Not yet convinced? Explore these reasons for the adventure of being a 21st century Christian. But beware! They may change your mind!
Find a friend and prayerfully follow this listening-first cycle.
Hot Chocolate in Dundee, Scotland, happened because:
- Some Christians listened to teenagers in the town center by taking them cups of hot chocolate
- They loved them by offering space in the church for them to meet
- They built community with them in the process
- They shared Jesus by inviting those teenagers who wanted to know more to join the team in eating together, planning and worship
- ‘Church’ emerged as the team became an expanding Christian community connected to the wider church
- They have yet to repeat the cycle themselves, but they have been an inspiration to others.
Units 6-17 unpack the circles in more detail.
In any context
This cycle is not just for young, white or suburban people, or for large churches or Christian enthusiasts. The Holy Spirit can enable you to use it in any setting.
- Focused on work? New Christian communities exist among office workers, patients of a medical practice, and in schools.
- Concerned about homeless people? Abused women? Asylum seekers? LGBT+ community? Teenagers on an estate? People with learning difficulties? A small team can listen to them, love them, build community with them, introduce those interested to Jesus, and encourage a supportive Christian community to emerge.
- Passionate about the environment, social justice or global poverty? Listen to people outside the church who share your heart, find ways to work together, form community as you do so, and explore how Christian spirituality can make a contribution.
- Into sport? Dog walking? Singing? Repairing bikes? People are starting new Christian communities in these and other activities.
- Live in a village? On an estate with multiple deprivation? Or belong to an ethnic minority? New Christian gatherings are emerging in these settings too.
New Christian communities are great because they take Jesus anywhere – to anyone.
This is full-blooded kingdom discipleship
Each circle displays an aspect of God’s kingdom.
- Listening shows love, a kingdom value
- Love includes pastoral care, environmental concern, and promoting social justice – all kingdom features
- Community is integral to the kingdom
- Sharing Jesus is sharing the person who announced that God’s kingdom is near (Mark 1.15)
- Church happens when a new Christian community emerges and connects to the wider church. Kingdom and church will become one when Jesus returns
- Repeat witnesses to the expansive nature of the kingdom (Matthew 13.31–32).
Thus each circle is not a mere stepping stone to the next, but has intrinsic kingdom value itself. Which means that each circle continues as others are added in (hence the overlap in the diagram).
What’s more, Christian love and introducing people to Jesus are not kept separate, as often happens. They unite in a single process.
Some people think new Christian communities are too small to matter, but it’s because they are often small that they do matter. God seems to be using them to mobilize “ordinary” Christians, in their daily lives, to be an answer to the prayer, “Thy kingdom come.”
If you are committed to a larger congregation or church plant, don’t think in either/or terms. Become a “blended” or “mixed economy” church. Combine your Sunday worship with kingdom discipleship in new, smaller communities in everyday life.
New Christian communities enable you to live out the kingdom more fully.
The cycle is propelled by mutual generosity.
- Listening with no strings attached is an expression of generosity. It elicits generous responses of information, ideas, and a willingness to help. These form the basis of love.
- The generosity of love sparks further generosity – gifts of engagement, relationships and trust. These form the basis of community.
- The gift without strings of building community elicits responses that enrich the community – gifts of enjoyment, gratitude, increased trust and deepening relationships. These create an openness that makes sharing Jesus possible.
- The generous gift of sharing Jesus elicits the gifts of being enthused by Jesus and seeing him in ways that delight those who shared the gospel. These lay the foundation for “church”.
- The generous offer of church, in the form of a new Christian community connected to the wider church, evokes responses of enthusiasm and joy.
- These encourage the journey to be repeated in a manner appropriate to the new context.
Each act of generosity ignites further generosity, and these become the basis of the next expression of generosity.
So the cycle echoes grace. God’s generosity brings forth generous responses.
God showers the world with gifts
The church is one of these gifts – to Christians, but also to the world. The church can be a gift by extending pastoral care, sharing its resources, and joining campaigns for social and ecological justice, for example. Many other organisations do the same.
But there is one gift that only the church can offer – communal life with Jesus. No one else can offer being a sister or brother to Christ. It’s the most precious thing Christians can give. Because being family with Jesus is their very identity. Offering something that valuable tells the other person how much they mean to you.
So follow the cycle and join in God’s loving generosity!
Doing this echoes Holy Communion
Through the Spirit, you and your friend(s) are broken off from the congregation and offered as the body of Christ to people outside the church.
People gather round, receive the gift, “consume” it and are transformed into a new Christian community.
Discipleship acquires a Holy Communion shape.
Some people worry that these new communities will celebrate Holy Communion infrequently, if at all. They won’t be “proper church.” But:
- New Christians can be introduced to sacramental worship in manageable steps. See 15. ‘Church’ emerges/Guide
- They can celebrate Communion with (or in) another congregation
- “Eucharistic grace” can extend from the wider church to the new community through the community’s leaders, who may worship periodically in another congregation
- Not least, as we have seen, starting a Christian community gives daily discipleship a Holy Communion tinge.
- Following Jesus like this:
- Deepens discipleship
- Increases mission
- Grows the church, and above all
Enriches people outside the church.
Paul describes how listening to his context changed his thinking.
Sarah explains why spending time with people matters – an example of generous discipleship.
Tim describes why he is encouraging churches to prayerfully follow the loving-first cycle.
Prayerfully read Mark 8.22–26 (the healing of the blind man).
Spend time quietly thinking about the story.
The blind man’s eyes were opened to see things he hadn’t seen before.
- Have your eyes been opened by the godsend material you have been seeing and reading? In what ways?
- Are there things you are beginning to see, but not very clearly?
- Jesus had to repeat the healing process before the man could see. Which parts of the Overviewmight you have to go through again before you see more clearly? Which other units in godsend might help you?
If you are studying godsend with others, share your responses to these questions.
- Prayerfully imagine a scale of 1-10, where 1 = opposed to new Christian communities, 5 = open to them, and 10 = very enthusiastic about them.
- Before you started this unit, where were you on that scale?
- Where would you put yourself now?
- What has influenced you to change or stay the same?
- What doubts and questions remain?
- Where might you get answers to these doubts/questions? For example:
a) Explore other parts of the app? Which topics?
b) Visit a new Christian community or watch some video stories.
c) Speak to someone with more experience of these communities? Who?
Download the free fresh expressions-stories app (from Apple or from Google Play) and post a question. If your discussion has thrown up a question you can’t answer, ask others who have been involved in a new Christian community.
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are used here with permission from fxresourcing.