Have you ever been lost? Perhaps your GPS directed you along a road to nowhere. Or maybe you misread the map while bush walking. Lost and disoriented describes the story of Christianity in the western world today, according to Alan Roxburgh, a missional church leader and consultant. However, he also believes we can change that story with missional imagination.Christianity - The Australian Story
One hundred years ago almost everybody in western nations such as Australia claimed allegiance to a Christian denomination or community. However, religious affiliation today is declining rapidly. Despite the efforts of many committed Christians, over 22 percent of Australians now say they have no religion. The number of people with no religion is growing by over five percent annually. By 2016 the largest “religious” group in Australia will no longer be Catholics or Anglicans but people without a religion. The majority of the non-religious will be under 35 years of age.
Faced with similar facts in other western countries, church leaders such as Alan Roxburgh have begun to ask, “Has the western church lost its way?” “Are we reading the map wrong?” Western culture is rapidly changing. Countries like Australia are now post-Christian societies. More and more people have no desire to be involved with institutional forms of religion and Christianity. Even newer expressions of church life, such as Pentecostalism and mega-churches, are not changing the overall picture. Our past “maps” that provided guidance on how to do evangelism, outreach and discipleship do not seem to be working with the non-religious. The Australian church thus needs fresh Missional Imagination to rediscover its role as missionaries to our own people.Changing the Story – Psalm 107
God can change the story of a community. Some of God’s greatest demonstrations of power have been when his people felt lost and disoriented. In just such circumstances, God changed the story of the people of Israel in Egypt and Babylon. In Psalm 107:1-3, the psalmist encourages the people of Israel to re-tell the story of how God brought them out of Egypt and Babylon. This is followed by four stories of God’s deliverance in a variety of difficult situations. There is a story of people being brought through the wilderness (107:4-9). There are stories of deliverance from prison and affliction (107:`17-22). There is a story of finding safety from a storm (107:23-31).
The stories in this Psalm show that God can change the narrative of any individual or faith community just as he changed the story of the people of Israel. Similarly, generations of missionaries inspired by the Bible have used creative missional strategies to reach out and help rewrite the stories of communities, cities and nations. The story of religious change in Australia is confronting, but it also presents an exciting missional opportunity. As individuals, Life Groups and congregations we can rediscover our role in God’s amazing mission of transformation. We can each use our missional imaginations to change the Australian story in our neighbourhoods.Becoming a Missional LifeGroup
Now let’s make this practical! Here is a four step process to open up a conversation that could help your LifeGroup become “missionaries” in your neighbourhood. It might be the beginning of a new chapter that changes the story for non-religious people in your community!
1. Understand Australian Society. Take some time as a small group to reflect on what is happening in Australian society. Discuss why you think Australia is becoming less religious. What opportunities does this present the church and your small group for mission?
2. Seek Inspiration from Scripture. Read through Psalm 107 and share your own stories of how God has delivered you in times of loss and disorientation. How do you think these passages might be relevant to the church in Australia and even your situation as a LifeGroup?
3. Use Your Missional Imagination. Brainstorm some creative ideas for reaching out in your community. Look at the “top ten” missional suggestions below. What are your top ten missional suggestions? For more information, explore some of the resources at the end of these notes.
4. Start One Thing New. Prayerfully as individuals and a group select one active step you can take to become more missional this year. Then just do it!TOP TEN MISSIONAL SUGGESTIONS FOR SMALL GROUPS
1. Pass out baked goods (bread, cakes, biscuits etc.)
2. A games night (lawn games or board games inside)
3. An art swap night – bring out what you are tired of and trade with neighbours
4. Grow a garden and give out extra produce
5. Have an Easter egg hunt and invite neighbours.
6. Start a regular neighbourhood meal, BBQ or coffee and desert night in one of your homes
7. Host an AFL game party
8. Organize a food tasting that goes house to house on one of your streets
9. Host a movie night and discussion afterwards
10. Start a walking/running group in the neighbourhood
A.J. Roxburgh, F. Romanuk. 2006. The Missional Leader: Equipping Your Church to Reach a Changing World. Jossey-Bass.
For other lists of creative missional ideas see: Verge Network. Simple Ways to Be Missional www.vergenetwork.org