Chelmsley Wood Baptist Church faith//hope//love

  • Mission and other taboos.

    I hate the word mission. Not for itself, but for what the church has done to it. They’ve made it a taboo, a word that most reasonable followers of Jesus want nothing to do with, like ‘born again’, ‘Christian’, ‘discipline’ and the like. These are words that once had some meaning but the church has overlaid so much onto them that we find ourselves having to find other words because of the preconceptions attached to them now. It’s the same with words like ‘community’, which is now used to describe pretty much any group of people, the disabled community, the BME community, the ginger community, as if by sharing particular characteristics people are somehow bonded together. It’s naive and slightly patronising. Anyway, don’t get me started on that.

    Mission is a word that gets attached to things that basically, you don't want to do but feel obliged to. I'm not talking about cleaning the toilet, which personally I would prefer, but it usually means uncomfortably trying to convince/persuade/con someone that 'you have something they want'.

    I could go on ad nauseum but will move to something like a point.

    Having seen this attitude, read some of the evanglism books, and smelt a lot of the cheese, at CWBC we decided not to do mission. Instead we decided to have some fun, to play, to share our spirituality, to invite conversation with others about their spiritual journeys, to go with people of various beliefs and none, to look at spiritual places and try spiritual things. We called this Tree of Life.

    Over the last year or so we have had some Jesuits run workshops on meditation, chatted to people by our local shops about the weather and their lives, we've had art exhibitions that look at grief and the environment, we've been on trips to well dressings and ancient sacred sites, we've taught people how to carve stone. And through all these and other things we've journeyed alongside atheists, agnostics, wiccans, heathens, the old and young, the normal and the downright wierd. It has been fabulous. It has been, in the true meaning of the word, mission. Because mission is not just for us to do to them, we also need to 'mission' ourselves, discover for ourselves the presence of God in our midst. I suppose what feels different to me about this approach is that we too hope to 'get something we haven't got', we want to discover something more of the spiritual, rather than act like our lives are better than someone else's and if only they conformed to us everything would be better for them. (or something like that)

    The reason I felt the urge for this preach was the two most recent Tree of Life things.

    We recently went to Uffington, to stand on the hill side and look at the horse carved into the side, we then went to Wayland's Smithy, another 'thin place'. We've also been running stone carving workshops, creatively exploring the potential within us and the beauty and power of nature and humanity. It's been fabulous. Both activities, whilst very different, brought people together for conversations at every level. There were no experts there (other than the Stone Carver, Celia. She was fantastic.). Both activities left you, at the end of day, thinking about when you could do it again because it was so good.

    But, and this is where the 'church' tends to put the dampeners on, the question traditionally asked after such events is 'Has this put bums on seats', which is really what the books about mission are about. I remember in my early years here we had regular conversations about different activities we ran, the years of parents and toddlers groups and lunch clubs and whether anyone has ever come to church as a result of them. We eventually worked out that this wasn't the reason we did them. The reason we did the groups and activities was because they were good in their own right, they were fun for the sake of it, they were positive and life-enhancing so worth doing anyway. Too often the church runs activities, not to grow disciples or orientate people towards Christ, but to get them to come to church, which I have always thought is a poor substitute for following Jesus, although it can be a helpful tool if used correctly.

    So has it put bums on seats? I think it has, but it only has because that isn't what we intended. It wasn't our secret agenda (for secret, read dishonest). Our agenda was honestly to explore spiritual things, to have fun together. I wouldn't say we actively discourage people from coming to church, but if anyone asks we don't do the usual Christian response of leaping on them, like a lion finding it's prey, or gushing over them like some trophy.

    To be honest, we don't want people to just 'come to our church'. We want people to walk with, we want to find others who are also exploring what faith and Jesus is all about, and then we can do this together. There is a world of difference between the two.




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Welcome to the blog

Neil (the minister) occasionally gets round to blogging so welcome to the trivia and ramblings of an erratic stream of consciousness.

Because we try to be properly Baptist, these views aren't necessarily the views of everyone who is part of the church family here.

We're not even sure they're Neil's.

Either way, we try not to fall out over it.

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