaller and focus on particular people.
5. Create the right atmosphere.
as you might expect, Mark puts a high value on the main leader’s involvement in welcome, creating expectation and overseeing hospitality. Be at the door, he said, and meet everyone before they come in, then be at the close to say goodbye, with a supply of cards with your mobile tel. no. to give out.
6. General tips
Stories are powerful. When someone has gone out and pioneered something, get them to tell story of what they have done, and others will join in.
Don’t sow the seed and then try to pick it up – you won’t see fruit in the first year. For some it can be a five year journey.
If you don’t eat, don’t meet. Videos are OK but the person leading the group still needs to give a lead.And when fatigue starts to affect the committed core? St Paul’s has a coloured chart showing every volunteer and how many involvements they have e.g. blue for one and yellow for two, orange for three and a warning red for anyone who needs to step back from four involvements. He says that the narrative “I’m tired”, which inhibits others, needs replacing. With a more positive narrative, volunteers come. It is good to celebrate volunteering and end a project with a party!