Anvil journal of theology and mission
Colin Smith, Using a Missional Framework: How to Discern a Missional Approach in Different Contexts, (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2023)
reviewed by Revd Katrina Hutchins, Vicar of Mears Ashby and Hardwick and Sywell with Overstone
As vicar of a rural benefice, this booklet is a perfect source of missional inspiration as we seek to reimagine and re-energise our post-pandemic priorities. What is God calling us to be across our four villages and new housing developments, across the generations and with the primary schools? The Cynefin framework that Colin Smith imaginatively explores will help us to discern where we are across the things we are already doing – collectively, individually – and to identify the gaps that God is inviting us to step into with him. Some of our mission is simple, some is complicated, but much is complex. There is no ready formula or solution to these “wicked” problems and “fantastic” opportunities. As Colin writes on page 4, God is encouraging us to “remove our shoes, place our feet on hitherto unknown ground and just walk, reliant only on the leading of the Spirit and the company we find along the way.” We don’t currently have any pressing decisions or burning platforms that require us to solve a chaos with God’s help, but you might have.
If you are looking to re-invigorate the life and witness of your church and discern how God is calling you to use your God-given gifts, this is a great place to start. In the introduction, Colin uses a powerful metaphor from Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See to get his reader thinking about how, as a leader, they might be constraining God’s creative Spirit. Where are we, as a Church, being held back by existing and new models of mission and ministry? Where is God inviting us to walk out into the unknown with him and have a go? It is a highly energising idea. Perfect if your church needs a refresh after the constraints and challenges of the Covid-19 years.
Chapter 4 provides a template for a mission-discerning workshop. I can see myself using this in my own benefice to affirm what we are already doing, identify things that we could stop and explore the complex areas where we can take some fresh steps under the Spirit’s guiding. As part of this, I’d look to see who God is inviting to join these creative ventures – which church members have the gifts and/or the heart to go on an uncharted walk. Learning by doing feels so right at this stage of the Church’s life and evolution, as we seek to be “Simpler, Humbler and Bolder”.
Do take a look at this Grove booklet. And may the Spirit give you the courage and creativity to step out into the unknown. It is a place full of possibilities!