Acts 6.7a – ‘The word of God continued to spread’
The Evangelism & Church Growth Initiative Newsletter
Liverpool Diocese’s Linda Jones introduces this edition by reflecting that, as some things in church change, others remain the same.
My experience in the Church of England at the present time is that the culture of the Church is definitely changing, and this is reflected in this edition of Witness 6.7.
The first article is from a book written by Canon Phil Potter from the Diocese of Liverpool on The Challenge of Change. Here he challenges us to recognise that constant change is here to stay. His advice is that for change to happen we need to pace ourselves and build a team; allow ourselves and our church to be stretched; listen constantly to hear the heart of God, our congregation as well as our own heart; and prepare to be changed ourselves in the process. We can only do this if we make sure that we are listening to God; something that the article from Canada reminds us.
The Gospel message is transformational and the articles from Ireland, the Philippines and Brazil reflect that a commitment to live in community can be a declaration and expression of the Gospel we proclaim. In the Philippines outreach to children using the unchanging message of Christ from the Bible is changing lives for the better.
Bishop Patrick Yu, the co-chair of the Anglican Witness: ECGI core group, concludes this edition by reflecting on the mandate given to Anglican Witness at last year’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand.
Together all these articles show clearly that as we engage with the changing culture of the Church we have the assurance that the Gospel message is constant.
Saviour Christ, in whose way of love lies the secret of all life, and the hope of all people, we pray for quiet courage to match this hour.
We did not choose to be born or to live in such an age; but let its problems challenge us, its discoveries exhilarate us, its injustices anger us, its possibilities inspire us and its vigour renew us for your kingdom’s sake. Amen.
Nearly thirty years ago, a young and impatient visionary was taken on board, and in hand, by one of the most influential change agents of the late twentieth century. The late David Watson was then leading one of the most exciting changing churches at St. Michael-le-Belfry in York. I was recruited by David to lead his team of singers, dancers and actors, and together we travelled internationally, encouraging renewal, promoting unity, and modelling new ways of engaging in evangelism. I was a singer-songwriter and worship leader, writing and pioneering new-fangled ideas for worship alongside our more traditional hymns and liturgy.
Singing rhythmic songs with the additional diet of dance and drama was a seismic change for some of the cathedrals and churches we visited. In one cathedral, we built our theme around the title of an old Bob Dylan song:‘Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you Mr Jones?’ Only after the service did we discover that the sub dean of the cathedral was called Mr Jones! The early eighties were exciting days for the renewal of the church. Many of the changes that we now take for granted were pioneered then by godly risk-taking leaders. As a worship leader, I sat at the feet of many of them and was privileged to look, listen and learn.
I then entered the ordained ministry and served as a curate in a church that had had its building burnt down by an arsonist, St Peter’s Yateley. This one dramatic event had not only left the church with a clean sheet to rebuild, but had left them with a sense of spiritual rebirth and rediscovery. This led to a period of ongoing change and development of which I was a part, and a time of astonishing growth. When it was discovered that the arsonist had burnt down other churches that had also then seen renewal, the suggestion was made that he should be released from prison and given a ministry and a list!
Four years later our family moved to a traditional, urban community in Haydock on Merseyside, and so began a ministry lasting nearly 20 years in the parish of St Mark’s. Of course, I’m often asked why somebody who likes to do change did not change his ministry for that length of time? My answer very simply is that St Mark’s went through five major transitions during that time, seeing changes that effectively gave me the feel of leading five refreshingly different churches. The first phase was simply renewal, where the foundations of worship, community and mission were reviewed and developed. This included a review of all our resources including our buildings, and led to a major phase of reordering. The biggest reordering of course was in people’s hearts and expectations, and the ministry and growth that this released then led to a period of restructuring and the advent of cell church.
Over a period of six months we overhauled our programmes, groups and structures and began to embrace the cell motto that “small is beautiful”. The resulting growth and blessing gave us an appetite and a very clear call for resourcing others. Not only did we host conferences and welcome leaders to visit, but we began to look for ways to team up with others, and offer our gifts more widely.
