Jo and I have recently begun transitioning the worship team at St Andrew’s from being a task-focused activity – band rehearsal on Wednesday evening for facilitating worship on Sunday morning – to being a mission-shaped community.
Jesus said the most important thing was to love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and to love your neighbour (those who do not share your world-view or beliefs) as yourself (your own people – the flow of Jesus’ statement being that the extent to which we are able to love ourselves is the limiting factor in our ability to love those who differ from us).
It is, therefore, good to shape community in such a way as to attend to these three loves – of God, of our own (wider) community, and of our neighbours. In our experience, it helps in creating a strong sense of identity to be able to express this UP, IN and OUT dimension in simple strap-line form. As we have listened to God for this transition, the strap-line we have come to is:
“Seek God’s face : Serve God’s people : Show God’s glory”
This can them be un-packed, as follows:
Seek God’s face: all this is not about our musical ability or voice – unless we are first worshippers ourselves, we might lead others in a sing-a-long, but we will not be able to lead them in worship; as we seek God’s face, we are changed; as we seek God’s face, we are able to serve his people, and his glory will be reflected and displayed through us; so we bring our instruments and offer them before him...
Serve God’s people: obviously through leading worship for the wider church on Sundays; also through investing in the musical ability, worship skills and character of the youth at St Andrew’s, who are part of their own youth community but are invited to our worship ‘jam’ sessions; and potentially in other ways, too...
Show God’s glory: there are many opportunities through the year – termly community celebrations; monthly baptisms; Christmas and Easter – where families from the wider community come into church. For some people (in many churches) such events are seen as an unwelcome interruption rather than as an opportunity, but our hope is that through us God’s glory would be displayed, as we seek his face and serve his people. This is an attractional approach to mission, which is, on its own, extremely limiting; but as a parish church it is nonetheless an opportunity, a gift not to be ignored.
Having these three dimensions mapped-out for this (or any) particular group is helpful because it provides the framework:
we don’t know how the community will evolve, the practical details of what will be – though I would expect it to become something wider than band-led sung-worship – but we know that it will do so within these parameters:
that these parameters act as a measure against which people will choose to belong here, or to belong in another community, with different parameters:
and these parameters will help us to weigh future decisions – if an idea can be expressed in terms of seeking God’s face, serving God’s people, or showing God’s glory then it has space to be nurtured, to see if it will flourish (and my expectation would be that some will, and some won’t, and that’s okay); but if not, then it can be seen as a tangent, not to be drawn down.
We have found such triangles extremely helpful in the past, in Sheffield, where we led a community of communities (gathered together at a monthly celebration) and structured our focus around a different triangle each year, allowing us to attend to particular aspects of our relationship with God, self and neighbour in manageable time-frames, moving on to new aspects that built on what we had learnt over the previous twelve months.