Three years we have lived in Manchester.
Manchester continues to treat us very well. I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what this magnificent city contains. The people are generous, innovative and mad as fish.
Year three has seen the church grow with people and new sites take shape in Salford and Withington. I have also found myself travelling to Alderley Edge every week to pray with a handful of people about another site of Christ Church Manchester being established in North Cheshire. The futures bright, the futures wildly unpredictable.
In September CCM:City will be launching a morning meeting. This means CCM will have a 10:30am sunday meeting in Gorton and Fallowfield as well as a 6:30pm meeting in Fallowfield. This feels like a bold step considering our numbers. We will be a church of 60-80 in CCM:Gorton (+20 kids) and 50-60 at CCM:City (if every regular turned up at the same time) with three Sunday meetings. Breath deeply.
Starting another Sunday morning has been on our minds for a while. It is a logical step for CCM:City to broaden the range of people who could join us, we will even have kids ministry in the mornings. KIDS MINISTRY!
I have always tried to be honest on this blog about the journey we are on. So in the interest of honesty I should be clear that I have no idea how this is going to work. Everyone at CCM:City has brought into the idea (which is humbling) but every time you push into something new there is risk involved. Massive risk. That’s why it’s fun.
At this time of year I always wonder what I will be writing next year. I hope that I will be able to tell you about more Mission Communities, more Sunday meetings and who knows what else.
I have always wanted this blog to be an honest account of what it’s like to plant a church/site in 21st century Manchester. So it is about time that I filled you in on some failure.
In the summer of 2011 I started banging on about starting a new site of Christ Church Manchester in Levenshulme. I had a plan. It was a fairly simple plan and I was convinced it would work. Basically, we were going to book a room somewhere in Levenshulme in the middle of the week, make a whole bunch of noise using social media, pray, worship and hope that people started showing up. Simple.
We found a room. Boom. Site planted.
Then a couple of things happened –
1) We lost the room
2) September, October and November at CCM:City distracted me.
So CCM:Levenshulme didn’t exactly happen because it didn’t exactly happen! We took the idea for a spin and we came up against a few obstacles, including my own time limitations, and we couldn’t get the engine started.
At CCM we describe ourselves as church planting entrepreneurs. This sounds a little grand but all it really really means is that we have faith that God will use us to start something from nothing. So at the very beginning of a plant we only need a tiny bit of leverage (a room, a couple of people) to give us the faith to keep pushing. With CCM:City a very cheap room, and a couple of visitors in the first few months gave us faith. Levenshulme needed to give us a tiny bit of faith quite quickly, and that didn’t happen.
Is that the end of the story? Nope. In fact I think I have a better idea of how we can make it work next time round.
Am I upset? Not really. In fact I am pleased that we took the idea out for a spin and I genuinely believe that something will happen for us at some point in Levenshulme.
To sumarise – CCM:Levenshulme hasn’t happened…yet.
This rapture thing has got me in a bad mood. It has been fun to take the mickey out of Harold Camping and his crazy eschatological maths but a serious point needs to be made.
He makes us all look stupid.
By “us” I mean Christians. Christians across the planet who have no idea when Jesus plans to come back because Jesus himself had no idea as to when he would come back. Did any of the disciples or apostles spend hours working out the maths of Jesus return? Nope, they went on mission like he might show up at any point.
What frustrates me most is that we are now on the defensive. We have to explain that no we do not believe the rapture (whatever that is) will happen on May 21st and no the Earth won’t be destroyed sometime in October. In a nation that views the church with crushing indifference we could really do without having to defend ourselves against this rubbish.
Anyhoo, I have a Superman suit to put on. If this rapture thing really happens then I am not going to pass up an opportunity of flying in a Superman suit.
This weekend I went to the Mobilise student workers conference and had a great time. I love hanging out with old friends and making new friends at these events and the student worker weekend has given me a fine bunch of guys and girls to become friends with and steal ideas from.
This weekends high point was the Saturday night preach/talk/comedy from Nick Sharp. Nick planted and now leads Grace Church Nottingham. His talk was characterised by some stunning honesty. At one point Nick explained that his church was NOT the best church in Nottingham and the reason for that was that he was NOT the best church leader in Nottingham. Brilliant.
He talked about his early days in Nottingham and the difficulties he faced in church planting. In particular he talked about how he got caught up in triumphalism, for example “we are going to to take our city for Jesus” or “we are taking our city for Jesus” and also with the constant discussion of numbers of people in churches (something I am VERY guilty of).
Nick was very funny and very challenging. His honesty was utterly disarming and entirely convicting. When things are going well, and currently we are experiencing some momentum and growth, it easy to get caught up the moment and stray into triumphalism which, as Nick pointed out, does not help anyone.
Nick used a good analogy when describing our triumphalism. When talking about church planting or growing church we often use army or war metaphors but they are often like a cavalry sweeping across a sunlight plain towards a weak and stupid enemy. He claimed the reality was far more like fighting door to door in Iraq against a well organised enemy that you can barely see and your only concern is to get home unharmed.
I am not a fan of Christians using war and army pictures to describe church life as most of us have no idea of what it means to be in an army let alone a war. Nick, however, used to be in the Parachute Regiment so he can pretty much say what he likes.
If every church planter, church leader and blogger was as honest as Euan then there would be more churches in the world. The world of twitter and blogging could turn us all into turning us into self promoters and makes us compare ourselves unfavorably to others. Both of which cannot be good.
Anyways, read Euans blog.
Having blogged recently about how much I suck and how much I/we need to be honest about our suckiness I feel I need to move on. There needs to be some balance in the force (can a Christian blogger write that?). I cannot spend all my time moaning about how rubbish I am. (although, I am….). The important thing I need to remember is how irrelevant my rubbishness is. So in short, “I suck, but it doesn’t matter”. Why doesn’t it matter? Because God covers me.
Faith is not something many evangelicals talk about anymore. We place a high emphasis on a correct understanding of the word of God, yet for most it does not produce powerful living. The result of correct understanding should be correct living. I believe this is true because often we place value on a cerebral understanding of truth and not faith filled revelation.
I understand my position and I understand God is amazing and wants to do amazing things. I understand this in my head.