Changing the Landscape 2011 - St George's, Deal

Friday, 6 May, 2011

Shiela Porter and Chris Spencer discuss St George's, Deal with Karen Carter.

Duration: 9:38   | Download Download video (flv) | Download Download video (wmv) | View on YouTube


Interviewer: Another great example there of the countless local enterprise as a vision we've just been hearing about and, yeah, helping people to see what they haven't seen before. Maybe just to set this up I would like to apologise from the start as Shiela and I have just discovered we're both from Liverpool, so we set each other off with our accent, [Liverpool accent] so we could end up talking like that, you know, so anyway there you go.

Shiela Porter: You can take the girl out of Liverpool…

Interviewer: …but you'll never take Liverpool out of the girl, that's right. Shiela, to you first, so we've got the biggest auditorium in Deal with St George's, and you had to reorder, you couldn't go anywhere else, so you closed down the building. Now that all seems a little bit drastic. Can you just give us a little background to that.

Shiela Porter: Ok. I mean I think just to take us back very quickly to a comment that was made there on the DVD, that we felt God had called us four years before to begin to shape a church that could carry on growing not dependent on the size of the building, not dependent on professional leadership, and so actually this was about longer... what's very easy isn't it when you get a kind of ten minute interview, to think yeah this is a quick fix, but we're talking about the long haul here in a sense. So for four years previously we'd been kind of working at this vision, we'd got a couple of clusters - missional communities - up and running, but what we recognised was it was still seen as something for those kind of enthusiastic evangelistic over-the-hill types, still on the edge of the church, and we weren't really getting that culture of mission into the whole church. And we knew actually, we began to see that the only way this was going to happen was by having no building. So this gave us the perfect opportunity, when we had this opportunity to refurbish, to go out and rather than just going out and meeting in another venue which we couldn't anyway because there wasn't anywhere big enough, to actually launch the whole church into missional communities. And we had six months, so it was kind of seat of your pants kind of stuff really, from when we made the decision to go down this route to actually getting our first test run where everybody went out on one day, so it was quite a short timespan really.

Interviewer: Fantastic, fantastic. As you say, seat of the pants just to keep things going. But Chris I'll just come to you, thinking about sort of this releasing of missional imagination, tell me a little but just about the leadership setup, and we talk about clusters, maybe people aren't overly familiar with that.

Chris Spencer: Yeah, what we're seeking to create with what we now try to call missional communities, because we think it's a better name describing what they are than cluster because cluster's are kind of gathering people in and actually the whole intent of this is sending people out, and we're looking to create medium-sized communities, say between well 20 and 50 sort of size, kind of extended family size groups of people. So we're actually shaping our church in three sizes. We've got the missional community, we've got small groups, cell groups within that, and then we gather together as a whole church for celebration, that's the sort of structure we're working on. And in terms of the leadership, we have a leadership team of five overseeing the whole church, and then each missional community has a lay leadership team of between three and six, that sort of size. And they are responsible for pursuing their vision for mission in their community in whatever way is appropriate for them. So we seek to keep in relationship with them, to meet with them as teams on their own and then gathering everybody together we do a learning community twice a year where we get them all together and try and address ok, what is it that God's calling us to do, how's it going, where would we like to be, what we got to do know.

Interviewer: Fantastic, thank you. And if we're thinking about the church beginning where Jesus is with others, how about this vision for the specific clusters, how did that emerge here?

Shiela Porter: Well when we knew we were going to be going out of the building we realised we had a bit of work to do and as I say we'd already been casting this vision for quite some time. But we really kind of laid this out before the whole church and asked people to pray and just pray about the networks they were already part of, the people they were already connected with, the things they enjoyed doing, or people they just felt that maybe God was laying on their hearts to witness to, to love, to serve. And so we just kind of asked people to go away and pray really and we continued the whole process of prayer for a while, and it was a bit of a nail-biting time because in a sense we needed people to come back because we were already moving down this route of closing the building. But thankfully people did begin to come one by one forwards and we just gave them a platform in front of the whole church to share what God might be laying upon their hearts, and then we found from that other people beginning to buy into that and people gathering around these mission visions, so slowly slowly the whole thing began to kind of form. Until the time when we went out on our first test run. And when we did that, I think the week before I remember every... we prayed and everybody was really nervous because we had these leadership teams that were doing things that they've never done before, they'd found their own venues appropriate to the mission vision and they'd decided what they were doing. But the fantastic thing was the next week when they came back, it was just kind of like Luke 10 stuff, you know, with people coming back and realising that yes, God was already there where they'd been, they could see God's hand upon what they were doing and they came back really excited. So that was the beginning of the whole thing really.

Interviewer: That's great. So things are moving, you know, but what about multiplying leaders and raising up indigenous leaders?

Chris Spencer: I think in terms of when we kind of sent out the missional communities first off it was really a question of watching to see who were the people who were coming up with vision. And then those who were standing alongside them as vision holders. So it was a question of kind of watching what was going on. Now some of those people had been in leadership positions in other ways in the church, some of them weren't. And interestingly I think the ones who hadn't been were probably the ones who generated the best missional communities, mostly because they gathered everyone and said oh help, what are we going to do now! And everybody kind of got on board with it. In terms of going on raising up leaders, it's a challenge. And it needs to be a very relational thing, actually meeting with people, sharing with them, standing alongside them in what they're doing, asking questions about what it is. And slowly slowly we've begun to see people taking responsibility, exercising gifts and growing into leadership. For instance we've got one lady who ran a nursery in one end of town and there was a group that had a vision for reaching families at that end of town, and Paula had never led anything in the church before, but actually seeing a vision for families which was her thing in her end of town, she joined in with one or two other people and formed the leadership team for one of our missional communities which is called Connect and which is still working in that end of town.

Interviewer: Fantastic. Looking ahead, Shiela, the thing about this releasing of vision as a continuous process, and it goes on, what is there then in the way of any sort of long-term accountability?

Shiela Porter: Ok. I think in terms of sustainability this is a model that is really strong in terms of sustainability, because we've got the kind of the bigger church if you like and these missional communities going out, being dispersed, but they've got the bigger thing that they can come back to, and that gives them accountability as well. And for instance when we have our learning communities twice a year, it enables people to process what's happening in terms of their experiences and what is going on, they can talk things through with us and we meet with them regularly as leaders, so we've got that accountability but I think in terms of sustainability it's really important because we're not creating independent communities here, and in fact the whole point of this in a sense is to make something that is lightweight for those who are lay people with busy lives and they need to be released into mission without all the stuff that they don't need to do that we can hold at the centre.

Interviewer: That's great. And just to finish off Chris, it's fantastic, it's all very encouraging, but you know this sort of setup, can it become real church, with the clusters and...

Chris Spencer: I think I go back to Robert Warren's work, which I think is seminal and prophetic, where he described as church as a community of faith taking action. So if that's what you define it as, that's very definitely what this is. But it's very messy, but I think that probably is the reality of church.

Interviewer: Thank you ever so much.


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