Session 9:Church Growth:
Relationship and Community
By the end of this session you should be able to:
Identify and reflect upon “networks” within your local context.
Describe, analyse and critically reflect upon ways that we as a church and as individuals can express something of the mission of God within the different networks found in our local contexts and communities.
Begin with a time of prayer asking God to teach you new things about the mission to which we are all called and the part God wants you to play in this.
A Mission Opportunity
Download and read the pdf file and then move onto the activity below.
Take a moment to consider each of the following questions in turn. Write down a list in answer to each question.
1. What “networks” do you belong to within your local context?
2. What other “networks” can you identify that are present within your local context?
3. What “networks” does your church community have little to no engagement with in your local context?
Once you’ve completed these lists take some time reflecting upon the content of these lists in relation to what we’ve been thinking about in the first part of this session.
Click on the buttons below to view the introduction video and the first session entitled “Session 1: Opening the Conversation”.
We all belong to “networks” in our daily lives, we all encounter other human beings in the “real” and the “virtual” world, we all have conversations with people… do we talk about our faith? Do we ever behave like the woman on the bus? If we had been in that conversation what we have said? It is much easier to invite someone to a social gathering or to an activity or event that we take part in as part of our hobbies or our leisure time. Do we find it as easy to talk about our faith or to invite someone to come along and meet with Christ?
The above video is from an interesting course produced by the Church Army called “Faith Pictures”. This course is designed to help the participants to reflect upon the question, “Why do you go to church?” before they encounter the conversational opportunity to share something of their faith journey in “real” life. For many of us it can be challenging to talk about our faith in “non-church” contexts. We may feel that it isn’t the right context, or that we could be seen to be some sort of religious “nutter” who is pushing their faith on others. We may have unconsciously separated our “Christian” life from other parts of our lives.
The “Faith Pictures” course is one method of encouraging us and our church family to reflect upon this concept, and to give us a bit of experience of different ways of having “evangelistic” conversations with the people we encounter within the various networks that we belong to.
There are plenty of other models of course or teaching designed to explore this concept. However we explore this concept ourselves and within our church communities, for many Christians this is an area that we need to reflect upon and take some time exploring. There is a quote often (falsely) attributed to St Francis of Assisi; “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” There is a danger with taking this quote as our focus for evangelism; we can easily use this quote to justify never using “words”. It is true that there are situations where we preach the Gospel through our actions. We’ve explored in this course that the mission of God includes varying and diverse actions alongside words of teaching and preaching. The key word in that previous sentence is alongside. 'How are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?' (Romans 10.14).
If you would like to do some extra reading, particularly on work with schools, this please click the link in the Resources section.
Growing Lasting Faith
Life is complex and difficult, and this is something that perhaps children and young people are aware of at an earlier age in their lives than previous generations. Children and young people are wrestling with and asking deep questions about life and faith and perhaps not accepting easily packaged answers to these questions, and this can be seen as a challenge or an opportunity. The animated video here explores this, and seeks to inspire us to think about how we can place children and young people at the centre of their own spiritual journeys and build a nexus of support around them, through churches, schools and households, to help them ask these questions as they continue on their journey of faith. Research suggests that where these sort of connections between church, school and household exists, then the faith of children and young people is more likely to last into the rest of their lives.
Spotlight on Doctrine
In the development of Christian thought there has been some debate between the concept of what “justifies” a person. Is it the words of declaring our faith, or is it the action of performing good works? Read and compare the meaning of James 2.14-17 and Galatians 2.15-16.
Is one passage correct and the other incorrect? Or should we, as followers of Christ, reflect upon both equally as we seek to live out our Christian life?
Reflect upon both passages in light of what we have been exploring during this session. You may wish to write down your thoughts and/or discuss with your mentor or some of your fellow students.
Spotlight on Spirituality
Does your church ever pray for local organisations, groups, institutions or businesses during the intercessions or on a parish prayer calendar?
How do you think that these groups would react to knowing that their local church was praying for them on a regular basis?
If you wish to explore this further you could go and ask them… and if you do go and ask, offer to report your findings to your PCC or leadership team.
What has been the most significant thing you have learned from this session? What has been the most challenging thing? LLM(R) students only: please post some of your thoughts in the Forum here
Blessed are you, Lord our God, for you love all of your creation. May we not become so caught up in matters of the Church that we fail to act on matters of mission. May we always be seeking ways to reflect your love to world as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen
Something Practical To Do
Chose a small number of individuals from your church community (no more than three), ideally one of these individuals should be someone who is not necessarily involved in regular worship in person, but involved in part of your wider church community, or who accesses church life online. Arrange to meet with them individually (either in person or remotely). Show each person the video from Faith Pictures that we watched earlier in the session or if you are unable to show them the video read for them the story of the conversation between the women on the bus.
Without prompting or guiding their thinking in any way ask them how the story of the women on the bus made them feel. What are their initial reactions to this story.
Reflect upon their answers and/or comments.