You never how things are going to develop. A few years ago, Stephen Andrews, the Anglican Bishop of Algoma, asked me to speak to each of his four deaneries about mission. So, over the course over eight months or so, I visited Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Huntsville, and gave the same two talks in each place. The first was on the Gospel, the second about ways we might live it out in and through our churches. And, as happens when one has to give the same talks more than once, I tried to refine and improve them each time.
So, by the time I received an invitation to speak to the annual conference of the Presbyterian Renewal Fellowship in 2013, the two talks had evolved into three. That way, they felt less rushed and seemed to me to unfold more coherently. And they had acquired a new title: Roots and Wings: Being Church in the 21st Century. This is how the three flow:
- Roots: Recovering Our Passion
This really deals with the basic question of: What is the Gospel? Someone once defined evangelism as “overflow.” Overflow of what? Of enthusiasm for the good news of Jesus. So unless we grasp the Gospel—or unless we are grasped by the Gospel—all our attempts at mission and evangelism are no more than a desperate strategy for survival.
Then, using Rowan Williams’ image of the mixed economy, with two complementary mission strategies for the contemporary world, we look at two “wings” (as some have suggested, perhaps the left and the right!):
- Wings Part 1: Learning to Fly Again
In this talk, we look at twelve different things existing (or “inherited”) churches can do to become “evangelizing communities”—that is, place where “spiritual seekers” can find help to grow into disciples of Jesus.
- Wings Part 2: Daring to Leave the Nest
Finally, we consider fresh expressions of church. Some can be helped to experience the Gospel by existing churches, but others will only know it when church enters their context and culture. How do such things begin and who can do it?
The biggest challenge of Roots and Wings, of course, as for any conference, is what happens next. I am old enough to have been to many conferences which were interesting at the time, but which were forgotten within a week or two. One group which sponsored a Roots and Wings day covenanted at the end to stay in touch with one another once the conference was over, to see how they were doing, and offer encouragement, prayer and challenge. Another group will be getting together again three months after the initial Roots and Wings day to report and strategize. These seem to me wise and stewardly moves.
I have now given these talks to ten different groups—Anglican (including the four in Algoma), Presbyterian and ecumenical—and I am booked for three more. If you would be interested in hosting a Roots and Wings day for churches in your area, or in knowing more about it, feel free to email me at email@example.com.