Eventually, we grew to four congregations, but I was haunted by two thoughts. First of all, it’s easy in a full building to become complacent and feel successful, when the reality is that there are still 10,000 on our doorstep who never darken the door and for whom we are still irrelevant. And the second thought followed quickly, that if any church was in a position to take risks and experiment in reaching the totally unchurched, it was a community like St. Mark’s, where by now we had learned some powerful if sometimes painful lessons about the importance of ongoing change. So we then entered our riskiest and most exciting transition of all, and we called it reinventing!
Since then, I have entered another change phase of my own which I call releasing. After many years in the parish, I have now taken up the post of Director of Pioneer Ministry in the Diocese of Liverpool. Put very simply, I’ve been told that my job is to “illustrate the future”! So with a team of pioneer ministers and an ever increasing army of lay pioneers, we are doing church in new ways alongside the old ways, and beginning to imagine and then illustrate how tomorrow’s church might look.
Phil Potter, Diocese of Liverpool
CONTENT - Amongst other issues, the recent Anglican Witness core group meeting discussed children and youth, discipleship and communications. Within the communications strategy we discussed how best to utilise this publication and concluded that if we are serious about promoting children and youth and discipleship within the Anglican Communion we should include articles on both in each edition as well as thematic stories. Although in this edition of Witness6.7 we include two articles on the Changing Culture of Church, which are about children and young people as well as a definition of discipleship which also reflects this theme, we welcome stories on children and youth and discipleship whether they fit the current theme or not.
FORMAT - How are you reading this edition of Witness6.7? The majority of those who have registered with us receive the email version without pictures, those who are emailed the web-link and those connecting to the web-link through Facebook have the choice of just reading the text or downloading the pdf. A very small percentage of our readership receives the paper copy that is produced in Publisher. But although the vast majority are accessing Witness6.7 electronically, this is impossible in some parts of the Communion. Being aware of the need for both approaches, we have decided on changes to the format and frequency to respond flexibly to our readership, and potential readership. After this edition we intend producing one, possibly two, glossy versions each year, with the hope that these will be more widely distributed and kept as a resource on particular topics. Otherwise, we will just be producing electronic versions with the choice of the text version, either emailed or read on line, or a pdf of a simpler Word document that includes pictures.
FREQUENCY - The electronic version will flexibly respond to the material and stories that are sent in. The frequency will depend upon you, the readers, or those of you who contribute articles and other material.
TOPICS - The September, glossy, version will feature material on reconciliation and evangelism. As well as general stories; we particularly welcome articles on Children and youth, Discipleship, Missional Communities and Anglican Evangelism.
Stuart Buchanan, ACO Mission Department
Over the past few years in Canada, the conversation among Anglican Christians around church planting has spun off other conversations about the nature of church itself. The process of attempting to plant churches has led many involved to spend time considering the question, “What is church?”, one which most of us thought was answered a long time before we came along. The answer usually consisting of variations on the theme of “Christians gathered for worship.” This seemed to pass muster for many years. For many in the church planting conversation in Canada, that particular answer has now worn a little thin.
It is instructive that Mark in his gospel tells us that Jesus called the twelve to “…be with him and that he might send them out…” (Mark 3.14) This seems to describe two modes of being Jesus’ people, the “with him” or gathered mode of being church, and the “sent out” or scattered mode. For most of us, for most of our lives, the gathered mode has dominated our thinking about being church. There are signs of that changing as more attention (it could hardly have been less,) is being paid in some quarters, to the scattered mode of being church, the mode in which we spend the vast majority of our time. Of course, both modes of church are important. We need to be gathered for worship and teaching, before we are scattered for mission and service. Again, the “both/and” come forcefully into play. We need to think about the attention we give to the scattered mode, as the gathered mode seems to have received plenty of attention in the recent past.
As thinking about the nature of the church has taken place, so too has thinking about the task of the church. This has provoked thought around Jesus’ apparent priority of “disciple making” (deriving from Matthew 28.20f), and the extent to which it is reflected in the present priorities of the church. The conversation around disciple making is taking place in Anglican church planting circles, among others. What seems to be “working” is the realisation that we need to spend time listening to what God is telling us about what it means to be church in twenty-first century Canada, and to seeing how God is making disciples today. At the same time people are making principled experiments in launching initiatives which just might turn out to be forms of church we have not seen for a while. This, it seems, is part of the work of church-planting in our varied contexts up here in the north!
