The story of one man’s encounter with a Missional Community and his ensuing spiritual journey.
One of the good things that happened at the recent SEEK Day is that we got a chance to be encouraged by stories. We heard quite a few but one in particular was both encouraging and instructive. This was the story of ‘Ben’ (not his real name).
An UC Missional Community has been meeting for a few years now on Tuesday evenings at a Pub in Wollongong, south of Sydney. The group meets in the outside smoking area of the Pub, probably not the most comfortable environment but one that allows many contacts to be made on a regular basis.
Ben was a fairly regular customer of the Pub and frequently sat at a table close to the group. Obviously overhearing the Biblical conversations taking place week by week, Ben took to approaching the table where the group was sitting, to tell his, unflattering, thoughts on the Bible and religion. He did this in a fairly antagonistic way, talking over the top of any response the group tried to make, not being willing to engage in any discussion. At this point the fact was that he didn’t really want to hear about what the group believed, making silly comments/questions, like trying to challenge us on how the trip from Egypt could have taken 40 years, from looking at google maps. It should be noted that Ben was often somewhat ‘under the influence’ so to speak.
This went on for weeks, but as time went by Ben became less antagonistic starting to stay with the group and being more willing to engage in discussion. Eventually he began to refer to the group as his ‘friends’ and to seek them out to sit with from the beginning of the night. The dialogue continued as Ben then started to ask questions, then to ask what they were going to study that night, being even prepared to read the Bible.
It is probably the case that Ben is not yet a Christian, but this account of his spiritual journey shows how far he has come, from disbelieving antagonist to a man involved in the group’s spiritual activity, indeed it is an account of God’s Grace in his life. However, more than being a great encouragement to those involved in Missional Communities, it is a story which is instructional in several ways.
First, it shows what God will do when Christians are willing to adopt a ‘Go and Stay’ strategy and to invest time to be in the ‘Live, Work and Play’ spaces where the ‘unchurched and de-churched’ regularly gather. They are the pieces of the cultural mosaic where Christians can engage with, and develop real relationships with, those who will never darken the doors of a standard ‘church’.
Second, the time involved can be lengthy. The process described above took around 18 months. Not all ‘Stories’ are so long, as we have seen in ‘Don’s Story’ a few posts ago, which took only a matter of weeks. However, it reminds us that Mission to 21st century Australia is ‘Long Haul’, in contrast to the expectations of the ‘Event Evangelism’ activities still so common with churches generally, and its essence is the building of real relationships. So perseverance is the key.
Third, it reminds us that Missional Communities are very low cost (really how much does it cost to meet in a Pub (Café, Park etc) each week?) in contrast to the large resource expenditure required by the Missional activities of most traditional churches?
Ben’s story is another example of Missional Community fruit, we can tell of many others. Praise God for what he is doing with Ben, and pray that God will bless our Missional Communities with much more fruit, to His Glory.
And one more thing . . . .
Once again, if the group asked the question ‘Why did this happen?’ the answer is, on a human level, ‘Because we were there!’