Category Archives: Missiology

What is your position on the recent movement in churches to become mission focus and market place oriented?

As suggested in the question, there has bben a recent movement to direct evangelism and other Christian activities toward the secular marketplace (I understand ‘market place’ as somewhere in the secular domain, outside of ‘walls’ of the church). In Australia, for instance, the number of non-churched is growing and people are no longer willing to step into the church. Hence, the push is to create gospel opportunities wherever we are in the market place (workplace, schools, gym, sporting club,etc), rather than relying on the attracting people into our regular church ministries for evangelism.

My view is that churches should become more mission focussed and market placed oriented, however, not at the expense of traditional church ministries. Evangelism at church and regular ministries (e.g. men’s, women’s, children, youth, marriage, parenting, etc) form an important platform for gospel proclamation. Moreover, the church building is an extremely valuable resource for evangelistic events and ministries.

At St Paul’s, by way of example, we try to encourage and support evangelism in any form and anywhere. We’ve set up evangelistic enterprises that have mainly been involved in market-place evangelism (e.g. cocktail party in business district, coffee club at cafes, community carols, etc). However, I am in full support of all our existing attractional structures at church (e.g. youth group, play groups, children’s holiday clubs, high teas, musical events, etc) and I am always seeking to better utilize our church buildings to further evangelistic ministries.

The Price of Admission – the new cost for being heard …

admitoneHappy New Year everyone. I thought I would kick 2014 off with a little document I penned on the back of napkin in 2011. It’s a short reflection on why our church (SPCH) no longer had a voice in the community and a suggestion on how to get it back again.

Interestingly, I only had the guts to send it to the Senior Minister and to a kindred spirit on staff. However, under God, it actually has formed the basis of much of our “forward facing” strategy and given many opportunities to serve and preach the Gospel.

Well here it is…..

As a church we seriously have a public relations problem and because of this, the church has lost the basic right to be heard.[1] There is no doubt that Christ’s followers will always be hated and be the fragrance of death to those who are perishing.  This will always be the case when we preach the Gospel and stand for Christ.  However, we are to live lives that make the Gospel attractive, give an answer to the hope we have, pray for and make the most of opportunities with outsiders. Even though the latest statistics show that the church is seen to evoke a neutral response by unchurched people, the problem is that they don’t think the Christian church does not have the right or reason to be listened to. Just ask yourself (or the average unchurched person) the following diagnostic questions.  If the average unchurched person were asked “What would be missing in our suburbs if Christian churches were wiped of the face of the planet?”, most will answer “Nothing”. If the average unbeliever were asked “Is the local church a necessary part of our community?”, most would answer “no.” We as a church (the corporate identity) have a PR problem.

We lost our right to be heard because we lost the position the church once enjoyed.  In Australian history, the church has traditionally enjoyed the position of being quasi-established and had a high rate of weekly attendance and affiliation. For this reason, the church enjoyed the position where her ideas were given heading and even adhered to.  Furthermore, the church was at the forefront of schooling, aged care and even social change.  However, now is a very different environment.  With the rapid decline of nominalism the position the church once held was then lost.  The rapid secularisation of society accelerated the church’s decline in public standing. Where the church used to be the forefront of social change, now she was seen as the anchor holding it back; where the church was at the forefront of aged care, now she is just seen as a shrewd commercial operator; where the church was the provider of public education, now she is seen as the creator of religious ghettos. We know that our secular society forms opinions and impressions by primarily judging externals. The problem is that for right and wrong reasons, in our postmodern and utilitarian society opinion, the church certainly comes up short.

