A Christmas Carol… with a difference

In early December, Redlands CRC had the privilege of leading some community carols in Wellington Point. Normally, this means setting up in the village green, providing a few singers and a spoken message, with the music being provided by the Redlands Brass Band. Councillor Wendy Boglary does a great job pulling the community together, and 2009 saw about 300 people attend the open air event.

This year was different. The weather was closing in, and storms threatened to turn the event into a wash out. Some quick thinking from Cr Boglary and the proprietor of Hogan’s Hotel in Wellington Point switched the event to inside the actual pub. It was a great gesture from Hogans, but it posed a problem for Cr Boglary: what would the people from the church think about having Carols in a place like a pub?

…what would people think about having Carols in a place like a pub?

Cr Boglary’s message on my phone had a tentative tone, as she wondered how I would react. Truth is: I thought it was a great idea. The Hotel patrons would be an instant crowd, and being indoors, it would be easier to hold everyone’s attention, not to mention the fact that if anyone got thirsty…

In the end: the venue change was a gift from God. As I spoke to the crowd that evening, I reminded them that when Jesus was born, it happened in the stable of an inn. These circumstances tell us that God came to everyday people, and that he did not wait for them to get their act together, or to become holy. Jesus’ birth tells us that God came to reconcile us to himself through his son.

God, himself, is missional. He sends himself into his rebellious world, enters people’s lives, meets them as and where they are, to bring those people back to him. This is missional grace par excellence.

This is not only an emphasis we see in the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Jesus’ ministry and mission shows him going out to those on the fringe. Tax collectors. Sinners. Prostitutes. Foreigners. Outcasts. He did not wait for them to come to him. He went to them. They did not have to go to some religious place to ‘become holy’, rather as Jesus’ rule invaded their lives they expressed the holiness of his Kingdom. They we changed as they came under his rule.

I think this demands a rethink of typical outreach strategies today. Many strategies revolve around bringing people into the church: from ‘out there’ to ‘in here’. While event driven attractional mission is the strategy of choice for many today, it was not the strategy of choice in the New Testament.

It was a delightfully incarnational move.

So the carols were held in Hogans Hotel. It was a delightfully incarnational move. We connected with people who would not have met us in the village green, and most certainly would not have (and did not) meet at our Christmas Day service. Even so, it was a great night, the Gospel was spoken, the crowd were attentive, and they all loved it. It was a kingdom win.

The challenge for us is to perpetuate this outward movement, this move into the world. We need to find ways to undertake God’s mission today in a way that takes the Gospel to people and bring the Kingdom of Jesus into their lives.

Q: how do you think churches can enter their world with the good news of Jesus? Where would you start? How are you doing this at present? Please leave a comment and tell us.

Grace and peace: Dave

Why start a dedicated Men’s Ministry

I am keen to tell you about the new men’s meeting which will be starting at Redlands CRC in February 2011.

There are important reasons why this is a great step for our church.

Men need a place to talk

    Men need a place where they can talk with one another about life¸ and build good relationships. Women seem to do this more easily: whether it’s over a latte or a chat on the phone, women are way better at talking about family, relationships, struggles and joys. We can call this stuff ‘in here’ because it comes from the heart. In contrast, when men get together, the discussion revolves around work, or the kids, or the traffic, the government, of the footy. We easily talk about stuff ‘out there’ and we’re not too good at talking about the ‘in here’ and ‘from the heart’ stuff. Men need a place where it’s OK, and normal, to talk more about the ‘in here’ stuff.

    Photo credit: iStockphtoto: asiseeit

    Men need to see good communication modelled

      I guess we all know how hard it is for men to talk about the ‘in here’ and ‘heart’ stuff. The problem is that like old dogs, it’s hard to teach grown men new tricks. Especially ones that involve communicating in new ways. This is why this new context for men needs to model how good communication is done. We will do this by giving men the chance to observe men relating in healthy ways. We plan to have some interview style open dialogue between two men who will talk about their story, their interest and their battle. They will be talking about this ‘from the heart’ and not only from the head. The idea is that as men observe other men in open and engaging conversation, they will be encouraged to do the same. Some group discussion will encourage those present to wrestle through the issues.

      God wants his church filled with great men!

        The Bible has some very clear teaching about men. They are to live and lead in the likeness of Jesus, putting the needs of others above their own (Eph 5:23, see 5:1,2; Phil 2:1-5). Their strength is one which imitates Jesus, and not one which exasperates or seeks to dominate others (Eph 6:4). They are to be men of integrity, grace and humility (see James 3:13; 1 Pet 5:5). When the Bible says this is so clearly, you have to wonder why there are not more contexts where men can encourage each other to live this way.

        I’ll work through a few more reasons next time, but for now, men, pray that this new venture will be blessed, and make a commitment to be part of it. There’s nothing better than brothers getting together in unity (Ps 133).

        If you have questions: be sure to ask me

        Grace and peace: Dave