Breakout – Session 2

Breakout…. a short two session exploration of how we can push the boundaries of our church community. As part of our thinking, we investigate what it means to be ‘built upon the rock’ and declare Jesus in Authenticity, Community, Tradition, Proximity and Motivation.

We examine how ‘Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers’ can help us push out in all of these areas and help mould our church community to be the community it really should be. Thanks to Alan Hirsch for his thoughts and teaching upon this subject.

This is session 2, where we think about how Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers can help us to break free from our harmful traditions, become close to people and make decision to truly live for others.

You can listen to the session here:

You can also download the Powerpoint notes for the sssion here:

Breakout Session 2 – Public Version

Please feel free to download The Away Kit from Dignity here:

www.dignityonline.org.uk/awaykit

This session was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia.

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Breakout

Breakout…. a short two session exploration of how we can push the boundaries of our church community. As part of our thinking, we investigate what it means to be ‘built upon the rock’ and declare Jesus in Authenticity, Community, Tradition, Proximity and Motivation.

We examine how ‘Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers’ can help us push out in all of these areas and help mould our church community to be the community it really should be. Thanks to Alan Hirsch for his thoughts and teaching upon this subject.

This is session 1, where we think about Jesus building his church upon the rock and what this means for our Authenticity and Community.

You can listen to the session here:

You can also download the Powerpoint notes for the sssion here:

Breakout Session 1 – Public Version

This session was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia.

The Spirit Gives Life

The Spirit Gives Life is a session built upon our new discipleship material, “Foundations for Life”. I’m currently writing a few chapters for my organisation Dignity. We have multiple authors from multiple backgrounds all callaborating to make a fantastic resource. As you can tell from the recording it’s really informal and the session would normally be done as a small group study in a village.

I’ve intentionally left the banter and interpretation in so you can get a feel for what speaking in Africa is like. This session is being translated into Bemba as I speak.

Also note, the importance of ‘story’ in speaking within Africa. The story of Faith and her sail in the Okavango Delta is designed to be memorable and a modern day parable of how the Spirit works in our lives.

Have a listen and visit another world!

Recorded at Dignity EQUIP Camp September 2016, Mkushi, Zambia.

© Jon Paul Witt and Dignity 2016.

© Image Copyright. Spyderonlines.com

The Otavi Lesson

The mountains to the left of me stretch to the horizon, merging with the dry veld in front of me. The view is truly stunning. Leopards, various buck and baboons clamber over the rocks of the various kopje’s that are scattered high behind me. This is Ghaub in the Otavi Mountain Conservancy, Central Namibia. It’s now a guest farm with a view to remember and a very poignant history.

Ghaub used to be a mission station. Started in 1895 with the aim of reaching the Bergdamara and Hai communities, this Rhenish Mission was established in what must have been a very tough assignment. Walking around today, you can still see the humble mission origins of the buildings. Although of course they have been significantly upgraded.

The shame is that within 25 years of the establishment of the mission station at Ghaub, land was already being sold off and eventually in 1968 the mission came to an end. You can read more about the history here.

Walking with my children on the vast farm, we came across the old mission graveyard. As they ran on ahead, I was left alone to savour the considerable silence and vista. Over a few minutes I was overcome with a great sadness. Here lay children who had died of malaria and missionaries who had given their lives. All of them in unmarked graves with small piles of quartzite stone arranged as a simple headstone.

What had they achieved? 120 years after they began, the answer was they had built a guest house. The Bergdamara and Hai communities didn’t settle on the land, today it is all commercial farms. In short they gave their lives for seemingly not much at all.

Yet, it wouldn’t have felt like it. I’m sure it was very tough, I know Africa enough to realise that. I can imagine though the sense of pride, thankfulness and achievement that must of accompanied the establishment of the mission buildings and operation. These were true pioneers in almost every sense of the word. Standing there however, I can’t help that they fell for a lie that still shapes so much in mission, aid and in the wider church today.

To put it simply, they believed the modernist notion that infrastructure, buildings, “stuff”, would be the transformative element within the people they wanted to reach. Not quite “build it and they will come”, but not far off.

If they could see their efforts today, a lovely guest farm, I wonder how they would feel?

They are not the only ones.

There are many churches who in an effort to re-invent themselves change the physical structure of their building. Their assumption is that if we make our building more accessible to the community, then they will come and they will be transformed. We end up with a plethora of sports halls and multi function buildings with mainly crèche and child care being provided. We have a few cafes thrown in too. The buildings themselves are not the problem, although they do cost an awful lot of money, it is our view of the mission God has given us. Mission is meant to be with people where they are, not with us where we are. The direction is wholly wrong. That’s quite a costly mistake to make. In terms of people it is wholly disastrous. The church mainly sits and waits for people to come………… and spends a lot of money doing it

I’m not for one minute saying we shouldn’t serve people, a cafe is a good idea, so is helping people with their children, but let’s go and do it in the heart of the community. Let’s spend our cash on that instead. I bet that way we will bring the truth and love of God to far more people.

History is littered with lessons like that in Ghaub. We have cathedrals and church buildings that cost a small fortune to keep. The tourist attraction is a witness people say. I’m yet to meet anyone who had their life changed via a stained glass window. There are other buildings that have become offices, mosques or even simply demolished. In Manchester I even remember an old temperance hall that was now a pub….. What irony!

Mission is the same. There are thousands of buildings built in an effort to transform Africa. Orphanages, child care centres, schools, everything you can think of. I know I’ve done it! I wonder however, if this really transforms anything at all? Is it the same lie that we are falling for. A simple case, transforming people equates to providing buildings. From the African side, there is a thirst for development and buildings satisfy that thirst. They can be status symbols both for the community and more sadly the organisation that built them.

