Blue sky

One of the questions we have been asking ourselves as part of the vision team is this.
‘If you were to start church from scratch how would it look.’

I know this may seem theoretical, and of course we need to be practical, but I want us to have at least tried to think how we might be, rather than just trying to fix what we have.

I wonder how you would answer the question?

7 thoughts on “Blue sky

  1. (Warning – old drum about ot be banged again)

    Why speculate? We are already doing church starting from scratch with no previous rules, structure or disciplines in place in our parish.

    (Here it comes)

    Kids work has gone through a bit of a re-invention in the last couple of years and we had the luxury of doing things the best way (in our humble opnions) rather than sticking to existing norms. We’re also “lucky” in that most families nowadays have no church history so we’re getting 2nd and 2rd generations with no church connections. So what have we done differently?

    – Go to their ground. We don’t meet in a church building but a school
    – Speak on their terms. What engages them, what are their interests, how do they like to do things
    – How does our modern world reach this group. We can learn from teh secular world. Not on content but style of delivery. Why are nearly all kids programs have short punchy sections rather than long periods?

    What do we keep the same

    – The aim. Making and Maturing
    – The message. Cut off from God by our sin, restored through his grace and Christ’s sacrifice (in easier language than that!)
    – Community. Church is about fellowship as well as learning / worshipping

    But before it all sounds too grandiose I should state we don’t always get it right, oh no. Perhaps not even close. But, learn from the mistakes, adapt and move on. The safe, comfortable option is usually where you are now. The only that will hurt and upset is the change. All change causes problems and not all change is good.

    If anyone wants to argue that kids work isn’t church I’ll be available after the evening and morning service most Sundays to discuss further.
    You could argue that we’re all about making but not maturing but that’s not true. Granted we have many more non-Christians (see above if want to discuss further!) but you can still have maturing as part of that, and indeed outside of the sessions.

    Anyway, if you want to see it in action come along and observe. Just let myself or Ellie know.

  2. At the highest level, our vision is to do our part to fulfil the great commission. We need to recognise that our vision is in fact a tiny part of God’s vision that we should “go and make disciples of all peoples.”

    I think that vision is a long-term commitment, and the hardest part is not creating the vision, but following it through. CotC WAS started from scratch, in a very practical way, and it started with a vision; we are at the hard part now. We have a choice between following our existing vision when the going gets tough, or re-inventing it so the tough bits go away for a bit. Blue sky thinking is always going to be more attractive than overcast skies thinking.

    We also need to recognise our commitments to each other, to our area, to our parish (whose vision gave birth to us!), and to the Ishalhain people. Without recognising such constraints, any visioneering risks providing the right answers to the wrong question.

    CotC was started by our parish in recognition that there was a need for a physical presence to be salt and light to people in our corner of Barnsbury. Despite the incontrovertible fact that most of our congregation comes from elsewhere, we are achieving this – think of the people who have simply wandered in over the years (I know that I’m talking to some of them now!) Little Ark is engaging with children in the area and exposing them and their parents to our beliefs ands the fact that Christians don’t have two heads.

    The vision exercise done in May 2002 by Rob Schofield canvassing the entire church for their ideas BUILT on this vision – largely because then the church knew which way they were heading, had bought into that and were able to articulate it in their responses. The resulting 8 Cs (see below) brought a natural balance between making and maturing disciples. Furthermore, mature disciples instinctively make more disciples.

    Where we are at the moment is that we have set our existing vision to one side, and hence we don’t know what our priorities are. Priorities might seem like a very businesslike word that has no place in a church, but the truth is that we need to target our energies at a manageable range of activities. We would like EVERYONE to come through our door and know God, and would never turn anyone away because they didn’t fit our vision; we don’t know what challenges God’s plans have in store for us next, but that’s not an excuse for us not to plan ourselves.

    I have no problem with refining our existing vision – the world changes around us, and we would be fools to steer blindly in an unchanging direction because that what we had already decided to do – but let us not fool ourselves that we have a blank sheet of paper. Instead, let us look at how our existing vision can be made more relevant, recognising the things that we do really well, and improving the things we do less well.

