Musings over a Mug

As I sit in the office drinking coffee on a cold frosty morning, I’ve taken a few minutes to jot down some of my reflections from the National Church Planting Forum which we ran on February 10th in Birmingham.  I feel both inspired and challenged  by it in equal measure!

I was inspired by the diversity of Christian denominations, missional agencies, leaders and planters in the room! The Forum was designed to be a place where representatives from different Church planting tribes came together to share common interests and concerns. It was great to see so many groups represented from across the country coming together in this way and for this purpose.  BUT I was challenged by those not in the room too! 

PAUSE FOR SIP!!

Though we did have people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and a good number of women present, both groups were underrepresented and more needs to be done (beyond a tokenism) to readdress this problem.  It is not that we didn’t try but that perhaps a deeper challenge still lurks underneath the surface of much of the Church Planting world! We all need to work hard to cultivate and nurture Church Planting movements that give leadership and opportunity for women’s and multi-ethnic voices to be heard. We need to intentionally tackle systems and structures that hinder and disadvantage those that are too frequently marginalised in so many church planting circles.   

I was also challenged at the lack of young adults (18-25 year olds) present with us, and am reminded how critical it is that we galvanise, encourage and engage with a generation of present and future travellers that are among the most innovative people in the nation, and are planting churches across the country in the most creative ways! We need to hear these voices too!

PAUSE FOR SIP!!

I was inspired by the key issues that our speakers brought to our attention. Having already identified the importance of Church Planting in relation to cross cultural ministry, the urban setting, Sustaining the Sustainers, and Fresh Expressions of Church, it was great to have thoughtful insights brought to us by “those in the know!”  But in equal measure I was challenged too!

Graham challenged us to think of ways in which we could help sustain those that are taking the risks in church planting and who often find themselves stepping out into the unknown and need help, guidance and support. Mike challenged us to think about how we might connect with rapidly challenging urban contexts which are both growing in number and diversity and yet are being dispersed across the nation. Joel challenged us to grapple with the fluid and complex realities of cultural and contextual issues.  John Wesley once said that “the world is my parish” but now the “world is in my parish” and so how do we learn to become cross cultural missionaries in our own turf! Flip! And where and how do we even begin to understand cultural diversity and engage our own complex culture and context never mind embed into others!  Pete challenged us to reflect on issues that Fresh Expressions of Church had grappled with for just over a decade including theological, missional, contextual and spiritual formation questions. How do to form and sustain new communities of faith for unreached people in culturally appropriate ways? Um…the million dollar question!

PAUSE FOR SIP!!

And yet I was thankful for all that has been achieved in this movement and as Steve pointed out in his closing remarks, there is much to be thankful for!  I was inspired by the inspirational and transformational stories that were told, for the growing sense of partnership between very different denominations, for the 100’s of new churches being formed all over the country, and for the honesty that confessed of struggles, failures and uncertainties for the future. I loved the passion of the people too!

PAUSE FOR SIP!! OOPS I’ve drunk it all! Drat!

I was inspired by the breakout groups which gave the opportunity for people to discuss key issues in relation to some of the issues highlighted here, as well as provide a safe space to share doubts, concerns and problems. I was moved by the integrity and transparency of people being real with each other. This was also a place to exchange ideas….ideas that worked, ideas that might work, and ideas that didn’t work! As I listened to the groups and the conversations in the room I felt blessed and challenged and whispered to God and myself, on more than one occasion, “I don’t know,” and “I’m not sure what to do.” But I know others whispered this too!

But that is why we were here, isn’t it? This was a place where we came together to learn from one another, to share stories and exchange ideas. We came to wrestle with issues that don’t have easy answers. But it was the opportunity to explore together that was the most important thing! We may have more questions than answers, but at least we are beginning to ask some of the questions that really matter! 

by: Trevor Hutton
Formission Director of Church Planting and Forge England and Wales