I wonder what we will look back on in 25 years time and see? A litany of neglected buildings (they’ll be ruins here in Africa) and re-appropriated churches? There’s a great rush to build churches in Africa, and yet I don’t see the same rush to transform people, especially in the remote areas.

The lesson for me is to always prioritise people. Instead of believing that physical structure is the key item in transformation, let’s go wild and build real community with real people in the heart of real places. Let’s be sure that we take God with us too. Of course, sometimes a building will help. It is very much a means to an end, but they are not the integral item that we think they are and very often our money would be better spent elsewhere.

Our lives in Christ have the very real power to transform society. When we speak we can speak the words of Jesus to people. When we act, we can bring his love directly to people.

Standing in Otavi I cannot think for one minute why we would want to do anything else. Looking past the graves of those brave pioneers, past the quartz stone piles to the mountains beyond, I yearn for reality and a cutting edge in the mission that I’m involved in. I certainly don’t want people to look back in years to come and wonder what all the fuss was about, or stay in a building that was once my office. I don’t want to spend my life making stuff that simply wears out. I want to build love and eternity in real people.

There is a lesson to be learnt from Otavi. I hope that we are listening.

Off Message?

We live in a world that is more inter-connected than ever. The internet, instant messaging and communications make it possible for us to envisage a life that is truly international in nature. I’m currently sitting in the hamlet of Cwm Penmachno in North Wales and I’ve just been on the phone to Williams, a translator in Northern Zambia. I’ve also just messaged a friend some 40 miles away. Even a generation ago, this type of communication, at this speed simply wasn’t possible.

As we have understood the world in a more intimate and immediate way, we have questioned the way the world has been portrayed to us and new orthodoxies of belief have emerged. We have become an ever questioning people, the younger we are, the more true this is of us. Beliefs that are seen as older, more ancient are increasingly questioned as valid in this increasingly connected world.

Beliefs that are seen as older, more ancient are increasingly questioned

Within those that are Christian, there has been a shift towards defining who we are in terms of the prevailing ‘spirit of the age’. Christianity becomes about being nice, doing good and personal development. Mission is solely about confronting injustice and practical help alone. I think in some ways we are trying to simply ‘communicate’ well. For me though, there is an issue of losing the distinctive powerful message of Christianity, the message of Jesus himself.

Standing for nothing in particular?

Within the UK I’ve been listening to the election debates that have been broadcast. Of particular note for me has been the performance of Plaid Cymru, the party of Wales. Historically the party stands for and would like independence for Wales and yet on that front, in this election, there has been nothing of the kind said. They seem to agree with everyone else and importantly for me, have lost or are not stating their distinctive position. Not so with the Scottish National Party, they stand for the independence they crave. Not wanting to turn this into a political debate, I believe that Plaid Cymru have faded almost to insignificance, precisely because for whatever reason, they have omitted their central message. Yes people will still vote for them because they are welsh but I believe they could have so much more of a say. Have we in the Church done exactly the same?

The True Message of Jesus

As important as love, acts of righteousness and social justice are, they are not the key part of the Gospel. In fact anything we do is not the key part of the gospel. It is God’s sacrifice f his son to save us that is the key message. Mission in the bible was seen as pretty much exclusively the task of carrying the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth, an evangelistic message. The message was about transformation of individuals, communities and the earth through the acceptance and worship of Jesus in lives everywhere.

Today, mission is simply a ‘helping out’ exercise, dare I say it, one that omits the powerful message of redemption and forgiveness that Jesus brings to us. Have we become so earthly minded to not be of any heavenly use?

Christianity only makes sense if the power of God transforms people and then transforms communities. To try and transform a community without the message of the cross is madness surely? Yet, that is what a lot of mission has become. Why? It simply isn’t ‘done’ to talk of Jesus and so we have retreated in the face of some very real opposition. We often talk and stand for everything Christianity is, except Jesus.

Going Full Tilt…..

Please don’t hear me wrong. It’s important to love people. It is very important to serve them. All of the faceless tasks that Christian’s do from day to day in humility and without boasting are a powerful testament to the power of God working through everyday lives. There are people who without this would be dead, suffering or still in lives wrecked by circumstances beyond their control. That’s powerful stuff.

Yet I believe we need to make sure we go the whole way. We need to be open and share Jesus with everyone that we meet. I’m not saying get out a bible and batter someone with it, but have your life open to everyone so He can be seen and don’t be afraid to speak of him when it is right for you to do so. The ultimate expression of love and respect for someone is to introduce them to the Saviour that we know. To not do so, is surely an incomplete act?

If for the sake of fear we hold back, when the time comes to truly confront injustice we will be afraid to do so. What about the fate of Libyan migrants who are drowning? What about climate change that threatens us all? What about the elderly lady who is ignored by her family and they need to be confronted? In the power and through the message of Jesus, all of these situations come down to the transformation of individuals, groups and communities making decisions and taking actions that affect their fellow people. Some people with God need to initiate that change.

I come across many Christian organisations and people who separate themselves from Jesus to make themselves more palatable. Whether it be personal fear or institutional fear, the effect is the same. We lose our distinctive, we lose who we are. That is needless and such a great shame.

I come across many Christian organisations and people who separate themselves from Jesus to make themselves more palatable…..That is….. such a great shame”.

Will we stand relevantly, passionately for Jesus and the Gospel or will we simply blend into the background like everyone else. The questions of this age, the hunger for justice and love that all of us share, have an answer. We know the answer and yet are afraid to show it.

The question for all of us is will we relevantly present Jesus to this world in ways that people will understand? Will we confront the issues of this world with the love and power of the Cross in a spirit of humility?

Let’s not lose our distinctiveness in the ever more connected and busy world.