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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Croft, S. (2002) Transforming Communities: Re-imagining the Church for the 21st Century. DLT 

Croft, S. (2002) Transforming Communities: Re-imagining the Church for the 21st Century. DLT

The Great Commission at the end of Matthew's Gospel is certainly something which every church needs to take seriously, as 1 shall argue below. However, to define and order the whole purpose and life of the church around this commission alone will lead to distortions in the Christian community which will not be life-giving to those who may be part of it. Nor, curiously, will this kind of church develop disciples of the type intended by Jesus in Matthew 28. It may be useful to draw an analogy with marriage. One of the highest purposes of Christian marriage is to provide a context for the birth and nurture of children.23 Yet to make the birth and nurture of children the only purpose and mission of a Christian marriage is to distort the marriage relationship which has at its heart the mutual companionship, love, trust and growing unity of a man and a woman. Unless attention is paid to that growing relationship of husband and wife, the marriage is unlikely to provide an effective means for the nurture of children. In the same way, one of the highest callings of the church is to make disciples - yet if the making of disciples is made to be the chief and only purpose of the life of a community it will not be a healthy place in which to nurture new Christians. pp59

However, a potential weakness of both approaches seems to me to be the lack of a common and coherent understanding of what the church is and is called to be undergirding the audit. At one level, Natural Church Development at least could be read as promoting a list of qualities which make churches attractive to their members, pleasant and fulfilling to belong to, and which are therefore likely to grow in an increasingly mobile and consumer-driven society. This is a church in which 1 can have my needs met (including my need to participate in its leadership and find fulfilment through exercising my gifts in ministry). But is it a church which is likely to serve the needs of the poor; to take an unpopular stand on social issues; to invest significant amounts of time in areas of the community where there may be little immediate return? Where is the concern for the kingdom of God? Where is the concern for Christian unity and collaboration with other congregations? Where is the call to sacrifice and suffering for the sake of the gospel? Where is the failure which was as much a mark of the early Church as its success? Pp62

Robert Warren Missionary Congregations

The phrase –the kingdom of God - itself is a kind of shorthand coined by Jesus to sum up the way God intends things to be in human society and the way they will be one day. There is a great deal of teaching in the Old Testament about the kingship or reign of God and the conditions that prevail where God reigns. Much of the vision of the future in the prophets concerns the time when God's order and rule will prevail. At its best, and as Jesus uses the term, the vision is as wide as creation and extends through the whole of time. God's concern is not for one group of people within society whether the Israelites, the Jews or the Christians, but for the ordering of the life of the whole world. Hence a concern for the kingdom of God means a concern for justice to prevail; a concern for the poor; a concern for the structures of society; a concern for ethical business practice and investment; a concern for the care of the elderly, the sick and the mentally ill; for prisoners, refugees and asylum seekers; for those forgotten by our wider society; and for the environment. Pp89

Cell Church is mainly Protestant and Pentecostal in origin although some Roman Catholic congregations have deployed its insights. The theological background is undoubtedly that of conservative evangelical theology, largely emanating from the seminaries and research institutes of the United States. Not surprisingly therefore, the concept of mission in the Cell Church movement and in individual cells focuses upon making disciples and upon church growth. There is an emphasis on equipping every member of the church to fulfil the Great Commission. Pp100

The word sed in the NT for ‘church’ os ekklesia, which simply means ‘called out’ pp 109
Giles, K (1995) What on Earth is the church? A biblical and theological enquiry.spck

Whenever the church reduces its way of relating to the world simply to the task of making disciples, something hugely important is lost. We are left with the picture of the church as the Ark of Salvation: all we are called to do is draw people into it to safety from the destruction around them, In this picture, 'the world' is no longer a manifestation of the wisdom and love of the good creator but a hostile environment from which we ourselves must escape, within which we must keep ourselves safe and from which we will eventually be taken into heaven. However, when the church focuses upon proclaiming the kingdom of God in all its aspects except that of calling people into a new relationship with Christ, again the message is woefully incomplete. To know the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of Christ is the fulfilment of what it means to be human. The Christian gospel is, as Paul writes, the power of God for the salvation, transformation and healing of all those who believe. Without the faithful proclamation of the gospel and the making of disciples, the new community of the church cannot be renewed in every generation. Evangelism is only part, but an essential part, of the wider task of God's mission in which the church is called to share. Pp 139


