There is a well-known saying that ‘Small is beautiful’. This is certainly true in the context of mission to our 21st century society retreating as it is at an increasing rate from its Christian heritage. The process of de-Christianization, the evacuation of the gospel from the fabric of culture is clearly indicated in the recent Australian national census results showing those identifying as Christian falling from 61% five years ago to 51% in 2016 and the ‘no-religion’ category shooting ahead of all others to 29%.
Against this we see the failing mission of the traditional church where, as illustrated well by the city of Sydney, the number of ‘Newcomers’ (the de-churched and unchurched) has fallen to 8% of congregations in 2016 from over 12% in 2001. Other regions are worse.
So where does small is beautiful fit into this rather dispiriting picture? A missionary tale might help answer that question.
What is the recipe? Simple. A passion to ‘Go’ and make disciples, Public Visibility, Intentionality, Perseverance and most importantly – Prayer and the Holy Spirit.
Just over a year ago a Christian guy James started to read his bible in a Community Centre café where there were always many people present, there for a coffee or snack, or to participate in one of the regular schedule of events in the Centre. He did this on a weekly basis, always at the same time and day. Each time he ordered a coffee and did some bible study, making notes on his laptop. He noticed that each week there were the same couple of guys (Al and Jay) having lunch together. After a few weeks one came up to him and asked what he was doing and this led to an ongoing conversation over the weeks. Sometimes the conversation turned (was turned!) to spiritual things about which they raised many questions in response to which James was able to give some input from a Christian perspective.
After a few months of this James said he planned to start an informal spiritual discussion group which would look at what the bible had to say about the topics they had raised in their conversations. He asked if they we interested in joining? To which they said yes.
So then, a more formal group began given the name ‘Coffee with Spirit’, with James, another Christian friend and Al and Jay. Each week they did a small bible study pitched at varying levels according to who was there. After a while a short prayer time was developed for concerns raised by the group. Initially James was the pray-er, but then after a few week a wonderful thing happened. Jay started to pray himself, out loud and in a very public place! A little while later Al began to join in the prayer time too! This is so clearly the work of the Holy Spirit! In the last few weeks the group has been joined by two other ‘Newcomers’, a woman and a man, both regular visitors to the Centre.
Here we have an example of why in the missional context ‘Small is Beautiful’! The Newcomer percentage for ‘Coffee with Spirit’ is around 50% plus compared to the standard church average of 8% and falling. Note also this is at virtually no cost!
‘Small is Missionally Beautiful’ because small missional (Unbounded) communities are highly effective and cheap! What is the recipe? Simple. A passion to ‘Go’ and make disciples, Public Visibility, Intentionality, Perseverance and most importantly – Prayer and the Holy Spirit.
‘Coffee with Spirit’ is now being cloned at another location, in a pub, and there is a search for a third venue. Watch this space!
Where is your ‘Coffee with Spirit’ going to be?