Where to from here? While we don’t find these words on the lips of bible characters we can imagine them asking this question. Abraham in Haran, Moses in the desert, Naomi bereft with the loss of her husband and sons, Daniel taken captive to Babylon, Esther facing a life or death choice, Jesus' disciples on the day after his death, Paul struck blind – each of them in their own way asking where to from here? The writing of Paul might apply to the lives of many bible characters, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9) In times of joy or sorrow, looking into the future – where to from here? As I consider this there are three big concepts I am wrestling with.
1) The Presence of God. In a difficult situation when God threatened to leave the people of Israel to go alone into the promised land, Moses pleaded with God to go with them saying, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.’ (Exodus 33:15) How do we foster and cherish the presence of God at Greyfriars? Jesus promise, and surely I am with your always, is linked to his command, Therefore go and make disciples … (Matthew 28.19-20). Are we making disciples and therefore confident Jesus is with us always? Did he really mean he would be with us and how do we experience his presence?
2) Creating space for people to experience God’s presence. I was recently introduced to the concept of mix-zones. This gave me a new way of thinking about aspects of church mission we are involved in. A mix zone is basically a space between our church life (sacred space) and our weekday life (secular space) where the two mix and so Christians and non-Christians can mingle. As a church we already have mix zones Playgroup, mainly music, men’s dinner, Light party, Grace events, holiday programmes, ESOL and the like. These are events we organise as a church where Christians and non-Christians can mingle. As part of our prayers we invite God to be present at all these events and we hope that God will touch the lives of those who come. But how is God present? And what would happen if in addition to seeing these events as service to people in the community, we raised our awareness of God’s presence and had an increased expectation of him touching people’s lives?
3) Becoming an invitational church. Recently I have been asking are we a welcoming or an invitational church. I know we wish to be both, but if forced to decided which of these describes best how we are now? Most people I ask say we are welcoming rather than inviting. If we don’t invite people to join us, how many people can we realistically expect to invite. In the movie Field of Dreams an Iowa farmer builds a baseball field in the middle of nowhere because he heard a voice say, If you build it they will come. The movie ends with a long line of car headlights as people flock to the baseball field. Unfortunately, while we have a church building people generally people don’t just come – they need to be invited. Success in this is not measured by how many say yes, rather success is simply giving the invitation. If we think about how many people you or I have invited this week, say among us ten invitations have been made, then success would be if next week twenty invitations were given. The questions arise who will we invite, and what will we invite them to? Perhaps it is easier to invite people to a mix zone activity that it is to invite them directly to church. What could we realistically invite people to in the next month – Men’s tea, Playgroup, mainly music? Looking ahead, would some families be interested in the holiday programme, white Sunday or the light party?
I believe a lot of good things are happening in and through the people of Greyfriars church, so I look to 2020 and the decade that lies ahead with a sense of anticipation. Can you imagine Greyfriars as a church where we are increasingly conscious of God’s presence? What would it be like if we had mix zone events for families, men, women, older and younger? What would happen if we were more intentional about creating mix zones as God space where people could encounter God’s presence – and we invited them to attend?
What direction would you like Greyfriars to take in the decade that lies ahead?
What part would you like to play in this?
What encouragement, resourcing or training might help you achieve this?
Rev John Malcolm