But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)
When I started to reflect on what our part of the bigger picture is for us at the Church of the Martyrs, I was reminded of an essay I wrote at theological college ten years ago titled ‘It’s not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church’.
In the essay I suggested that if the ‘church is to be obedient to what God has called us to be and relevant to the people we try to reach with our message, we need to allow the Missionary God that we serve to shape our worldview and our ways of doing ministry’. So in this very short article I want to raise a few questions and share a few thoughts about what I believe is essential for us at the Martyrs (and the wider church) to grapple with during this unprecedented time.
During the season ahead of us, when the new normal will be profoundly different to the old normal, we must be a church which seeks God in how we should go about doing mission and ministry.
I believe we now have a significant opportunity to connect with people we otherwise would struggle to engage with and to see them impacted with the gospel.
Having just recently celebrated Pentecost Sunday, we were once again reminded of how on that first Pentecost God’s Spirit enabled those early Christians to break through language barriers to make Jesus relevant to those around them. It was clearly a huge surprise to these ‘lock down’ believers to find themselves speaking in other languages! This event was completely new and scary, but fully initiated and empowered by God.
Today, how can we convey the gospel to those around us in ways which are relevant and engaging? Is God inviting us during this unique time to embrace new ways of doing effective outreach? Please allow me to share a couple of reflections on the back of the questions above.
Firstly, I believe that we are essentially called to live incarnational lives in our neighbourhoods and communities. Our lives need to be lived out in a public, visible and transparent way. Currently this is a challenge. And yet, I am hearing from many of you how you have got to know more of your neighbours during our Thursday eve ‘clapping’ and others telling me about the good chats across garden fences and on allotments. Involved in local charities, sports clubs, social gatherings, business, politics, arts… This is where the church needs to be – connected into and engaged fully in the heart of our communities.
What other opportunities are there? What is God up to in our neighbourhood to which he is inviting us to participate in?
Secondly, change is inherent in what it means to be human, and it is also inherent in what it means to be Christian, however uncomfortable it might be.
As a church we are becoming aware that as we participate with God’s mission agenda in seeking change and transformation in the society around us, the church (you and I) changes in the process. I believe that we need to face up to the reality that, for many of us, a new way of imagining church in the world is needed.
What that means we are yet to discover. I am sure it will stretch and challenge us, but it will also hopefully energise and envision us afresh. At this stage of the journey our church hasn’t got all the answers and there is not a clearly mapped out route ahead of us.
However, we believe God is inviting us to join with him in a journey of new discoveries of God’s missionary heart and to positively impact the society around us.