Nick Brotherwood Team leader Fresh Expressions Canada, Assistant Director Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism
Would you like to walk down the narrow alley in this picture? (The picture shows a very dark, narrow, alley where the sun cannot reach.) In the Philippines we call it a skinita. This alley led into a very dirty, poor compound where around 30 families lived in old bamboo huts with nipa (grass) or tin roofs and dirt floors. The compound was a dirty place where people gambled, drank and fought! If the local police got a call out to this place at night they would not go!
I was looking for venues for a children’s bible club for 30 to 40 Bible college students to come to each Saturday to reach out to children, lead them to Christ and reach out to the wider community. So, I started looking for places with children to start these clubs in the area. Walking along, I saw a lot of children coming out of this alley, so I went in. I didn’t know then they were such undesirable places to go into!
There was a long bench sitting on the only piece of cement outside a little store – we call it a ‘sari-sari’ store because it sells anything! There was a tiny piece of roofing over the bench. This would be okay to start a Bible club I thought; children could sit on the bench. So I asked permission from the store owner and the Bible club started with nine children sitting on that bench.
The Bible club grew. Forty to fifty children would come every Saturday at 8am. They would bring a carton or a little plastic washing stool to sit on; they were so keen. Ate Maring was the owner of the shop who had given us permission and, as the children gathered, she would listen from inside her store.
“Ate, would you like a Bible study for adults?” I asked her one day. “Yes!” she replied. As a result, a Bible study for adults was started in her store, led by another two Bible college students. That study group grew to about 15 very keen people. At the end of the year, instead of finishing the Bible club and starting a new one, we evaluated that we should continue this one because it was so productive. During the following year, we decided that it needed to become a registered church and so it was affiliated with [location-based social networking website] Foursquare.
Today you can walk down that alley unafraid. The compound is all cemented; the houses are cemented and there is a brightly painted church building with air conditioning inside and even a chandelier light! Instead of giving darkness, this place gives light and hope. The people are pretty much the same families, but what a change Jesus has made in their lives. Some families who have left the alley but still live nearby come back here on Sundays to fellowship. The church also has an outreach to a poor area behind the public market.
This kind of story could be repeated many times here in the Philippines where the average age for people living here is 22.9 years old. The population is around 90 million with about 10 million who work overseas. Former students – now pastors in many different provinces – have used this method to pioneer churches, some as many as four churches each. Right now, we are training Bible college students to do just that. Some students are very poor and they cannot afford the tuition fees. If someone could partner them through the three-year course ($50 per month) they could make it! One student is now in a key management role for children’s ministry nationwide in her denomination. Some are in the Middle East working, but reaching out. Others have joined ministry teams to other countries in Asia.
Dianne Bayley is a NZCMS Mission Partner & National Director of Children’s Bible Ministries in the Philippines. Its aim is to see Filipino children grounded in biblical values, transformed and discipled for Christ.
One of the many challenges facing our new church plant in Dublin, Ireland, is the rapid increase of individualism and also the gradual decline of community in Irish society. Many commentators today say that this breakdown of community is a very unhelpful trend and is perhaps a root cause of many negative social issues encountered today. One of the key principles of our new church is to live in authentic community and not as a “lone ranger”, but why is this so?
It’s very interesting to see that much of the moral prescriptions in the bible are addressed to people living in a community and not to individuals. For example the Ten Commandments were given to Israel at Mount Sinai to make them into an alternate culture that would be a light to the other nations. This is the same in the New Testament. In the book of Romans, Christians are called to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, which many times is interpreted as a call to individual consecration, but perhaps rather it is more of a challenge for us to commit ourselves to a corporate body and not to live as independent separated individuals anymore? If we view it this way, then we can see that much of the New Testament is a description of this new society and how to live therein. This teaching of living as a community is taught about, in varying degrees, all through the ministry of Jesus, as he challenges us to be like a city on a hill, whose light cannot be hidden. And if we really understand and live as this community or city, can we understand such passages like the Sermon on the Mount, or perhaps even the entire New Testament, as a description of this new community or city? If we have this understanding of community then most of the ethical principles or rules for behaviour in the Bible are not legalistic code-books for individuals but rather descriptions of the new community of love, holiness, peace, joy, hope and faith.
So, Christian community should not just be a result of preaching the gospel, but should itself be a living declaration and expression of the gospel, as we live it out together. This community should be a visible demonstration of the good news of our freedom in Christ and a place of character transformation, where we reach out into a world of need.
