‘Dressing up’ new stories

From the archive.
Andrews A seminar at the cell church conference
(Photo: Andrew Jones/CMS)

Andrew Jones was inspired to 'day dream' and imagine new and unusual forms of sharing Jesus by the stories he heard at a recent cell-church conference.

Last week I attended a fantastic cell-church conference in Harpenden. I didn't have high expectations, to be honest, but found myself pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of discussion and the superb line-up of speakers.

The omnipresent Laurence Singlehurst was the generous host who managed to keep things ticking along, despite an unfortunate power outage that knocked out electricity and, more consequentially for me, the Wi Fi Internet signal.

So, finding myself inconveniently disconnected from the outside world, I was forced to give more attention to the conference – and I am glad I did.

The stories of what God was doing were great: stories of youth cells and various small groups and mission projects. I found my mind whizzing with all kinds of ideas and possibilities.

There was one story in particular that sparked my imagination.

Captain David Robertson was sharing about the Salvation Army's various cell-church ministries and he described an 'alt. worship' service each Wednesday morning at one of their charity shops.

I asked the obvious question: 'Did those who attended all dress up in vintage clothing from the shelves?'

'Not at all!' was the answer. In fact, the service is quite traditional: a talk, some sharing and prayer at the end.

However, I found myself day-dreaming about services employing the often strange objects to be found in a Salvation Army charity store. Ohhh, the possibilities! Plenty of costumes in which to act out bible stories and shelves filled with glasses and mugs for communion, games for children, Bibles and old books to reference for the teaching. Now that's a missional cell I would join!

But back to the conference, I kept telling myself, as my mind considered a movement of missional cells inside hundreds of thrift stores across the country, each one more interesting than the next, depending entirely on what strange objects lingered on their shelves on any given Wednesday – old, rustic Bibles and songs from Sankey's hymn-books perhaps.

Bring in your own hymn-book? Uh, uh, uh! That's cheating!

Other speakers also got me thinking, which is dangerous.

James Featherby, who is a partner in a law firm, spoke of a growing network of London's business entrepreneurs. He prefers the word 'bands' to 'cells' and he likes to talk of 'change' rather than 'transformation', which is less chastened and creates unrealistic expectations.

He challenged us to be bold in entering secular spaces as missionaries and illustrated his challenge a few times with aspects of the story of Cameron Stout, a believer who braved the challenging environment of a 'Big Brother' TV set to win first place in the reality TV show in 2003.

The fact that Cameron became such a powerful missional example caught my attention because Cameron lives very close to me in Orkney. Maybe I should have invited him down to the conference to tell his story? Or maybe to a local Salvation Army charity shop? We could wear old hats and swap verses from rustic Bibles.

Phil Potter gave an excellent presentation on being 'A New Kind of Leader' and I am now stealing from my colleague Richard White's notes, which listed Phil's main points:

In order to participate with God, he used imagery to illustrate our need to move from being

1. lighthouses to rafts (from attracting to attaching);

2. diving-boards to surfboards (from restructuring to re-imagining);

3. orchestras to jazz bands (from orchestrating to improvising);

4. generals to gardeners (from controlling to cultivating);

5. spiders to starfish (from retaining to releasing).

Ben Wong, from Hong Kong, the keynote presenter, managed to bring together the various threads of the conference to issue an animated and compelling challenge 'to give ourselves away'.

He was EXCITED about God's mission being executed across the globe and felt everyone else should be too – even Brits!

I'm excited. Now to pop down to the local Salvation Army branch and see what they say about a Wednesday-morning service for lovers of everything vintage!

Published 26 July 2007

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