Posted by: richard | 24 November, 2011

From home group to missional community

“So what happened to this blog?” you may ask.  The answer is that we disbanded Passion Fruit only to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes in the form of an outward-focused missional community!  Well, that is the idea anyway.  To see my reflections on this exciting journey that God has called us to, why not visit my new blog (The Untaming) or follow my twitter feed @theuntaming.

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Posted by: richard | 15 April, 2010

An inclusive community

We had a good discussion on Monday around the subject of being an inclusive community.  We noted that Jesus ate with marginalised people (be they rich – tax collectors – or scandalous – or unclean) and that very act of each was shocking as it signifies acceptance, friendship, a real desire to spend time with someone (middle eastern meals were not fast-food!), and the status of equals.   Acceptance by Jesus came Read More…

Posted by: gillianbarratt | 31 March, 2010

A persuasive community

Continuing with the theme “the priority of community”, we looked at the idea of a Christian community as a persuasive witness for the gospel. Appropriately for Holy Week, the bible basis was Jesus’ prayer just before betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane:  John 17: 20-23 (here). Jesus prayed for His disciples, not just those who were with Him at that time, but also for all those who would believe in Him in the future. He prayed for them to be united so that in seeing their behaviour the rest of the world would recognize God’s love and believe.  So, how does this work out for us today?

We considered that unity does not necessarily mean homogeneity, as long as the divisions remain amicable. Different denominations can co-exist if they subscribe to the essentials: for us the Resurrection and Jesus being both God and man. Unity can be shown in working together to meet need in the community and by caring for each other on a day-to-day basis, while making it clear that the gospel is the power source for these actions.

Inviting outsiders to church activities can be problematic. The events which are most attractive to “outsiders”: summer fêtes, dances…, are those which can be considered as “fringe” activities by church members, but at least they allow contacts between people. The “expatriate“ situation in Maisons-Laffitte can be a double-edged sword: it brings people who might never go near a church in their home country into the community, but there is a danger of losing the focus on the gospel message and failing to help them progress from belonging to believing. We also questioned what the most effective community was: the whole church membership, a home group or a Christian family ready to reach out to others.

As practical expression of this theme, we will try to practise friendship in acts like inviting someone for coffee and also pray about these meetings beforehand so that they will become real gospel opportunities.

Posted by: gillianbarratt | 24 March, 2010

The Priority of Community – The Church as an Extended Family

We started the last sub-section of « The Gospel-Centred Church » on March 22nd. Emma was back with us, and Amelia was introduced to the group. We only managed the first chapter, which had for principle that the church is an extended family.

The bible base was a passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy (here). We noted that Paul said that « the household of God is the church » rather than « the church is the household of God ».

Our experiences of our own extended families were quite varied and we decided that an ideal family, rather than any particular one, should be a model for the church. In a family you can truly be yourself, but there is also the memory of what you have been (to your Mum you are still a little boy/girl). Families may have disputes (often over money or belongings) but the members’ love for one another is unconditional – the Prodigal remains a part of the family whatever he/she has done. The family is God’s revelation of what relationships should be like, a place where everyone is valued.

Back to Paul’s letter to Timothy, the key word for relationships in the family/church seems to be “respect” (here) – between generations and between masters and slaves. The family hierarchy is “flatter” than that of a typical church set-up; most decisions are taken by consensus after discussion, although sometimes the head of the family has to decide. Importantly, a family is made up of several generations and each is important. Teaching goes in both directions – parents often learn from their children. We noted that we are often more exacting with the younger generation than we are with ourselves: we expect children to apologise when they do something wrong, but rarely say “sorry” to them. The same comment could be made about many church communities.

We talked around the comment that for some people families can become an idol; by putting their family first they avoid their duty to God. However, biblical teaching describes the family as something special and the relationship to a husband or wife the closest one after the relationship with God. In the same letter of Paul to Timothy, it is taught that Christians have a duty to care for their relatives (here) and Jesus made provision for His mother from the Cross (here). A Christian family is a base from which to go out to others (read the last two paragraphs of Little Dorrit for an example).