Rob Jones—Holy Trinity Rathmines, Church of Ireland
Μαθητής Discipulus Learner, trainee, follower, discipleΜαθητεία Discipulatus following a teacher, discipleship
“Come follow me, Jesus said” Matthew 4:19
“I am the way, the truth and the life” John 14:6
“Who belonged to the Way” Acts 9:2
Discipleship is about learning but it is about much more than the acquisition of knowledge.
Discipleship is following, walking with, the one we trust. It is centred on this one whom we follow, who we allow to shape our life, whose own life begins to transform our lives, in whom we find our eternal destiny. For Christians this is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.
Discipleship is ultimately about transformation, the transformation of every aspect of our lives – how we think, how we behave, how we relate to others and how we understand ourselves. It is very closely related with μετάνοια, often translated as ‘repentance’ but really signifying a much more profound total reorientation of our lives towards God.
Discipleship is about BELONGING – becoming part of the community of those who follow Jesus.
Discipleship is about BEHAVING – adopting a life-style which reflects the reign of God on earth.Discipleship is about BELIEVING – accepting the teaching of Jesus and putting all our trust in Him.
Discipleship is not a course, or a stage in becoming a Christian – it is a continuous, life-long, process of allowing God to shape every aspect of our lives – and that will only be completed when we see Him face to face.
Mark Oxbrow, Faith2Share
“WHY are there so few children in our church?”
“Well, I suppose there are so many other attractions for them these days, we can just not compete.”
“Yes, that’s true, but Jesus always loved to be with the children, and they are such an important part of His church.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, the older people really appreciate your ministry.”
A minister and his wife were walking to church on Sunday morning and as they talked together, they turned the corner in the park which was right next to the church. It was at that moment that the minister made up his mind.
Three weeks later, the minister did not go to church as he normally did. He had organised the lay members to lead the worship in church and instead he took the large sheet of blue plastic he had bought and set off for the park. As the congregation began singing, “Through all the changing scenes of life …” he spread out his plastic sheet, put on a strange red ‘story telling’ costume and sat down at one corner of his new blue plastic church. It was not long before a few children got off the swings, left their ball on the grass, and came to see what was going on. Using a method called “Open the book” which he had found on the internet (see http://openthebook.net/home.php), the minister began to tell stories from the Bible. The little crowd of children grew. Before he had started his second story two mothers who had been sharing the latest gossip on a bench nearby came over to see what the new big attraction was for their children – and perhaps to reassure themselves that this man dressed in a strange robe was of no danger for their children.
Six weeks later there were over 40 children and many adults gathered in the park to hear the stories of Jesus. Now the minister was gaining in confidence. He discovered that some of the children loved to sing, others were very creative with scraps of paper and old tin cans. The children also wanted to join in the story telling, often sharing quite unexpected insights into the Bible stories.
Playground Church had been born. Now some of these parents who stood at the edge of the plastic sheet are involved in leading the church and the minister is even able to take time off to go next door to the old people in church and minister to them.
This all happened a couple of years ago in a city in northern Brazil, but it could have happened anywhere – at least anywhere where the weather allows children to play in the park! Perhaps the important question is not “Why are there so few children in our church?” but rather “Why are there so few Christian story tellers in our park?”
Children are not just the Church of the Future, they are very much the church of today. In fact in some parts of the world they are potentially more than half of the church of today. Children are not “little adults” but children who have their own place and ministry within the family of God. Children are evangelists who can share the story of Jesus with their peers and bring other children to faith. They are also able to offer pastoral care to other children, sometimes in more intimate ways than adults manage. They have gifts in music, in Biblical insight and imagination, in creativity and in building community.
The 4-14 Window (www.4-14window.org) movement, which held a very significant theological consultation in Seoul, Korea in February 2013, is helping churches to see and understand the true role of children in our Christian family.
Viva network (www.viva.org) brings together many ministries working specifically with children, and the Child Theology Network (www.childtheology.org) is doing important work to help us understand how children do theology and how their theology can relate creatively with the theology done by adults. These are just three of the movements helping us to regain a ‘child focus’ in our mission and ministry. While they talk, Playground Church continues to worship God week by week in Brazil.
