I’ve spent the last couple of nights listening to Michael Moynagh talking about the fresh expressions movement in the UK and how they are seeing some wonderful new communities of faith emerge through the work that they are doing there.
So what lies at the heart of this story?
Michael outlined what I thought were the two most important factors in working towards creating these new communities of faith:
1. At the heart of all such mission is a deep desire to listen to the needs of the community; and
2. Consider then the most loving way to meet those needs in a means most relevant to those being served.
In the last week I’ve had the opportunity to consider what this looks like in simple, but profound setting.
Our daughter recently had her 1st birthday. In the lead up to her birthday, my mother in law had seen a lady at her churches play group who used a special bike seat for babies and asked my wife if we needed one. My wife replied that we actually already had one, which was being used by friends, that we would get back when/if we required it, so we didn’t actually need one. My wife then suggested some other things that we would really appreciate that would be more useful.
Well, come my daughters birthday, a giant package arrives by courier, containing none other than a brand new bike seat. We politely said thank you, and I began thinking about how soon I could get it on gumtree to turn it into what we actually needed.
As I reflected on this, it reminded me of the way that I have often engaged in doing ministry and mission. Rather than listening to individuals and groups within the community and engaging in the way that they needed, I have charged off with my answers to questions that they may not have even thought of as important.
And so I find myself in the place of my mother in law, offering gifts that I think are wonderful, but actually are of little real value.
What this challenges me to do afresh is to offer at the first, the greatest gift that I have, my time and energy to truly listen to those around me. To give the time and space for people to share what is at their heart, their need, their pain and hope.
Then it is for me to consider what is it that I can contribute to this story in the way that is most loving and serving to those who I am engaging with, not to serve my own need but theirs.
This is what lies at the heart of Moynagh’s argument: that the great commandment, to love God and others, must always exist and fully inform the great commandment to make disciples.
So this is what must lie at our heart for the world, to listen in love and offer the most meaningful gift in the form that is most appropriate.
What gift do you have to offer to the World?