Monday, July 18, 2005

Books for College 

'Journeying Out - a new approach to Christian Mission' by Ann Morisy.
gc: Eric O. Jacobsen, Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (Brazos Press, 2003)

T.J. Gorringe, A Theology of the Built Environment: Justice, Empowerment, Redemption (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Harvey Cox’s The Secular City and
Jacques Ellul’s The Meaning of the City

Hunsberger and guder Church between gospel and culture

The Celtic Way of Evangelism


Monday, July 04, 2005

Murray, S. (2004) Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World 

The book came alive from page 160 after a long description of christendom -


The end of Christendom will require radical changes in our understanding of mission and church. We have already discovered through the disappointments of the Decade of Evangelism in Britain in the 1990s that 'exhortation and invitation' evangelism is becoming obsolete. This has stimulated a widespread search for more authentic and contextual ways of being church and engaging in mission. But important attempts to reconfigure church and mission, rooted in theological reflection on contemporary cultural shifts, are often hampered by limited understanding of the significance of the shift from Christendom to post-Christendom. Pp3

Post-Christendom includes the following transitions:

 From the centre to margins: in Christendom the Christian story and the churches were central, but in post-Christendom these are marginal.
 From majority to minority: in Christendom Christians comprised the (often overwhelming) majority, but in post-Christendom we are a minority.
 From settlers to sojourners: in Christendom Christians felt at home in a culture shaped by their story, but in post~Christendom we are aliens, exiles and pilgrims in a culture where we no longer feel at home.
 From privilege to plurality: in Christendom Christians enjoyed many privileges, but in post-Christendom we are one community among many in a plural society.
 From control to witness: in Christendom churches could exert control over society, but in post-Christendom we exercise influence only through witnessing to our story and its implications.
 From maintenance to mission: in Christendom the emphasis was on maintaining a supposedly Christian status quo, but in post-Christendom it is on mission within a contested environment.
 From institution to movement: in Christendom churches operated mainly in institutional mode, but in post-Christendom we must become again a Christian movement. 20

Whenever movements identify the Christendom shift as the central issue and remove the Christendom blinkers, they rediscover the centrality of Jesus and find traditional approaches to issues such as baptism, church life, evangelism, warfare, economics, the oath and the role of the state need to be revised. 161

Mission and evangelism are not identical, though the rela- s. tionship between evangelism and engagement with political, economic, cultural and social issues has been debated widely. Nor were missionary activities between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries confined to evangelism. but the evangelistic aspect of mission demonstrates clearly the problematic Christendom legacy and the challenge of figuring mission in post-Christendorn.

Evangelism today is deeply unpopular, within and ond the churches. Although the Decade of Evangelism, despite shortcomings, rekindled interest in evangelism, it not remove the aversion many sensitive Christians feel. Despite the abandonment of inappropriate forms of evangelism and the adoption of humble, patient, holistic and textual approaches, rooted in friendship, many still find evangelism problematic. 224

Some doubt evangelism can be rehabilitated. Can this deeply compromised practice be purged and reconfigured? Why not declare a moratorium on it? Why not focus on being faithful communities and trust the attractive power of the gospel to draw others to Christ and these communities? Cannot we work for social transformation without telling the story that motivates us?

These questions should be pondered, not dismissed out of hand. If we do not feel their challenge, we have not understood the Christendom story. Might a'decade of repentance' for the legacy of past centuries be more helpful than another decade of evangelism? 227

W hat might post-Christendom evangelism mean?

