“Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.”
The overall vision that excites me is to see unchurched people coming to faith, experiencing God, and growing in discipleship. More specifically, the picture of the future that gets me excited is of a network church that reaches into faith and out to the community.
I’d love to see a network of interest-related groups each developing faith in some way. As I’ve mentioned in other places, the groups could form because of a common interest in books, football or photography, or to do something specific like community clean-up or as a bible study group. Although each group would function as its own cell, they would also all be part of the central project/network to link them together. The vision for each would be the same – to see unchurched people coming to faith, experiencing God, and growing in discipleship. Each would have its own values and strategy but share some of the values of the wider network – to reach out into the community (i.e. be easy to join) and each one to witness to God’s transformation in some way. Again, what the transformation looks like will be different for each group. For a book group there could be very obvious discussion of very Christian themes which implicitly challenge the members of the group in their own lives. Some social action groups may be doing something very practical which reveals God’s transformation. A Toddler group could help and support people in parenting. For some groups like football, the transformation may be limited simply to ‘living life alongside each other’ whilst chatting in the pub afterwards. I’m also thinking that there will need to be some sort of central worship each week or month to further help the groups connect to the whole.
So, in 200-or-so words, that’s the picture I’m beginning to work towards.
What are the advantages and disadvantages? One the plus side, it is a very flexible system – any group or interest can fit in. The network can be build up over time. It should also be accessible to the unchurched as a newcomer can simply join whichever cell they are interested in. There should be less of a cultural gap than there would be from walking into a church service.
It does have its difficulties however. Each group will have to be led by someone who is behind the vision, otherwise they will fail to be church at all and simply be interest groups. Another concern is the place of discipleship – how would that work in say, a book group, where only a few may have become Christians? Perhaps these are all questions for further down the line.