Although, ultimately God’s in control of our image, our public “right” to be heard can be regained.  We lost our right to be heard so I assume we can get it back again.  If our church comes up short for those diagnostic questions, I propose we ought to do the following to change that:

  1. Get seriously involved in Community Care.  For St Paul’s the best way for this to make a significant difference in the ARV Rogan Hill Campus.  If we actively participated in the pastoral care of 1500 elderly people in our parish, this mitigates some of our society’s concern that we do not care.
  2. Get seriously connected in our Community.  It is important to capitalise on current fledgling projects like LELJ and JAMA.  If we are seen to actively connect with our community then this mitigates our society’s concern that we are “out of touch.”  Moreover, from these projects many new opportunities for the gospel ought to arise.
  3. Get seriously ready for the next natural disaster to hit the Hills.  A catastrophic bush fire is only around the corner for the Hills Region.  If we’ve learnt anything from our experience in Healesville and Gatton/Grantham, the church must be ready to be on the forefront to provide emergency material relief and pastoral care.  In the time of a major crisis, if our church became the operational centre and our people were the key emergency volunteers/workers, then this would be invaluable for future mission.

This is the price of admission that we must pay in order to gain the “right” to be listened to in our society.

 


[1] A public relations problem is very different to a marketing problem – although it is related. Let me explain … marketing has to do with getting your brand known; PR has to do with getting your brand accepted and liked. In the last few years, the church has started to make progress in our marketing. Yet in the many conversations I’ve had with unbelievers not much has progressed in the PR department.  I acknowledge that if we preach the gospel, the church will probably never be “liked”, but I think we could go a long way to remediate wrong PR issues.

The Day We Visited Kumbh Mela – Allahabad

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Allahabad is one of the sacred sites for Hindu pilgrims.  Without prior understanding of the significance of the date, we booked our arrival coinciding with Kumbh Mela – a 1 in 144 year pilgrimage festival.  Hindus believe that on  certain dates – governed astrologically – if they bathed at the meeting point of the Ganges and Yamuna (and a mystical unseen third river) then all their past and present sins are forgiven.  Hence those who have bathed will break the kalma cycle and go straight to “heaven”.  We arrived in between two “auspicious” dates where the first had 30 million bathers and the second had 20 million (having come from population-sparse Australia it is very difficult to describe the magnitude of the crowds). As a result of the numbers and the belief of the bathing results, people (especially older people) are left to die on the shores of the rivers (sorry no photos of that one for you all).

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My colleagues and I have been in  India for 5 days now.  It has been an extremely encouraging and eye-opening experience.  We have spent most of our time at Allahabad Bible Seminary encouraging and being encouraged by the faculty and students.  It has been particularly encouraging witnessing how this particular evangelical  seminary is having such a great effect in Northern India –  through both church planting and training evangelical gospel workers for Northern India.

Please keep praying for us as we continue travelling.  Our next stop is our link missionaries!

Ed Stetzer – David Hesselgrave on Holistic Mission and the Evangelical Consensus

Ed Stetzer – David Hesselgrave on Holistic Mission and the Evangelical Consensus.

The limits of technology (for mission)

In the last 4 days, I have come to the understanding that modern technology is just not as good as it claims to be – especially when it comes to building relationships. Don’t get me wrong, I love using facebook and twitter and skype to keep in touch with people. I even use that social media to do work – keeping connected with colleagues and mission partners around the world.

On Thursday morning, Pastor Maish from Lifespring Chapel, Nairobi landed in Sydney Australia.  For the past few years we’ve exchanged emails, sat in business meetings, and we’ve even signed contracts on the understanding that our churches would work together for God’s kingdom – work that represents about $220 000 in funding in 2011.  However, his physical arrival helped me understand two key things:

  1. Social media primarily operates on the easy transfer of information.  We can so easily share snippets of information but fail to share our lives.  I am the first to admit that relationships do require information. However, they need so much more to flourish.
  2. Relationships require the sharing of life. Part of the problem is that we are working together but our ministry fields are separated by 20 hours air travel. And even though we can transfer information easily through modern technology, we must work hard at being physically near one another to share our lives: sitting in traffic together; laughing together as we ate exotic foods; debating the merits of different mission strategies; seeing each other’s passion and conviction to serve Christ; Maish even seeing how messy my house was! I guess if we were to have a bible verse, it would be 1 Thessalonians 2:8

We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

Over the last 4 days, without sounding too clichéd, I have lost a work connection and gained a friend and partner for Christ’s mission.