steve taylor is today speaking to reps from mission agencies in new zealand on the subject is there a mission agency for a missional church? great to see this being addressed. however steve's original post seems to suggest that he assumes the answer is no - he describes his reluctance to even go for fear of being fed to the lions. i found all of this a bit odd - setting up a straw man kind of thing which is too easy to do so that you feel better for knocking it down.
it obviously begs the question what steve means by missional but his recent response on that to alan roxburgh is to take a narrative approach and show how peoples' imaginations are shifting in a mission direction in his community trying to think how mission applies in their context. so taking a similar tack, this is a few of the things happening in cms, the mission(al) community who employ me.
by way of an intro cms has been around a couple of hundred years and has been part of sharing the gospel of christ in cultures around the world. it's history is complex and contains a mix of inspiring stories of contetxtual mission growing indigenous expressions of church and expressions of church shaped by what i call a colonised imagination.
these are some of the things we 're up to. (my job by the way is leading a team that encouarges missional leadership and communities)
- we're trying to apply the best of thinking about cross cultural mission to mission in western cultures. europe is a mission context. and part of that context is the challenge of the shift to postmodern times or whatever you want to call it. in many places it feels as though the church is wedded to a bygone era so huge experimentation is taking place and massive change. we work with churches to help them on this journey of change and with the experiments at the edge. thinking specifically about the edge we help...
- share stories - e.g launched the web site www.emergingchurch.info
- encourage reflection and conversation - via a series of blahs around the country to wrestle with the mission challenges, a number of tours related to that with the likes of ryan bolger and karen ward and aland hirsch and mike frost.
- encourage virtual conversation and dialogue - via blogs, web 2.0 apps, sharing resources, linking people together etc. andrew jones, richard white, mark berry, and me are all part of the team i lead and are very much locked into the online conversations.
- publishing - articles, newspaper columns, podcasts, books, pdfs etc
- networking and encouraging those on the journey - we have helped catalyse and encourage a number of networks. all networks should be relational if they are going to work. some of these are public and some hideen. but we value getting people together to share stories and support each other on the journey. we're not the experts in this. we're also on the journey. two examples of networks - an entrepreneurial network discussing talent and ideas to create social, spiritual and economic captial, and one of mission leaders/key players and communities in the uk. we get together a few times a year and yac online. we help co-ordinate greenbelt worship and specifically a venue for new forms of (missional) church.
- training - we are involved in a number of training initiatives - one example is ReSource - a year long training course for leaders of mission communities or people wanting to start them but we are all regularly training both the church as it is and the emerging new forms of church.
- mission praxis - we have people as part of cms (actually hopefully all of us) who are trying to learn what it is to be missional and have our imaginations reshaped. so mark berry is on my team developing something new in telford and inspires me regularly. i am involved in grace and we are trying to engage (one of our ethos words) in mission locally. we have initiated a team to do stuff at mind body spirit festival in london etc. to this we bring our imagination and creativity. i am working with a team to help try new stuff amongst youth in a rural area of britain to develop new expressions of church where they are clearly not going to join the existing ones. etc etc. richard white is part of dream, a networked mission community in liverpool and is catalysing the birthing of small mission communities elsewhere along with andrew jones. some of these will be in the institutional frameworks and some will be under the radar.
- helping develop residential mission communities - trying to work out to redsicover mission in particular places drawing inspiration from other mission(al) residential communities.
- a youth team who are currently touring the uk working with schools telling the story of the abolition of slavery and encouraging them to reflect and consider modern day slavery and how to get involved in campaigning against that. we are producing a dvd course for youth groups on mission that we will be giving away to thousands of churches next year.
- give people cross cultural experience - facilitating interchange and relationships globally between communities and leaders etc.
i could go on... but i don't think cms ask me to do anything that isn't encouraging the missional church or that isn't missional. of course i get frustrated - it's been around 200 years or so. but there is great freedom and great will for change following the beckoning of god into the future.
in all of these things we try and offer what we do as gift, as a contribution to the wider body of christ. we are fellow travellers. we don't heavily brand or control. we have a fund rasing department who i think get frustrated at times that cms is too hidden in our work. but we have to trust that as we do what we feel is right that it will encourage the kingdom of god and resources will flow. if they don't then i guess it will just all end anyway!
on a wider level cms is engaged in some of the following -
- thinking what god is calling us to be in a post colonial world. we have plenty of mistakes in our past (and we're not alone). part of this in the next few years will be cms africa and cms asia being independent. they currently have african and asian directors, staff and offices but governance is still by british trustees. so the future will be a networked family of mission(al) agencies with an interchange of theologies, people, resources all united by a shared (missional) ethos or dna. it's a struggle to re-emerge as this of course but it is clearly where the spirit is calling us to head. i'm excited about this. it will include a letting go of power and control (much of which has hopefully been let go already). i suspect it will also mean a lot less white people going to do stuff and a lot more of going to learn and share and interchange (a cms jargon word but a good one). two collegaues have just been to an exciting get together in africa (not amahoro though i am sure that was also good - a cms gathering of leaders) where they were there to listen and learn and it's exciting to hear the younger generation of african leaders tackling the post colonial question in their context.
- reconfiguring as a mission community - this is a bit of a technical anglican thing but cms is exploring shifting to a mission community recognised by the c of e - so it would have an episcopal visitor - in practice this will mean being part of cms will be to share a mission(al) imagination and spirituality and rhythm. what exactly this will look like we don't yet know. but i guess it's a quasi monastic thing. and we would be able to birth mission(al) communities which we are already doing anyway.
- thinking hard about europe - the mission shaped church stuff has led to a lot of creative experiments in the uk. it's a creative place to be. but many parts of europe are struggling with the cultural turn and mission challenge. so how can we help other europeans on the journey?
i aksed tim dakin the head honcho of cms about missional agency and he said some of these things:
cms has always tried to enable church to be missional in its context. we create a missional dimension as a living active force. it's dangerous because it challenges any attempt to define the church by an institutional centre. church has to be defined by mission. cms = msc (mission shaped church).
[as an aside steve i think your defence in your presentation slides of local church as biblical basis for mission is a bit weak - the body of christ has of course local expressions but it also needs translocal expressions and movements and other forms - it's a typical move of a local church pastor in my experience but not one i buy in terms of ecclesiology].
all the things that we are attempting to embody - our programme - is ourselves. deconstructing and refounding ourselves. i.e. we have to be missional in our imaginations and praxis.
we are committed to experimentation, mission delivery at edges.
what we are trying to do is rework the founding vision of the society for today's context
i'm going on so i'll draw to a close. please understand this is a hasty pouring out rather than a crafted article. in other words if i wasn't so busy i could do better!
but in conclusion the reason i joined cms is that i think the two gifts that i see mission agencies have are insights about cross cultural mission (or contextual mission) and a window into the global christ and body of christ. both of these gifts are badly needed in our time and in the mission(al) church, particularly the latter. i also joined them because they offered to pay me to encourage the missional church!