Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Mission Possible

Ever since I became a Christian mission has played an important part of my Christian experience. Starting off in the early days of helping with Harrogate and district youth for Christ and then a mate and I set up a mission group that would work with local youth groups to inspire and challenge. I then studied at Cliff College, which has evangelism/mission at its heart. In my second year I wrote a dissertation on 'motivating the Methodist church into evangelism' I really enjoyed the process of reading, writing, and i got a decent mark to boot! 

Eventually I joined the Rob Frost Seed Team program and had a year in Estonia teaching English and engaging young and old with the message of Jesus. I had a short spell in Bristol to help out with a team that was struggling. After this I moved to the North East where I have spent the last 16 years or so working for the church, as pastor, preacher, youth worker and recently as evangelism enabler and now as fresh expressions worker.

In all this time mission has remained important to me, but... and I mean but... in the last 10 years or so mission... or more specifically evangelism has been a tougher topic to work through. The traditional ways to engage people with the Christian message have become difficult to work with, and I have to say that I have struggled to know what to do with evangelism.

Its true to say that in recent years, some churches have moved away from traditional forms of mission/evangelism but have struggled to know what to put in its place. For many churches Alpha remains the way we engage, I like Alpha a lot and have led many courses over the years, but even Alpha for me has its problems (as do many other courses) as it feels like a process we take folk through, and i’m not sure that is the way we should operate.

Some of the things i loved about evangelism and mission back in the day was the opportunity to lead mission teams to places around the country, these opportunities have more or less stopped. But within the context of taking a mission team somewhere I think we have missed out on the opportunities it gives.

So over this last year or so the Newcastle Methodist District and its evangelism enabler have been working with a great team of people to launch something called ‘Together Mission’ which has just finished... and it’s been an amazing week! Elaine Lindridge has blogged about what we got up to and you can see that here. The interesting thing about this is that it seems we are trying to learn how to do mission again... not in an old way... but in a new way.

This was emphasised when I was in a devotional meeting visiting one of the teams and a good mate read the story in Acts 2, and this has been buzzing around in my mind ever since :-

2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

The part that struck me was verse 8. As I reflected on that verse I was struck that many of the teams were learning to speak a different missional language, i.e. the teams were in dialogue with people talking and sharing the gospel story... there was a sense of trying to listen and understand where folks were coming from whilst sharing elements of the Christian gospel.

It seems to me that we need to invest in several approaches in evangelism which I think we began to engage with this week through the ‘Together Mission’.

1.    To listen to the story of the people
2.    To speak the many languages of the people
3.    To trust the Christian message
4.    It’s ok ‘just’ to have fun
5.    To be brave and take risks
6.    To break out of churches and move into third spaces

This may not be rocket science, but to many traditional churches it could be a break through... lets pray it is.   

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Present - Christmas Day

Here is the full set of images that has been used over the last few weeks for the Christmas Present project. As I reflect on the journey we have made there are a couple of observations I would like to make.

Trying to get all of the photos done without pre-arranging them was tough.  We only had to arrange two of the images, I won't say which ones... I'll let you try and work it out! It got me thinking that we sometimes try to organise faith to fit nice neat packages, it's this or that, or it can't be that or this.  Why is faith so difficult to tie down?

There was also the difficulty of trying to find venues to act as homes for the photos.  We manged to get three without much bother, but the fourth venue was a lot harder... it reminded me that sometimes there is still 'no room at the inn' for Jesus. I wonder how much Jesus is allowed into our lives? Are there people and places that his extraordinary story never has access to? 

I wonder which image you find the hardest to engage with?  Which is your favorite?

I hope that this Christmas Present project has challenged you. I pray that these images will endure in your heart over the days and weeks to come, and that through them you will see God at work in some strange and wonderful ways.  

Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 4

This week as we approach Christmas we reflect on the Inn Keeper.  To help us reflect on it I have written a poem. Please feel free to share your thoughts. 

When I gaze on the world
The worries and woes
The wounded souls
Wondering where we went wrong
Walking the street
Where people pass by
Not a nod not a hi
Nor a how do you do?
When I gaze on the world
Are we really so worried
By what folks might say
Or what folks might see
When its ear phones in
And mobile on
as our heads are down.
When I gaze on the world
Were social was usual
Standing and chatting
To stranger and friend
Where gathering was fun
Where we weren’t so suspicious
Of stranger and friend.
Where welcome was normal
When there was time to chat, chew the fat.
When I gaze on a story
With its light and hope
Where the keeper of the inn
Was happy to help and happy to chat
There was nothing left
But something so earthy
That grounded the child
in the dirt of the earth.
When I gaze on the story
Does it ask a question
Something of welcome
Something of wonder
When I gaze on the story
When I gaze on the world
When the future looks bleak
And folks are so weak
Will we welcome the stranger
Will we bow to the poor
Will we stand with weathered
And withered of life
Not for us but for them
Will we lose our mobile
Will we ditch the head phones
Will we raise our head
And walk with a smile
Will hope be found in the way that we walk
In the way that we look
In the way that we stand
Will our faces welcome
So I wonder will Christmas be present?

Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 3

This week we are reflecting on 'The Star' and once again I have created a spoken word track.  Before you listen to it though, you need to know a little about me. 

I left school with no qualifications and had very few prospects but I did get on to the YTS (youth training scheme) program. For those too young to know what that is, it was for school leavers to help them get into the world of work and I remember I got paid £27 a week in the first year and that went up to a massive £35 in the second year! Anyway as a result of this scheme I got into the gardening trade... so some of the references in the spoken word track are to do with that... So have a listen and see what you think, click here to hear it in a separate window. 

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Spoken word track engineered by Tom Roberts
Words - Rob Wylie 
Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins   

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 2


I’ve been working through this for a while now trying to understand the picture we have of a big issue seller in our ‘Christmas Present’ project and the advent story.
As a result of my pondering, I offer you these words to think about and reflect on...

Are prophets all around us? Or are they hidden in the corridors of power?  However we understand that I wonder how many prophets we miss as we go about our everyday lives? Is it the big issue seller? The Occupy campaigners? What about the homeless person sitting in the same old place... waiting? Maybe it’s the young people that go out in there droves on a weekend to ‘forget’ there problems for a few hours? What about through the many projects that help people make a better life for themselves? What about the politician or local councillor who works for their community?  

So maybe the prophets of our day are the people we least expect?

With this picture of the prophet there is also this idea of hoping... We often ask children at Christmas time ‘what are you hoping to get’? When we are older our hoping is for different things and they vary from person to person, but some of the concerns that seem to be on the world agenda at the moment about this question of hoping are - hope for a better future for the generations to come, hoping for things to change in the world’s economic climate, hoping for peace and stability in the world, hoping for employment, hoping that I still have a job in the morning.

It seems to me that the biblical Christmas story has aspects of hope for the future as well as hope for the here and now... we long for it to happen and we long for it to make a difference now, there is a bit of me that wants to ask the question... how can we be prophets... not just to speak into situations but also to make a difference to a situation by the things that we do?
So here are some questions to ponder about this weeks picture:-

Are there prophets all around us?

What are you hoping for?

In what way can you bring hope into situations that you are in? 

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments

Friday, 25 November 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 1

Christmas Present - Mirror Mirror

Ordinary People - Ordinary Places - Extraordinary Story

So the long awaited Christmas Present project is live!  As part of this journey I will be posting a fresh blog each week of advent.   Each blog will show one of the pictures from the project which will also be the focus of services in local Methodist Churches for that week.

Details of where to view the pictures are on the attached flier. 

This week we focus on the expectant Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem. To help us reflect on this journey have a listen to this spoken word track Mirror Mirror and please leave your comments below.    

Spoken word track engineered by Tom Roberts
Words - Rob Wylie 
Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Christmas Present

Christmas Present

Ordinary People - Ordinary Places  - Extraordinary Story

Christmas lights going up in  Knaresborough
Last year I heard a friend talk about a Christmas photo project that he put together. You can read about it on his blog . This got me and a local Methodist minister thinking about whether we could do something similar here in the North East. They did it slightly different to us in that their images were in 3D and they had them up in one place, but other than that it’s basically the same idea.

We have taken a series of photos of local people, in local settings from the North East, who take on the persona of some of the key characters in the traditional nativity story.  Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, the Magi, angels, shepherds etc. We will be placing these pictures in public spaces for people to view, and we have agreed to have some put up in our local Costa Coffee in Whitley Bay and other local cafes/bars. Then, in the final week before Christmas, we are putting all the photos together in one place for people to view.  The pictures will be on display from the first week in December in various places, look out for the connected flier, and they will also be able to be seen in the weeks to come on my blog.

Alongside this, we got together with a few creative folk to put some worship material together that will be used around a different image on each Sunday through Advent. So if you live nearby to North Shields and Whitley Bay why not invite a friend to come along to church with you and see what it’s all about.  Also over the four weeks in advent I will be posting something each week which relates to one of the pictures we have taken.

The idea behind this is about engaging our local community with the traditional Christmas story in ways that ask the question... what do you do with this story?  This project is about putting the nativity story in a modern context and I suppose asks a challenging question about what do we do with the traditional story that God came to earth as a small vulnerable baby. Why not, as you view the pictures, ask these questions

Is Christmas present for you?

What is Christmas wrapped up in for you?