From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Insights from the “Out of the Box” Missional Conference have continued to resonate with me in the weeks since the weekend of the conference over 24-25 July. The conference was organised by the Mission Enablement Team of Uniting Mission and Education, and had over 140 participants, including 14 people from our Presbytery.
The Saturday morning keynote session was presented by Rev Prof Sathi Clarke. The theme of his session was about [Com]passionate religious border crossing. As Sathi led us in thinking about how we might cross borders with people of other religions and secular thought, he asked the question: How do we lift up the Christian Gospel as the pearl of great price without discarding or despoiling the gems that are contained in other religious traditions or secular thought? Sathi is conscious of not burying this pearl in the other gems, and at the same time does not want to limit the mission of the abundant Triune God that is mediated by Jesus Christ and advanced by the Holy Spirit.
Sathi pointed out that the Christian proclamation of our Mission and Evangelism has to with joyous witness that lifts up Jesus Christ without hiding God’s abundance. Our proclamation will include words that are entwined with judicious silence and resolute actions that point to Jesus Christ. Sathi is convinced that our proclamation must emerge from what is a hope for us as well.
This last point has remained with me since the conference. The hope in Jesus Christ to which we testify is to be a present hope for us. We must be facing toward the Jesus who we lift up. He must be our hope. On this point Sathi takes his lead from 1 John 1:1-4 –We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (NRSV)
A congregational resource that I have found very helpful in leading people to name their present hope in Jesus Christ comes from the Makes you Wonder
resources prepared by Rev Dr Ian Robinson. These resources are available from Uniting Mission and Education of our Synod at the following link: Makes You Wonder - Uniting Mission and Education
The exercise in the resources that I found most useful is based around one simple short question. The value in this question is amplified by the group processes for engaging and sharing deeply in the question for yourself and for others. The question is: Why are you still a Christian? Note that the question is not: Why did you become a Christian? Such a question would take you out of the now, taking you back to when you became a Christian. No, the question is: Why are you still
a Christian? This simple short question draws out your present hope.
The times I have been involved with groups using this exercise have been tremendously rich and powerful – grounded in people’s earthy experience of the good news. With all the responses from the group, we have ended up with a credal like statement that recites our combined present hope in God’s good news. Hearing that statement was indeed good news!!
Some other work that Uniting Mission and Education of our Synod is doing to help resource us in this space of putting in to words our hope in God’s good news is The Gospel Project
. This project responds to the call for developing a clear understanding of the gospel that we can confidently share and speak into the public square. The core of the project will be conversations that focus on the gospel to develop a Uniting Church perspective on both the good news Jesus proclaimed and the good news about Jesus. You can find out more information at the link: The Gospel Project - Uniting Mission and Education
A local resource in Canberra to help you share our faith story is available in September (COVID restrictions permitting) at Rise Sanctuary, Narrabundah (formerly St Aidan’s): How do I talk about my Christian faith, identity, spirituality in these times? What is my faith story? Why do I choose to live this Way of God? Storyteller Sarah Agnew (https://sarahagnew.com.au) will facilitate a three-part series for 10 participants to identify, shape, and find confidence to tell aloud their story of life following Jesus. Further information about this opportunity is included separately in these notices.
All of these resources will help you more along the way to joyous witness that lifts up Jesus Christ without hiding God’s abundance. They will help you find words to testify to your present hope in Jesus Christ.