As I pursue simple, missional church in Woodstock – one of the most common questions is – what do you do? Or what does that look like? Now to be honest I am not entirely sure how to answer that question. In part because I think people feel the need to box and define things neatly with programmes or titles, and as I am learning, with organic church that is not so easy to do. And in part because I am not sure “what I do.” Each week looks different, has different rhythms and priorities. Each week has space for planned and unplanned activities – and the amount for each differs from week to week.
So with all that in mind… welcome to the first of the new weekly “A Week in Woodstock” post. This weekly post each Monday (yes I am aware it is Tuesday!) is as much for my benefit as for anybody else’s. It affords me a chance to evaluate my past week, see patterns and trends and hopefully keep me honest too!
I began last week reflecting on a “failed” attempt to get the neighbours round for some coffee & cake on Sunday afternoon. “Failed” because nobody came and I had to eat all the cheesecake! But it did allow me to reflect on my functional belief in the sovereignty of God. I did get to meet some of the neighbours I had not met yet, we exchanged names and pleasantries. The couple next door who were unable to make it did bring round “a welcome to the neighbourhood” gift, and we discovered that their 2 kids are also adopted. Perhaps that is all God intended for now? Becoming a citizen of a community takes time, months, years! And a robust belief in the sovereignty of God reminds me that: “It is better to take gospel initiatives that fail than to fail to take gospel initiatives.”
Monday morning I spent some time with Gert Roberts from Kingfisher Mobilisation Centre, talking through a possible partnership with them. I have been spending time with their staff for some time now and I really like what they are trying to do. They have been encouraging missional church development for over a decade and are now in a number of countries around the world. Their vision is to work with local churches and church leaders to train and mobilize a missional movement of God’s people both locally and globally.
Tuesday morning dawned a cold and dark morning… it was also the beginning of a committment to get together and pray for Woodstock weekly. Six muffins, three people, hot coffee and great encouragement in the gospel and in our call to live Kingdom-centred lives here in Woodstock. Definitely worth getting out of a warm bed for… until next week that is.
I spent the rest of Tuesday morning wrestling with 1 Peter in preparation for my role as pastor to a Scripture Union holiday club in Wellington, outside Cape Town this July. We are also hoping to run a holiday club for kids in Woodstock during the short September holidays later this year. Let me know if you want in.
Tuesday evening was time for the pub quiz. I had no team-mates this week, so I took a deep breath, prayed a prayer and walked up to the Woodstock Lounge. It really does feel like faking it sometimes – drinking beer, having a laugh, answering some questions and calling it ministry? But I got to know some of the regulars – faces I recognised – we had some superficial chat and that was it. Surely I should be doing something more? And yet I hold on to the sovereignty of God – he is at work. My call is to be faithful and available as a citizen, friend, good neighbour in Woodstock. It is God’s fruit to pick!
Wednesday morning was spent with my friend and Intentional Encounters co-worker Colin doing some strategic thinking about the Porterbrook Network – the (UK based) theological training programme for missional leaders that we are trying to develop in South Africa. I have been tasked with establishing a centralised training centre for Porterbrook in Cape Town. Contact me if you are interested in learning more about Porterbrook or check out our website here.
Thursday morning was spent with Caleb from Woodstock Community Church, learning a whole lot about life in Woodstock. Caleb has been here for 7 years and he says people still regard him as “new”. Listening to some of his story was a great encouragement to see a community of believers living as light, trying, failing, learning, growing - all the time radiating an obvious love for Christ and his gospel. I am excited to partner with them in gospel initiatives in Woodstock.
Thursday lunchtime was time for another gathering of the Missional Leaders Network. This blog post was a useful kick-off for our discussions. As we shared ideas and stories I was encouraged to hear that some sense of missional identity and rhythms are starting to happen in Mark’s gospel community in the missional wasteland of the suburbs. I remain convinced that simple church is the simplest and most effective way to reach the sprawling areas of the Cape Flats and the townships surrounding Cape Town. But while that idea has remained a theory in my head I was over-joyed to hear how Phumezo is busy working it out in Khayelitsha, with seeming great success. One of their gospel communities have even begun frequenting the local shebeen!
Saturday Evening was a time of great blessing for us, as had about 20 supporters and friends of our ministry around for dinner. Colin shared something of the vision and strategy for Intentional Encounters, followed by a time of Q ‘n A. It was a great time of real encouragement and blessing to Jo and I. I love that we have a team around us who “get it”! As one person said to me as she was leaving, “I fully support what you are doing. I am happy where I am but what you are doing is so necessary!” And then proceeded to list a number of people they know who though they would never connect with traditional church structures, would probably connect with what Intentional Encounters/ The Crowded House is all about.
Sunday was cold, rainy and time for a well deserved Sabbath. Read Francis Chan’s “Crazy Love”, played with my boys, ate take-aways and watched some episodes of “The Mentalist” before calling it a night.
So why start a new blog?
In many ways a blog is a record of a journey, fresh expressions my old blog was I now realise a record of my journey into organic, missional church.
This blog then is the story of my beginning to live “a missional life”…
Missional is one of those buzz words that has become common place in church-speak and thus in danger of losing it’s meaning. The concept of being missional is really “to think like a missionary”. When a missionary arrives in a foreign culture he does not immediately begin to “plant a church” that resembles the one back home in style, time, structure etc. No rather he arrives as a listener and a learner to firstly get to know the culture.While at the same time he arrives not as a church planter but as a gospel planter. As he learns the culture of his new community, so he begins tentatively and with humility to speak the gospel into those cultural situations, using local language, art forms and means of communication. Showing how the gospel addresses, fulfills or supercedes local fears, aspirations or values.
PS the funky pics at the “footer” of the blog are by my friend Andrew – check out his blog and his artwork here.