Here are two of the talks from the Pivot conference held via Zoom in August 2020, one in text form the other as a video presenttion.
A New Mission Era Stephen Hale 5th August, 2020
Is this a significant turning point or just a road hump in mission history?
It has been suggested that there have been Four Eras of Christian History:
- 500 years up unto the fall of Rome (empire becomes Christian)
- 500 years up to the Great Schism (split between eastern and western church)
- 500 years up to the Great Reformation (recovery of Scripture and the gospel of grace, this Reformation was spread via the embrace of the printing press, so people had access to God’s word in their native tongue)
- 500 years up until today (Has been described era of Christendom – church spread via empire and mission to four corners of globe)
Could this be a new mission era?
Global Shift from North to South
West to East
On-going decline of the church in west.
E.g. EFAC Nigeria has 60 million members. EFAC Australia has about 1000 members.
EFAC Council Meeting in Kenya – while there we were guests at the opening of the CMS Africa Office Building. Eight story complex on site of CMS House. Built by African businesspeople, with African leadership serving in Africa and sending African missionaries elsewhere!
As we all know, in our context the people who are most likely to become Christian are people from other cultures who have come to live here.
Today I want to touch on three areas that I think are critical in terms of this new mission era.
- Riding the Communication Wave
Evolving faster than anyone can keep up with
It is true to say that it has never been easier to connect with more people more easily than ever before and at relatively modest expense. In my work with Overseas Council Australia I’ve been working with a group called the RelayTrust in Cameroon. Run by Danish missionaries their goal is to produce digital discipleship resources for people who only have mobile phones using What’sApp. Even the poorest of people have phones and they are easy to reach. To varying degrees all of us, one way or another have embraced this digital revolution. However, the incredible disruption of 2020 has caused all us to more fully embrace it, whether we wanted to or not!
Does this have ongoing implications?
Are there things we will do differently going forward?
Have we discovered new opportunities?
Has it forced us to see the future differently?
Do we just want to get back to the way it always was, even if we know that that wasn’t working that well?
As Dominic will talk about even getting back to the way it always was isn’t exactly easy. So, what might be some of the things we need to be thinking about?
I’m by no means an expert in this area. But, the last five months have forced all of us to embrace the digital revolution more fully. The option has existed for years and in the main we have thought it wasn’t worth getting involved in. Here we are in August 2020 and we all have stories to tell. Things have dropped off a bit but when else have churches got near to 100% attendance? All of us have learnt a whole lot of new things. We’re all are aware of the complexities and the challenges. Everyone I’ve spoken to has had some wonderful stories of surprising things that have happened. New connections, new opportunities, new ways of doing things.
Seemingly older people have embraced the technology more than young people. In fact, there is a really vital conversation happening later with Bree and Tim about youth ministry. People who ordinarily wouldn’t go to small group for a myriad of reasons are connecting most weeks because it’s a lot easier. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick or traveling or the baby is sleeping etc etc. Doing Alpha online works and connects potentially with more people. etc. etc.
At present we’ve been making do, but in next year’s planning and budgeting you may want to put some time and money into this? It is an investment in connecting with new people in new ways. Let’s be creative and open to new possibilities.
- A Bigger Mission Vision
Most local parishes a vision statement. Most Australian Dioceses have vision statement. Many are so broad and wide you can fit almost anything under the heading. Leaders – either bishops, clergy or lay leaders - need to work together to pray and discern God’s vision for his church generally and their particular community of faith. Unfortunately, a lot of the time many churches are internally self-pre-occupied and self-concerned. A decade of heavy-handed compliance directives from Dioceses has sapped a lot of energy.
In spite of this, I believe that at present the Spirit is blowing to urge and inspire us to radically change from being “Come To” churches to become “Go To” churches. Our churches must be ‘mission driven’ rather than ‘ministry driven’. The old distinction between ministry and mission – ministry is service to me, while mission is service through me – is as good today as when it was first introduced. People will increasingly want to be part of a community of faith that has a sense of emerging clarity of how we’re participating together in the mission of God in our context (local), in our city (regional), in our nation (national) and internationally (global). They will want to be able to participate in this mission and not just sit passively in the pews.
There is a very big conversation to be had in this space. Related to this will be clarity about how we seek to make, mature and mobilise people in discipleship. The call of Christ is to go and make disciples. The word disciple occurs 269 times in the New Testament (Christian only three times). Clearly it is a big focus. So, how do we make disciples? How do we help them to go on into maturity? How do we help them to sense that they are part of God’s mission, in God’s world as they live out their faith in all of their life?
C.S. Lewis said – ‘the Church exists to draw people to Christ, and to make them like Christ. If the Church fails to do this…we will ultimately fail.’ We need to invite the lay people in our churches into a conversation about what all of this looks like. Our people want to be affirmed and equipped to do the mission in all of their lives. They have the gifts/abilities given to them by God, they have personal connections with large numbers of unbelievers, they want to be a part of something big for God. They want to see how what they do in all of their life, somehow connects with what we share in together as the people of God. So a bigger vision will involve helping people to see that is at work in and through them as they work, parent, serve, lead, connect.
Disciple making involves supporting people to mature in Christ but also to be mobilised in mission together. I’m still convinced this involves a re imagining of small groups to not only meet to study God’s word, to pray, to mutually care for each other but also to share in mission together. Our mist excited times as Christians are generally when we’re sharing with others in doing something for someone else. The gifts of the body of Christ were given for much more than upbuilding each other, they were given to share in God’s mission together in community. If your church has 5, 10, 15, 20 small groups or more. Just imagine how exciting it would be if they all were doing something together to connect with and to reach others!
- Doing Good Deeds
A few years ago at St Hilary’s we preached a series on Titus. Again and again the application was the same – ‘teach the people to do good’, ‘be devoted to doing good’. I’d probably seen it before, but it struck me as being incredibly applicable. If we are to have an impact as local churches, we need to re-engage with our communities and seek to serve them. As I’ve always said, every church is located somewhere and that’s a good place to start.
We need to rediscover what it means to do good deeds both personally as well as together. We need to join in the conversations in our areas and re-establish a presence. There are huge possibilities in this area and we need to see this as a key part of who we are and what we do. There is a church near where we live that has started giving out food parcels and meals to international students and forging amazing connections in the process.
Are we at the beginning of a new Mission era? We probably won’t know the answer to that question until decades from now. In the meantime, we live in a cross over era and God is inviting us into something new. Let’s all be open to new possibilities and see what God will do in and through us.
Dominic Steele: From 'leading for recovery' to 'leading for endurance'
Australian church leaders need to make a philosophical shift across the board, away from leading for recovery and towards planning to lead for endurance.
This short address is taken from the EFAC/Peter Corney Trainging Centre online conference in August 2020.