Mark Oxbrow, Faith2Share www.faith2share.net
We meet once a year, the core group of Anglican Witness; this year we met in London. We are small, consisting of one representative from each of the nine regions of the Communion, five subject area experts and two staff members, sixteen in all. But our mandate is nothing short of animating evangelism and church growth throughout the Anglican world.
The success of our efforts can only come through member churches in their Provinces, Dioceses churches and agencies. To this end we rely on communication tools such as Facebook, a website and newsletters in electronic and printed forms. We are in contact with just over 1,000 people and organisations through registration, Facebook participants and those receiving newsletters from member churches. Not bad for a new group but not nearly enough to be influential – yet!
This is the first meeting after the Anglican Consultative Council met in New Zealand. We receive both our mandate and our funding from it. The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon, reported that our work was well received, and we were requested to give special attention to evangelism among children and young people. To this end, he appointed the Reverend Robert Sibuwa – Father Bob as his young people affectionately called him, to the core group. We had a good discussion on strategy and decided to consciously launch a “youth wing” of Anglican Witness. This will take the form of a children and youth section in every newsletter and possibly a new Facebook group. We will also investigate the option of soliciting exciting news about youth ministry, possibly with a “Father Bob prize for the most innovative project for youth ministry.”
Taking on more responsibility implies a sharper focus on others. By the end of two days of discussions, we decided to put our energy on strands: Children and youth, discipleship, unengaged people groups, communication, and the gathering and sharing of evangelism resources across the Communion.
At the outset we have decided that the core group will not only meet to talk but to engage with the host church for mission. We had a very rigorous engagement with the Church of England at the first day of our meeting. At Church House we met our hosts and exchanged presentations on Fresh Expression, Migration and Mission and the allocation of resources for mission. We exchanged ideas in a special evening with two young members of Regeneration Church, a church focussed on ministry by young people to young people. Members also stayed behind with hosts to participate in local churches on the special occasion of Mothering Sunday.
We had a pleasant surprise when Archbishop Justin Welby and Mrs Welby dropped by when we were having dinner at Pizza Express across the bridge from Lambeth Palace! He made it very clear that Evangelism, together with Reconciliation, were his top priorities. We were encouraged by his focus and hope that we have many partners to share ideas and resources. This was also a special meeting because the full core group were present for the first time since its inauguration. Old friendships were renewed and new friends welcomed, it was a fulsome and productive meeting, but the implementation requires the prayers and sharing of folks on the ground, folks like you!
Bishop Patrick Yu—Core Group Convenor
The Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative now has 450 registered participants based in at least forty different countries. We also have over 575 friends in our facebook group. The majority of the facebook friends are not registered, so we are confident that we are in touch with between 750 and 850 different participants around the Anglican Communion; 750 - 850 people with different stories to tell from being involved in evangelism and church growth within their different contexts; 750 - 850 participants that we can learn from and share with.
The Initiative is you, the participants, so we encourage you to use the Initiative as a way of keeping in touch, supporting and encouraging each other. You can:
Participate by registering - if you have not already done so, the online form is available on http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/ecgi — we will inform the core group person responsible for your region about you and make sure you are sent this newsletter six times a year;
Become a facebook friend – once you have joined facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/anglicanwitness/ the facebook page provides an interactive forum so that you can share stories, prayer requests, resources and questions with each other;
Explore the website – at www.aco.org/ministry/mission/ecgiyou will find back copies of the newsletter, lists of evangelism resources and various resources that others have produced to help with their work;
Encourage others – who are involved in evangelism and church growth to register, join the facebook page and explore the website;
Share your stories – so that we can include these within the newsletter; stories of how God is working through your church or organisation to grow his church; stories to encourage others; stories so that we can learn from your experience. Send stories (300—700 words) and photos to arrive a month before the publication date to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell us - about resources: books; websites; courses, good practice; prayers, forthcoming events etc that we can include in future newsletters or on the website;
Post – stories, helpful web-links, resources, prayer requests, questions, information etc on the facebook page;
Translate - this newsletter, and other material, into the languages of those who cannot read in English; at this stage we do not have the resources to do this ourselves;
Pray - for the work featured in the newsletters and facebook page and give thanks for God’s faithfulness.
The Mission Department
Anglican Communion Office
St Andrew’s House
16 Tavistock Crescent
London W11 1AP, UK