Monday, October 31, 2011

Finding mission & purpose

It's not usual that I write about the specific things I do in ministry, but this past weekend went surprisingly well and something I want to be able to come back to.

I was asked to speak/lead three sessions focusing around the theme of purpose/mission/direction/how to connect/reach the community around them (a theme used in approximately 61.3% of all church camps). Originally, I was meant/going to speak on the topic of peace, but it was switched a few weeks out from the camp and took a more interactive vibe.

With the new theme and interactive format, I began with a vague outline, mindful that I had to give adequate time to the small group discussions (something which was short-changed the year prior and looked at the bible passages in greater depth).

The three sessions went like this...

Saturday morning #1 - Exodus 3 - Who is the God you have encountered?

Each small group were seated at a common table, covered in butcher's paper, and initially invited to write down as many names/titles of God they could think of. Then, the tables were asked to identify one name of God which they individually and corporately identified with.

The reason is core to the theme of the weekend. Your understanding of who God is should shape the mission and direction of any church.

This is what happens in Exodus 3. God hears the cry of His people. God reaches out to Moses. God sends Moses to intervene. God answers Moses' excuses. God equips Moses to do the task God sets before him. God further reveals who He is. The God who does not, and will never change, shapes the mission and direction of Moses' ministry.

Saturday morning #2 - Revelation 1-3 - What is God calling you to do & be?

This session started in a similar fashion to the first. This time, the small groups were invited to write down as many promises of God they could remember.

The reason was also essential for the weekend's theme. Your understanding of what God has said, in addition to His character, should guide the mission and direction of the church. God invites His people to play a part in sharing and showing the promises of God come about.

At the start of Revelation, the scene is set and Jesus evaluates seven churches. Each letter begins with a description of Christ, often taken straight from the first chapter, and conclude with a promise of God.

At the end of the session, and the talks did get progressively (but appropriately) more confrontational, I warned the church of the needs and costs of ministry... If they weren't willing to meet the needs and pay the costs, then they shouldn't launch any new initiatives.

Sunday morning - Acts 17:16-34 - How do we relate the God we have encountered (stemming from talk one) to the community we live in?

As was my chosen delivery method of the weekend, again the tables were instructed to work together. This time they were told to draw four boxes titled... Unity. Space. Permission. Validity.

On the butchers paper, the groups were to give definitions and examples of how a church can show these qualities to a ministry and, at the same time, list every existing ministry which the church was currently involved in.

Then, I challenged the church to look at the list of activities their church does and truthfully evaluate if they are given unity, space, permission and validity.

These are the four needs. These are the four costs. Every ministry in a church needs them. Every church must provide them if the ministry is to flourish (The points flowed from what I blogged about here).

We then saw how Paul interacted with the community in Athens and how he shared the God He had encountered, drawing on the nature and character of God.

Finally, in order to connect with their community, I suggested six things...
Share stories. Build relationships. Share your life with others. Live out your faith. Apply the bible in what you teach. "Do" church well. Love what you have.

With the input of these three talks, although not given a six-step-strategy-for-church-growth, I hoped that the church could be guide themselves to be what God calls them to be and do.


Anonymous said...

"The God who does not, and will never change..." what do you make of Exodus 32:14 or Jonah 3:10?

Graham said...

The bible is consistent in stating that the character and nature of God does not change (1 Samuel 15:29, Psalm 55:19, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17), but Anonymous (I don’t know if you are the mystery person who has been commenting regularly on my blog, but it is easier to converse with a name) you do raise two good passages...

Exodus 32:14 and Jonah 3:10 do seem to suggest that God does change His mind (there are other examples as well).

From my understanding, both passages are consistent with the rest of the bible. The God of justice, who will punish justly, show mercy if people turn to Him. In response to the petition of Moses and the repentance from the people of Nineveh, God acted in a different course of action due to the way people behaved.

On both occasions, God is consistent with who He is. He is both just and merciful. These are held in balance, as Exodus and Jonah display.