We talk a lot about ‘finding our way in the mission of God’, which is becoming a bit of a strap-line for many of us engaging in the ‘missional conversation’ and across the growing Seventy-two network, but it can all sound akin to a jargon-filled Civil Service manual if we’re not careful, so is it making any difference?
‘fabulous’ … ‘great’ … ‘translating theory into practice’ are just some of the quotes from those who participated in our first Forge Training hub for the South West and Wales. You can watch some of their video comments on the Forge page of this website.
For me personally, this first Forge year has been a thrilling journey, as I’ve watched people grow in their confidence in the fact that they are part of God’s good news. During the Forge Training it’s emphasised that whatever we’re doing needs to form cultures, which form disciples, who form more disciples. The great thing has been walking alongside people as they reflect on ‘how’ this is working out in practice.
Another exciting, dawning realisation is of the rich potential each participant represents. I have no doubt each and every church, which has encouraged someone to get involved with the Forge Training hub will benefit … if! The ‘if’ is they genuinely desire the mission of God to be what they increasingly organise their life together around. On my reckoning each of these participants have an immediate ‘mission field’ of about 30 people – that’s the network of people on their doorstep. Compared to the figures some whole churches come up with when we have similar discussions about mapping the personal connections around them, this is actually a very large number. How many of us thrust our hands deeper into our pockets when we hear the question ‘how many not yet Christian friends do you regularly connect with?’
Only one of the nine people on this years’ hub is leading a church congregation and I hope we maintain that kind of balance. If you forgive the expression, everyone on board this year was an ‘ordinary’ member of a local church (yes, I do know none of us are really ordinary, but all extra-ordinary in the eyes of God). What I mean by this is no one had a title, or role, or if they did it meant so little they forgot to mention it! Neither were all leading a formal group of any kind, but all are leaders in influence. We talked and prayed and practiced a fair bit about being more of a thermostat than a thermometer. (A thermometer measures the temperature and a thermostat controls the temperature. One is reactive. The other is pro-active. A thermometer reacts to the environment, a thermostat controls the environment.
Next year there will be toddler groups, youth groups, groups for people with learning difficulties, friendship groups, as well as whole churches who have someone among them who is influencing the environment for God and for good.
Now I realise not everyone who’s signed up to the Seventy-two updates will be identifying themselves as a missional leader, but that dear friends is how I see every one of you. My basis for saying that is because that’s how Jesus sees you. If we return to our foundational text in Luke 10
… when Jesus sends out the seventy-two it is as good as saying he sends out everyone (we’re all called to be missional).
… when Jesus sends out the seventy-two he sends them/us out to influence (if you understand leadership, as I do, to be one who influences, we are all called to be leaders).
Forge Training is not for everyone, but the steps it calls people to make, the people it calls people to be, the influence it calls people to bring, is. It’s not the only answer, but Forge Training does provide one answer to the question ‘how can I find my way in the mission of God?’