 Acknowledging the charge of hypocrisy that fourth-century Christians faced for the first time and that remains common - a miserable Christendom legacy.
 Confessing our failure to embody the gospel, now and previously, and inviting others to join imperfect pilgrims, not a perfect community. Brian McLaren suggests this approach: 'I'm sorry we Christians have so often put roadblocks up for spiritual seekers through our narrow-mindedness, our failure to bridge racial and cultural and class barriers, and our lack of acceptance ... Please don't blame Jesus for our failure to live up to his teaching and example. And be assured we'll try to do better, with God's help. Please pray for us, okay ?,
 Renouncing imperialistic language and cultural imposition, making truth claims with humility and respecting other viewpoints.
 Discovering evangelists who 'prepare God's people for works of service' 16 rather than eloquent performers in public events.
 Realising churchgoing is no longer a normal social activity; church buildings and culture are alien, and many searching for spiritual reality do not anticipate finding this in churches.
 Recognising post-Christendom's diversity and developing strategies for different audiences secularists, spiritual seekers, traditionalists, neo-pagans and others.` Searching for multiple contact points with the gospel in a culture no longer dominated (as Christendom was) by guilt, employing the full range of New Testament imagery and learning to relate the story to contemporary angst and yearnings.
 Starting further back than in Christendom, not assuming our language and concepts are understood by the first generation in centuries without significant church connection through Sunday schools.
 Rediscovering the 'go' in the Great Commission: reducing over-busy church programmes and equipping members to share faith at work, among friends and in the local community.
 Appreciating this dispersed evangelism requires accessible and welcoming, authentic and provocative congregations, expressing faith through holistic mission.
 Engaging in conversation rather than confrontation - evangelism alongside others, not declaiming from an authoritative height, through dialogue instead of monologue, listening and speaking, receiving and imparting.
 Concentrating on low profile contextual witness, eschewing razzmatazz and large-scale monochrome strategies (Inappropriate in a plural society).
 Anticipating longer journeys towards Christ: process-evangelism courses must assume less and last longer than those currently available.
 Speaking consciously from the margins and inviting people to a lifestyle that, properly understood (we will need process-discipleship courses), contravenes dominant social values.

Reconfiguring evangelism will also mean rediscovering the gospel of the kingdom: liberation rather than personal fulfilment, reconciliation rather than Justification, transformation rather than stability; focusing on hope rather than faith; explaining the work of Christ in other ways than penal substitution; announcing good news to the poor and powerless but judgement to the rich and powerful; naming certain sins in some communities and different sins in others; addressing the sinned against as well as sinners. Who knows what good news a church on the margins might rediscover? 232

The demise of Chritendom reduces radically the temptations of power, clearing space for the old story to be retold.` Powerless churches need not wrangle over the relationship between evangelism and social action (this was always essentially about power), but can develop fresh perspectives on seemingly intractable social issues, because things look different from the margins. We can more easily identify with those mainstream society excludes. 244

Our priority must be to rediscover how to tell the story of Jesus and present his life, teaching, death and resurrection recognising past attempts have seriously missed the mark. We cannot continue to present Jesus only as the saviour from guilt few feel in post-Christendom. Nor can we invite people to follow a Jesus who merely guarantees life after death to those who are otherwise comfortable or a Jesus whose lordship affects only a limited range of personal moral decisions. We can no longer present a safe establishment Jesus who represents order and stability rather than justice, who appeals to the powerful and privileged for all the wrong reasons. Nor can we reduce Jesus to dogmatic statements in simplistic evangelistic courses or perpetuate the overemphasis on his divinity at the expense of his humanity that Christendom required.

Instead, we must present Jesus as (among much else) friend of sinners, good news to the poor, defender of the powerless, reconciler of communities, pioneer of a new age, freedom fighter, breaker of chains, liberator and peacemaker, the one who unmasks systems of oppression, identifies with the vulnerable and bring hope. 316-317


Hare, B. (2005) Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew 

Great insight into the fragmentation of society

"I hoped that they'd pick up on the fact that we didn't have a church of England on the patch. The last wone was pulled down in the seventies. A shop giving benefits advice and free cups of tea wasn't quite teh same thing. No one was interested in dogma any more, but a man needed somewhere to meditate and think things through..." pp 299


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