    We also need to recognise that it is very difficult to enhance a vision that we are not embracing – how do we tell apart the things which don’t work because of the existing vision and things which don’t work because we’re not following the vision? For this reason, it is worth restating the existing CotC vision so we know what our benchmark is:

    1) Changed lives / community: We are pursuing the changed lives and loving community that God the Trinity holds out to us as we understand the gospel more deeply, as we grow in faith, as we live out our Christian lives together.
    2) Children and Families: We are committed to reaching local families with the message and goodliness of God, through Bible-centred children’s work (0-18’s) in schools and in church.
    3) Compassion / Serving the poor: We are committed to service our neighbours. Using our gifts, time and resources for the needs of others, especially the poor. And more than merely meeting individual needs we work for justice for the powerless.
    4) Church planting: We are a church plant. We believe in small-sized church to enable community and participation. We are committed to planting (and helping others plant) the gospel in communities to create new churches.
    5) Colleagues and friends: We recognise that for 20s and 30s the workplace is often the primary experience of community. We are committed to bringing the good news of Christ to our colleagues and friends through the witness of our lives and lips and by creating church community for this people group. “If we can’t reach young professionals, then no-one can.”
    6) Creative Communication: We are committed to using the arts and media as a means of communicating the gospel to renew London culture (and thereby global culture.)
    7) Church resourcing: We are part of a wider church – the Parish of Barnsbury, the Church of England, the Universal Church. We are committed to resourcing the wider church locally and beyond. Through training, giving and sending people out to study and serve.
    8) Culture Crossing: we are committed to crossing cultures both in London and globally to make disciples of all people.

    Is the issue our existing vision or that we’re not disciples enough to see it through?


  3. As an old Islingtonian I love your ideas Jeremy. As a kid I lived with Mum in one room in Belitha Villas. We shared a landing as a kitchen. There were many families in each house. We shared a landing where there was a sink and a cooker as a kitchen. We used to play in the street in the summer and go into each others houses. We were fed in whichever house we ended up. In the summer the adults used to sit out in the front door steps and chat. But we were Greek Cypriots and our parents had transposed their culture to London. Gradually Islington became more gentrified as more wealthy middle class people bought the houses and turned them into flats. The less well off pushed onto the estates. The English kids in the large recently done up “posh” houses in the street would not come out to play with us.
    This sounds like nostalgia and I don’t know how it helps the Vision team. But I thought you would like to know a bit about how things got to the way they are now.

  4. A blank page is either the scariest or the most exciting thing in the world…

    So, I think you start with a few people. Let’s say you move in strategically, and four or five of you get houses in a similar, targeted location. Perhaps the Bemerton estate, Essex Road, or somewhere very specific, like the Cloudesley (?) block opposite church, or a particular street, or even one big house. You commit to live out Jesus in that area – to shop in the local shops and become familiar faces, to be regulars in a specific pub, to send your kids to the local school. You do that really un-english thing of meeting your neighbours. You join reading groups or knitting circles or a photography club, or whatever it is you do. You might even run for local government. Above all, you keep your door open, at least metaphorically and preferably literally.
    All the while, you pray for each other and support each other as a group. You pray for specific people, for in-roads where meeting people is hard. You eat together, share one car between you all, share a broadband connection, help each other with the decorating, put bulk orders in together to tesco online, be involved in each others lives in ways that the consumer culture encourages us not to do – and in so doing, be able to live on less money, thus work less and have more time to spend in the community…
    As neighbours, friends, workmates inevitably see this way of life, this love for each other and for them, this generosity and time, this community, they’ll be round. They’ll be round for tea, round for the football on Sky, for barbecues, or to drop off their kids as they go out for the evening.
    Before you know it, you’ve got people asking why, wanting in, wanting God. Perhaps within a few months you need a meeting in someone’s living room, or a discussion group at a pub. Perhaps there’s the need for something more formal, some one to one studies or an alpha course even. Or maybe not. Perhaps, five years down the line, there’s the need for a service, and it might just happen that Sunday is the best day for that. Or maybe not. Perhaps ten years down the line there’s the need for a full time pastor. Or maybe not…

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