As ideas for action we came up with hospitality – informal invitations to Sunday lunch for example, and volunteering for types of service in the church that you would not normally do, to meet other parts of the family (like me going to the crèche).

Family matters were obviously very much in our prayers as well. We thank God for our families and hold their needs before Him, confident that He will comfort and sustain them and us.

Posted by: robbiexgibson | 18 March, 2010

People – not programmes or buildings

Many moons ago (OK, it was only 10 days ago), after an extended prayer time, we looked at the next two chapters in “Gospel-centred Church”:  “People, not programmes” and “People, not buildings”.

We all identified with the situation highlighted in the first chapter:  a rota needs to be filled and there is a shortage of people to fill it, so we step (more or less reluctantly) into the gap.  Clearly, there is an element of personal development in participating in activities that we are not naturally drawn to.  We may discover with joy that we have a previously unsuspected talent!

This chapter, however, asserts quite firmly that the church should first of all seek to understand the gifts of its members and the needs around it; and then starting from the available gifts, identify how they can be best used.  How do we understand the gifts available in the church?  We thought the most natural way was simply to spend time with our fellow church members – get to know people.  In this way, we will discover more about people’s character and nature which helps us to see the person as God sees them; helps us to spot frustrations building up where there are unused gifts going to waste; and helps to avoid the ever-present danger of joyless mininstry, undertaken only because “nobody else will”.

On to buildings:  not much was said on this one, but we noted the fact that when it is cold or wet it is quite convenient to have somewhere warm and dry to meet!  Yes, buildings should not drive ministry (and I wonder if we spend proportionally more or less on the upkeep of our church building than our homes?) – but having somewhere constant to meet is definitely a plus.  (For homegroups-as-church it helps if the location doesn’t randomly change from week to week!)

Posted by: richard | 2 March, 2010

People in partnership…enabled for service

This week we looked at “People in Partnership” and “People enabled for Service” from Gospel-Centred Church.  I think the ideas of pairing up for mission, and every-person ministry were both ones we were comfortable with. It is worth thinking about ways in which we can team up with each other outside formal gatherings to work together for the gospel. One concrete idea from the other chapter was having a fresh look at our gifts as we embark on the next step of the Passion Fruit journey.

Er, that’s it really for those chapters. No real controversy.  Can anyone add something I’ve missed?

Posted by: richard | 19 February, 2010

The Priority of people… people in relationships

This week we looked at Chapters 7 and 8 of Gospel-Centred Church.  We discussed the idea of church being people gathered together in God’s name, being nourished by teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayer; which lead inextricably to an outward (missional) thrust.

We spent some time discussing the question “what would change if Read More…

Posted by: richard | 10 February, 2010

Mission without compromise or fear

This week we looked at chapters 5 and 6 of Gospel-Centred Church, on the subject of ‘Mission without Compromise’ and ‘Mission without Fear’.

The first challenge was to consider how our ministry could be ‘contemporary, daring and Biblical’. The need for this was made clear when you think about the reach of existing forms of ministry. Our estimate was than in Maisons-Laffitte (25000 people) there might (optimistically) be 5 churches of 200 people, so 1000.  Assuming (very optimistically) that all the churchgoers are passionate Christians, then each would have to be reaching 25 people (with no overlap) for everyone in Maisons-Laffitte to be reached!  This is Read More…

Posted by: richard | 9 February, 2010

We’re officially Jesus-centric!

Here is a WORDLE of the Passion Fruit blog! Phew: you’ll see that Jesus is the largest word (most often used in the blog)!

And here is another based on recent posts – another interesting set of words!

Posted by: richard | 31 January, 2010

The French reconnection

Interesting and encouraging article on God + France:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/march/20.28.html

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