Mission Opportunities served up on a Plate
I am a Methodist Minister based on Portland in Dorset.
I have been deeply privileged to serve Christ’s Church through engaging with two major sporting events over the last few years. In 2012 The Church in Weymouth and Portland welcomed the Sailing Events of the London 2012 Olympic Games to our local area. Under the banner of “Refresh 2012” as the Church we sought to be refreshing and uplifting seeking to make local people and visitors alike aware of an oasis of God’s presence in the midst of all that was going on. It was a terrific time with many local churches and individual Christians sharing in serving others and making good news known in word and action. I estimate we had something like 500 volunteers involved over the period of the Olympics and we were planning for 5-6 years.
This year I was privileged to be on Sabbatical during the period leading up to Glasgow 2014, the Commonwealth Games. As part of my Sabbatical I was looking at how the Church responded to big event opportunities presented to it by wider society (like the Olympics and Commonwealth Games). It was a joy to share with More than Gold 2014 (the organisation set up to resource the Church in its response to these major events) and it meant that I had several trips to Scotland to observe and participate in the Church’s preparations for this major event. With some involvement with the Church’s response to these two major sporting events I have been reflecting on the response of the Church and churches to the opportunities presented by having these kinds of opportunities.
In a nutshell it was much as one would imagine.Even with major events served up on a plate such as the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games, it appears to be very hard work indeed to motivate churches to seize the mission opportunities.To me this underlines the fact that there is not really a mission mind-set in most churches.With the backdrop of society as it is at present we need to place mission at the centre of our training, resourcing and focus in a way that maybe it has not been in more recent decades.We live in a society that is very open to the spiritual but disillusioned with institutions such as the Church.We need to acknowledge this and invest more in training missionaries to our own context rather than pastors who keep the Church ticking over.
These big events provide ideal opportunities to engage with people with the opportunity to make mission central to much of our thinking.That of course is a principle that is not confined to major sporting events but which is applicable to local life in any church or fellowship.What is going on around us?Where are our communities gathering?We can respond to the opportunities presented by local festivals, sporting events, the draw of major shopping centres, and so forth by being present and ready to connect with people.
Finally, another little lesson I have tried to learn. When these opportunities come it can be easy to treat them as ends in themselves.In reality we should always being looking for how the Holy Spirit is breathing shape into our structures and organisation so we are better equipped to reach out to others.That is one way we develop legacy from these events.With London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 if the witness and work of the Church only revolved around these events and stopped there then we have missed a further opportunity.If our local events are just one off self-contained outreach occasions then we may be missing where the Spirit is leading us.In Weymouth and Portland we have now set up “Refresh” as a charity, because it seemed that we were being led to give shape to something that would enable the Church in this area to continue joining in the mission of God together.Maybe God is saying something similar in your area.
Here is a blog I kept while on Sabbatical which covers this area and many others.
Rev Chris Briggs