A central plank in the Unbounded Church concept is the need for change in the way we do church in order to increase our missional effectiveness. A major factor that is making such change difficult to achieve is that centuries of our current model have left most church members with frozen imaginations in regard to how we ‘do church’. There will often be an assumption that how church has been done in their lifetime (Sunday-centric) is how it must continue to be done. Further the objection of many to the idea of alternative forms of church will be that these just aren’t ‘proper Church’; meaning not the Traditional/Christendom form of church that they are used to and are comfortable with.
There is however no Biblical reason that a non-Sunday-Centric, In-Drag, Christendom-Form church cannot be created as a network of new ‘Kaleidoscope village-penetrating’ Missional Communities (MCs). These will be ones that are still shaped by the New Testament spiritual DNA for Christian community, but that are spread largely away from Sunday and ‘Sprinkled’ throughout the week. It is important to remember the “Divine Freedom” given by the New Testament to do things differently. (See the Divine Freedom blog article on this site).
There are now many examples around the world where the exercise of this divine freedom is being put into practice with far higher levels of missional fruit than is normally the case with traditional churches. Some of these are described below-
Eagle Vale, Sydney
Eagle Vale is a suburb of southern Sydney where, in addition to Sunday ministries, the local church now consists of a separate growing network of missional communities developed by both Modification and Model Construction strategies(See ‘Multiplying ‘).
The initial one of these was a community based on a Self Defence class model that started in 2017. This has been highly fruitful with 30 and more attendees, over 70% of whom are ‘Newcomers’, and there has been a number of conversions. In June 2018 a clone of the group started in another location and is also showing ‘Newcomer’ fruit. While a few of the members end up in standard Sunday services most see the Missional Community they were gathered into as ‘their Church’.
The network of communities also now includes a Playgroup, a Craft group and one based on a ‘Food Pantry’ for less well off people. An expansion of this network with more and varied group is planned for 2019.
‘Sorted’ – North Bradford UK
This was originally established as a ministry to youth in a Skateboard park. It started by listening to their concerns, serving them and this then developed into a church community including a Prayer/Worship time, with skateboarding now just one of many activities.
It meets three nights a week with an average of 100 young people, with an age range of 13 to 20. It has multiplied twice to ‘Sorted 3’
- This highly fruitful mission to unchurched youth is highly relational
- It started with Serving (ministering) by listening to their concerns, not by bible study. That comes later in what is a process.
- It is not fitted into, and does not use, formal church structures.
- It has now however been granted status as a church in its own right.
Harrow Language Café – London
- A church member noticed the growing alienation between her
congregation and the surrounding community. She also noticed that a
number of women with mostly Muslim backgrounds had poor English
- She gathered a team to enter the culture of the ethnic women.
- They then started a weekly afternoon tea and invited the women to
discuss a topic in English.
- They put up a prayer board and invited requests which brought in the
- Then they developed a Bible study.
- There has been much fruit from this missional initiative including
people coming to faith.
- It has also multiplied itself.
- This started with an awareness of the church/society divide.
- Began by listening to the needs of the community, then ministering to
- A process
- Easily repeatable.
A ‘Messy Church Plus’, South Croydon, London
- A Messy Church started with six families. It grew to over 130 people in half a year.
- One afternoon is a short ‘All Age’ service with a bible story, followed by crafts and games
- Messy Church Extra’ two weeks later included a short informal ‘Worship’ service.
- Parents and children were forming community, hearing Scripture.
- Supportive relationships developed that impacted their wider social existence in small but significant ways.
- Some kind of ‘ecclesiological overflow’ seemed to occur. Elements of Messy Church found their way into the homes of participants
- An expanded form of the original ‘Messy Church’ concept.
- Significant missional fruitfulness in the non-churched community
- Easily repeatable
An Entrepreneurial Church, Shrewsbury, England
- Hosts a thriving ‘Messy Church’, up to 100 people on Wednesday afternoons.
- A mini-‘Messy Church’, meets on Friday mornings for families with under-fives.
- About 60 young people from outside the church meet in ‘Zone’ on Friday evenings.
- ‘Stepping Out’ is a group formed around walking.
- ‘Coffee in the Living Room’, is a partnership with the local medical practice, attracts over 60 people on Thursday mornings.
- A monthly ‘Outlook’ caters for the over-55s with a guest speaker and refreshments.
- A ‘Seniors’ lunch is followed by hymns, prayers and a short talk.
- Membership grew from 200-250 participants in 2010 to over 500 in early 2014.
- The aim of these activities is not to be a bridge to Sunday church, but to become expressions of church – new congregations – in their own right.
- All are highly relational groups
- Service is a key component
- A key factor is an entrepreneurial minister
- A somewhat more localized version of the ‘Network Church’ above.
Coffee with Spirit – Wollongong, Australia
- The initial community was founded by a single Evangelist
- It meets in a café in a busy suburban Community Centre
- Many people attend various activities in the Centre each day
- As the group studies the bible together, prays together, and has fellowship together it is easily observed by and enters into conversation with many who pass by.
- The coffee is heavily subsidised for those who join the group.
- About three years old but it has now been cloned twice. There is now a similar group growing at the same venue but different day plus a third that has started to meet at a different Café.
- Almost zero cost.
- Has a ‘De-churched and Unchurched’ component of 50% plus including at least one claimed Atheist!
- Has a ‘Newcomer’ component of 50% plus
- Has gained support of café franchisees in all venues
- Is easily multiplied as has already been shown
- Has developed quickly
‘Jesus Club’ – Sydney Australia
Another example is the ‘Jesus Club’ model created by Mel a Sydney psychologist.She brought her Christian faith and her work together by starting the first ‘Jesus Club’ as a 3-hour social activity and Bible study for adults with intellectual disabilities.
While not her initial intention the club has all the characteristics of
‘Church’ for the members (a bible lesson, prayer, Christian songs, fellowship and pastoral care), who for the most part would not attend a standard church.
The initial club has now multiplied to eight by other local churches replicating the idea and another three scheduled to open this year. Further, it is also a classic example of a ‘Messy’ process because the multiplication was not at all planned. It seems that the Spirit of God used the initial club to inspire others- a true case of ‘Organic Emergence’!
- Has already multiplied from one to twelve
- This is an example of Multiplication by cloning.
- Has developed and grown relatively quickly
- Has a high proportion of ‘Newcomers’ i.e. non-church attenders
- Is an example of Messy development