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-
Pub Kingdom – Thirroul, New South Wales
‘Pub Kingdom’ is an ‘Unbounded Church’ Missional Community formed in July 2019, which was seeded by three Christians and another man who was converted through Coffee with Spirit . It meets on Wednesday evenings in a pub in Thirroul, 80kms south of Sydney.
A ‘strategic’ aspect is that it meets on the same night as a meat raffle is being held which means that there are a lot of people present, a large proportion of whom are regular.
- Almost zero cost.
- Some ‘Core’ members have dinner there.
- It has developed relationships with and ‘Connected’ with staff and customers and weekly has conversations about spiritual matters.
- Also some of the ‘Contacts’ have shared their personal difficulties and in one case asked for prayer.
- There is growth. Two of the ‘Connections’ have started to stay and ask questions about the Bible passage being discussed. Another has also been taking home the A5 simple study sheet with text and questions which the group uses.
Coffee with Spirit – Wollongong, Australia
- The initial community was founded by a single Evangelist
- It met in a café in a busy suburban Community Centre but due to Covid 19 restrictions moved to a nearby coffee shop.
- As the group studies the bible together, prays together, and has fellowship together it is easily observed by and enters into conversation with many customers.
- 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.
- It has almost zero cost.
- The groups have a ‘De-churched and Unchurched’ component of 50% plus including at least one claimed Atheist now turned enthusiastic evangelist!
- Has gained support of café franchisees in all venues
- Has developed quickly
- Has seen many examples of ‘Connecting’ with regulars and ‘Gathering’ them into the community, in which they are now being ‘Discipled’.
Eagle Vale, Sydney
Eagle Vale is a suburb in south-west Sydney where, in addition to Sunday ministries, the local church now consists of a separate and 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 late 2017. This has been highly fruitful with 30 and more attendees, over 70% of whom are ‘de-churched and unchurched’, and there has been a number of conversions and baptisms. 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 groups is planned.
‘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.
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.
‘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 twenty three by other local churches replicating the idea and more are scheduled to open. 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 twenty three.
- 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
A Modified Playgroup – Wollongong, NSW
Missional DNA was intentionally imported into an existing thirty person strong (adults and children) standard Church Playgroup meeting in a church hall. This had the effect of re-engineering it into a Playgroup that was intended to be a ‘Church for those who come’. This included the use of Christian children’s songs that told the gospel story; a Bible reading usually from a children’s Bible and a short talk on the reading; Prayer points that were solicited each week from the parents and carers and then prayed for by one of the leaders; and pastoral care in terms of material, emotional and sometimes financial support for the attendees as needs arose.
There was quite strong opposition from some of the existing leadership who said the unchurched members would leave if they tried to ‘Christianize’ the Playgroup (and in fact a few families did) and most of them declined to take part. However, by the Grace of God and with new leadership the new Playgroup actually grew and gave birth to a second one with the total attendance doubling to 60 adults and children each week, about 80% of whom were non-church members.
Frequently comments were made by attending adults that for a whole variety of reasons they were unable to attend ‘Sunday Church’ and they felt that this was ‘their church’.
This case study is included because it shows what can be done. However, it is ultimately a tragic tale. When the leadership of the local church in which the Playgroups met changed to one with a more traditional mindset, the result was that within a year the Playgroups closed. Then after a while a new one was commenced as a standard church Playgroup with a 20th century ‘SIC’ model mindset. It is important to stress however, this this sad turn of events does not detract from the potential of Modified Playgroups for gospel fruit.