I have just had three days in Auckland as part of conference looking at mission shaped church in relation to youth ministry. The idea of a mission shaped church is in many ways problematic – we start talking about the church as the people and very soon drift into the church as institution which begs the question can an institution be mission shaped? Not sure whether I have the answer but one thing is for certain I believe some of the back ground thinking behind it needs challenging. One of the assumptions of MSC is that a very large proportion of the country has no contact with the church. Here is the problem do we mean the church as institution or the church as people – clearly if we mean institution then the basis for developing a mission shaped church and planting faith communities in the midst of where people are is valid. But if we mean the church as people then the statement is rubbish. Every day we have contact with literally thousands of people of these people many have no connection with the institutional church or could we say the gathered church – but they do have contact with Christians and through that the scattered church. I would estimate that if the theory of six degrees of separation is true then anyone in the world is potentially no more than six movements away from a Christian, and subsequently the CHURCH. While the church currently is trying to fish in an ever decreasing pond – there are other ponds connected to it – other ponds that many Christians are involved in – whether it is the work place, school, family or social connections. We can make contact – in fact we have a duty to if we are to call ourselves Christians.
What I think we need to do is to make use of every opportunity to spread the gospel – I am not suggesting taking a bible and beating everyone we meet over the head with it – what I am suggesting is that every contact we make is an opportunity to share something of the gospel – whether it be turning the other cheek when a car cuts you off, forgiving the person who jumps in front of you at the supermarket, modelling humility whatever – even a smile to a face that is looking down can be a way of spreading the good news. Praying and walking, asking God to bless people who walk this path way also, modelling a transformed life to a world that is full of selfishness. All ways of modelling the gospel, maybe we could target a petrol station as a faith community each way and rather than grumbling about the prices when we but fuel we could encourage the people behind the counter – just imagine if a church of 100 people targeted one petrol station for one week – we smiled at the people behind the counter, we thanked them for their hard work we were gracious – I suspect that after a few days the people working there would begin to ask question about who these people were.
I think the task of the church needs to be shaping people – not the institution – we need to be making mission shaped people not institutions. Can you imagine what a church would look like when it gathered Sunday morning and it not only worshipped but shared stories of how it had been CHRIST during that week. I reckon worship would go through the roof – I think you would be carried into the very throne room of God by the worship of a church people that were actively engaged in mission.
What is important? e tangata e tangata e tangata