Puzzled about how to start? Watch the animation, then read the Guide – it’s as straightforward as A, B C…
A.sk God and ask a friend
New Christian communities are a work of God. So to start one you need God’s guidance.
Prayer is vital. Keep asking God, “Who are you bringing to my attention?” “What do you want me to do next?”
God wants us to work in teams. In the beginning God said to Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2.18).
God’s huge project – to fill the world with human beings and spread the Garden of Eden over the whole globe – was launched with just two people.
You don’t need a large team to start a new Christian community. Equally, you can’t do it on your own.
Behind the team you need people who will pray for you. This is often forgotten, but it is absolutely vital!
Caution! If you have a large team, think about the pitfalls:
- People may have different agendas
- Their networks may not gel together
- Pastorally supporting the team may divert leaders from mission
- The team may become preoccupied with its own needs
- The team’s worship may not suit newcomers or easily adapt to them.
On the other hand, a large team could break into smaller hubs, each with its own missional focus. Hubs might meet together once or twice a month for support, learning, and vision sharing. The team would birth several new communities!
B.egin with what you’ve got
Don’t stare at a blank piece of paper. Start with what God has given you. What have you got in your hands, and whose hands do you shake?
So prayerfully ask:
- Who are we?
- What are the opportunities where we live or work?
- What are our passions? Cooking? Photography? Football? Could we share these with our work colleagues, for example?
- What do we know about?
- Music? Building websites? Who could we share these skills with?
- What do we know about other new Christian communities? Could we adapt what’s worked elsewhere?
- Who do we know?
- Who could we share our passion or knowledge with?
- Who could we ask to help? For example, say you go cycling with friends. Might some of your partners organize food for everyone when the cyclists return? As you eat together, you would deepen community.
- What do we have? A home to meet in? A car to transport people? Time to spend with others?
Take Louisa, referred to in 2. Love/Guide.
- Who was she? A community nurse in a medical practice.
- What did she know? That an unusually high number of new mothers suffered from depression.
- Who did she know? Charlie and Charlotte. They lived near the mums. The three of them came up with the idea of starting a support group for new mothers.
- What did they have? Charlie and Charlotte’s home. The support group met there. In time, it evolved into a Christian community.
Let God speak to you through what you’ve got.
And remember: you don’t have to do all the giving. Let others help you.
Caution! Ask whether your demographic focus is sufficiently narrow to guide what you do. Or does it contain lots of sub-groups of people, each of whom can be reached in a different way? If so, would it help to narrow your focus further?
C.hat and listen to others
This is our middle heading because it is the heart of everything.
Keep listening and talking in four directions:
- To God directly in prayer.
- To those you are seeking to love. Don’t assume you know what to do. Let them tell you. Every time you get stuck, ask them for the solution.
- To those supporting you in prayer. Don’t forget the importance of prayer support!
- To those with relevant experience. Their wisdom may be invaluable.
Caution! Don’t be too quick to copy others. What worked for them may not be the best way to love your context. Ask the people you’re called to what they think.
A Cambridge psychologist, Dr. Sarah Savage, said: “The experience of being listened to well is as close to the experience of being loved as to be barely indistinguishable.”
So listen carefully.
Hot Chocolate (described in 5. Reasons/Guide) started with some Christians offering cups of hot chocolate to young people in Dundee city centre. The Christians discovered that the young people were looking for a place to rehearse their band, and offered them the church building. This was the beginning of what became a thriving community, with a worshiping core. It started with what the Christians knew – how to make hot chocolate! But it developed because they listened to the young people and responded to them.
D.ream up lots of ideas
Ask “What if . . . ?” “What if we did this?” “What if we did that?” Stretch your imagination.
Expert designers keep asking, “What if?” Inexperienced ones stop too soon and miss out on creative possibilities (Nigel Cross, Design Thinking, Bloomsbury, 2011).
You are designing a new Christian community. So keep brainstorming “What if?”’ until you go “Wow!”
Then see if it works.
What if? What wows? What works?
E.xperiment like crazy
This is the fastest way to learn.
New Christian communities emerge through trial and error. Remember: it’s trial and error!
You can be disappointed in the results of an experiment. But it’s not failure if you learn from them.
So don’t use the word “failure”. Talk about disappointment.
And remember: there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
F.ollow the loving-first cycle:-
G.od is the bottom line
So make prayer a priority.
A reminder: do you have a group of people who are praying for your initiative?
Ali describes one of the ways she went about listening.
Nick begins with what he has got.
Ali finds an unexpected way to chat and listen to others.
Read Luke 2.41-52 prayerfully. Jesus provides an example of listening to culture.
- If this story happened today, what would it look like?
- In re-telling this story, what strikes you as important in the way that Jesus listened?
- If you are starting a new Christian community, how might this story influence the way you listen to people?
Is listening just about what you hear? What about what you feel or see?
How attentively do you listen to all the voices of people working with you?
Who has been a good listener to you and what can you learn from that person?
Choose one or more of the following:
- Prayerfully think of different aspects of your life – work, where you live, your leisure pursuits, friendship networks, things you are passionate about . . .
- Whom might you team up with in one of these parts of your life?
- Work your way through the Guide with that person.
Individually or as a group, you may find the taketime website is a helpful tool for meditating/listening to God.
- Start a journal, noting down who and what you are being drawn to.
- Use the headings in the Guide to structure your jottings.
- Prayerfully look for any patterns.
- Do these patterns suggest how God might be leading you?
- Picture the context you feel called to serve.
- What are the three best things about it?
- What could you do to make it better?
- If you did this, what would be your dream outcome?
- Who could help you to achieve that dream? Someone who has helped you before?
- Post a question on the free fresh expressions-stories app (download it from Apple or from Google Play) – for example, “If you have started a new Christian community, what one piece of advice would you give to others starting out?”
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