On Saturday 29th May Rosemary and I spent the day in Hartley Wintney at a regional Messy Church meeting, with the slightly jargonistic title:
DEVELOPING DISCIPLESHIP IN YOUR MESSY CHURCH
I expected to come back with my head spinning with lots of ideas about more we could be doing.
And there were plenty of ideas:
- Summer family picnics
- Holiday clubs
- Film clubs
- Ways of developing family prayer life at home
- Monthly Messy walk for families
- Starting Messy Church home groups
- Introducing Messy baptism and Messy communion
- Tips on improving the prayer life of your Messy Church
However, what I was NOT expecting, was for one single clear message to hit me between the eyes, reinforced by every conversation I had and every talk I heard that day. (Isn’t it strange and wonderful how God works? I know for sure that others at the same event, hearing almost exactly the same things, will not have heard the same message!)
And the message was this:
“FEED THE TEAM!”
How can we start those tender, tentative conversations with families about Jesus if we’re not fed, ourselves? What we say to the people who come through our doors is of little value, unless we can demonstrate the abundance of God’s love at work in our own lives.
Making disciples is God’s work, and for each potential disciple, is the work of their lifetime. God has all the means at his disposal to reach them – any tiny encounter with God that (through God’s will) we might facilitate is, thank goodness, only one very small fragment of the picture. I find that immensely reassuring!
It is particularly reassuring in the context of Messy Church. Lucy Moore, leader of the Messy Church movement, gave us a fascinating talk on the Gray Matrix, which gives us an image of where different people might be on their faith journey. (See: http://thegraymatrix.org/?page_id=19 for more details on the Gray Matrix.)
The vertical scale depicts a person’s knowledge or awareness of the Gospel. The horizontal axis shows how spiritually open or closed they may be. Here is a picture of Messy Lucy’s version of the matrix, as redrawn by me:
Lucy explained that Messy Church is aimed primarily at those who have very little knowledge of the Christian faith. They are operating, say, at somewhere between -6 and -3 on the vertical scale of spiritual awareness (as opposed to a lifelong theologian who might be approaching +4 on that scale). Most of the good work that Messy Churches are doing is to move people from a -6 to -3 on that vertical scale. So much the better if we can also, along the way, nudge people along the horizontal scale of openness, by giving them the warm welcome into the Christian family that everyone deserves. (Christians, beware the “cynical suburbia” trap of becoming closed to God!)
So, it is little wonder that this job of helping our Messy families to come to faith can take a long, long time. The chances are, they’ll walk with us for a while, for as long as it is our privilege to meet with them. Then, naturally people move on and we will never know if what we’ve said or done has made a difference or not. All we can hope is that the seeds have been sown…
And so, what of nurturing the faith of those who serve our Messy families? How do we best do that? Any ideas? The best idea that Rosemary (our prayer champion) and I have come up with so far, is a quarterly bring-and-share meal, with time out to pray for each other and for all those who come to our Messy Church.