On Saturday I was at the Custard Factory in Birmingham for the Re:source conference. I found the conference to be encouraging, inspiring, challenging. It got me thinking about the work I'm doing in Millhouses at the moment, and where stuff could go in the future.
The large part of the day was spent listening to a guy called Andrew Jones, aka TallSkinnyKiwi.
He started off by reflecting on how the Kingdom of God is like yeast (Matthew 13:33). As yeast is worked throughout the dough the yeast cells divide, yet it's impact is what makes the bread rise and grow. This cell division is so small, microscopic, invisible to the human eye. For us, as members of God's church, must not our actions also be almost secret and meek rather than proud and showy, just as Jesus warns against in Matthew 16:6 - also talking about yeast.
He also talked about Luke 8, when Jesus was on His way to Jairus' house. Jesus was stopped by an 'unclean' woman on the way there. Yet Jesus stopped, and spent time with this woman, her faith having healed her. Who are we called to work with? The cool, important people, or the inclean, those that nobody else will even touch?
We then moved on to look at Luke 10, from which I noted down a number of things that grabbed me.
We are told to enter other people's houses, rather than us dragging them into ours. What does this say about the way we do mission, and the way we do church???
God HAS prepared a harvest. The harvest IS out there. We must learn to find where God's favour is.
The 72 were told to go out, eat, drink, heal etc etc. THEN tell people about the Kingdom of God. Is this the way we do it? Or are we often in a hurry to get all the 'God stuff' in right at the beginning. People need to experience the Kingdom of God before we start banging on about it verbally.
We must ask God - the Lord of the Harvest - to send out workers. But these workers might not include us.
In the afternoon we started off by looking at a bit of emergence theory. Now I have to be honest, this is an area about which I knew very little. But it was actually quite interesting (though probably simplified somewhat).
In Proverbs 6:6-8 we are told to go and look at the ants, and it is with ants that this emergence theory was explanined.
Ants don't have a leader or a queen ant or anything like that, but they still manage to accomplish a whole lot. Some characteristics of both ant colonies, and this whole emergence thing are:
1. low-level chaos leads to high-level sophistication without orders being given.
2. everyone communicates with everyone.
3. simple structures.
Interesting stuff, especially when you reflect on the way churches often operate.
We then looked a bit at the role of 'new media' within the emerging church/culture context. There has been/is happening, something of a renaissance where everybody is now writing (this is happening virtually, online, eg blogging). We are co-creators, co-producers. Questions were raised on this issue - what about those people who can't use computers/don't have access to computers etc. In answer to the use of new media in a church context, the answer seemed to be that this new media should be used to augment the existing relationships, rather than play an central part. On reflection, I now wonder what the increasing use of new media in culture/society at large will mean for those who don't have access to it, or don't know how to use it. Will people just be left behind??? What does the church/the emerging church have to say about this?
The point was made, and I appreciated this, that people's attention span is not necessarily getting shorter, rather they are becoming used to a broad spectrum of media happening simultaneously. For example, (and this might not be the best example)channel surfing is not about a short attention span, rather it is about comparing the different channels simultaneously, making decisions about what we want to watch.
A definition of ministry was presented that seems so simple, but is really quite profound:
1. giving gifts
2. telling stories
3. throwing parties
4. making friends
Questions were raised about how success is measured in the emerging church context. Does the emerging church itself need to set out such indicators?
With the increased use of new media and all that, it is easy to think that the emerging church is quite a 'cool' thing, but the point was made that it is not just being 'cool' for the sake of it, rather, this new technology allows us to read the emerging culture. Culture itself is relational, interactive, connecting. These are the characteristics which need to shape our churches.
You can find more about the stuff that was said on this day here and here