Don't forget joy and laughter in discipleship!

Monday, 25 February, 2013

Messy Church founder Lucy Moore, in her latest interview with Fresh Expressions, emphasises the importance of joy and laughter in the journey of discipleship.

Watch or read the full interview below.

Hundreds of Messy Churches have been formed in the UK, and across the world, since the first one launched in Cowplain, Hampshire, nine years ago. Lucy says the question is increasingly being asked, 'Now what? Is Messy Church really making disciples?'

She comments,

This is a really interesting and difficult question to answer.

Messy Church congregations are starting from a different place than many who would normally be coming into some sort of discipleship process, comprising a different set of people with a different set of expectations and perhaps prejudices.

So what we've found really helpful is to think about discipleship as a process or a journey. Instead of simply asking if people have become disciples or Christians in Messy Church, we prefer to ask, 'Are they becoming disciples; are they becoming Christians?' The answer is, 'Yes, hugely,' but they are just starting from a long way back in many cases.

The result is that Messy Church is currently reassessing what discipleship involves in the way of learning.

It's not just cerebral learning, intellectual learning,

adds Lucy,

but it's also valuing the non-formal learning and the social learning which are hugely powerful in Messy Church and a crucial part of discipleship - whole life discipleship, not just head discipleship.

This is a long haul and it's why Messy Churches are there as church, not as events. They're there month by month by month over a period of years, carrying people through on their Christian journey and accepting that this is a very gradual process for them.

The challenge for those leading a Messy Church is to offer as many chances to encounter God as possible in the limited time span available.

I wouldn't want to undervalue what goes on through joy and fun and play in Messy Churches. I think that's actually very deep in many ways but it is probably undervalued when it comes to discipleship. We (the church) tend to value the quiet, solemn, mysterious, things and undervalue the joy and laughter and re-creation that goes on.

Lucy says Messy Church has considered devising a discipleship course but the feeling at the moment is,

Not yet. If ever. If we start prescribing what discipleship should be rather than allowing people to think it through for themselves, to allow each church to discover a way that's right for those people, those families, those teams; I think we could be missing out on something exciting that God's got on offer for us. So maybe the time will come for a course, I don't think it's yet.

Paul Moore's book, Making Disciples in Messy Church – Growing faith in an all-age community, is published in March. Lucy comments,

I hope it will help people to think through the principles of it all rather than giving them ready made answers and I think that could be the catalyst that could send us off in exciting new directions as each church attempts - and fails and succeeds - with its own Messy Church. It will make progress but there will be a lot of failures along the way because this is new, this is pioneering stuff and it's not been done before. How do you grow atheists into disciples in this context as families, all ages, together? As far as I know it's not been done in quite that way before so it will be exciting to see what God's got up his sleeve for us in the next few years!


Messy Church founder Lucy Moore, in her latest interview with Fresh Expressions, emphasises the importance of joy and laughter in the journey of discipleship.

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Transcript

Lucy Moore: Well Messy Church has been running for about eight and a half years now which is about the same time as Fresh Expressions and one of the things that's coming up a lot at the moment is the question of what do we do next. We've got people coming, now what? Which if you're looking at fresh expressions or Messy Church from the outside is perhaps a little bit more critical and it... and we get the question 'but is it making disciples?' And we're finding that this is a really interesting and difficult question to answer. We thought that it didn't really need answering because the church has been doing discipleship for so many years, so many thousands of years, but the interesting thing is I think with Messy Church congregations that it's a different set of people with a different set of expectations and perhaps prejudices who are starting from a different place from many people who would normally be coming into some sort of discipleship process. So what we've found really helpful is to think about discipleship as a process, a journey, rather than just saying have people become disciples, have they become Christians in Messy Church. To say are they becoming Christians, are they becoming disciples in Messy Church. To which the answer is yes, hugely. But they're just starting from a long way back in many cases. And what we're finding as well is that it's making us reassess what discipleship involves in the way of learning and valuing different sorts of learning, not just cerebral learning, intellectual learning, but valuing the non-formal learning and the social learning which are hugely powerful in Messy Church and a crucial part of discipleship that's whole-life discipleship, not just head-discipleship.

This is a long haul, and that's why it's so great when Messy Churches are there as church, not as events. When they're there month by month by month over a period of years, carrying people through on their Christian journey and accepting that this is a very gradual process for many many people. God does work in miraculous ways but for most of us that miracle happens over a long period of people learning to trust the Church, learning to enjoy themselves in church, learning to trust the Christians and for many of us it's a matter of saying OK, well we will work with making Messy Church as rich an experience as we can with as many chances to encounter God as possible in that actual two hours that we've got people there. For some it's a case of putting on extra things, an extra service or an extra meeting of some sort, to take people 'deeper' in inverted commas, though I wouldn't want to undervalue what goes on through joy and fun and play in Messy Churches, I think that's actually very deep in many ways, but it's probably undervalued when it comes to discipleship. We tend to value the quiet, solemn, mysterious things and undervalue the joy and laughter and recreation - re-creation - that goes on.

Something about growing both congregations and teams is very interesting and we're hearing an awful lot about teams of Christians who've been Christians all their lives but suddenly come to life when they're given a job to do in Messy Church. They're given a mission and a ministry of their own and of course God uses that to grow them. And something about re-igniting a love of faith in homes and giving families the inspiration and resources to actually be church in their own homes. We're seeing that happening very slowly, very gently through Messy Churches up and down the country. And that's exciting, that's revolutionary and could have huge far-reaching effects.

We have wondered about devising a course for Messy Church discipleship but something in us is saying not yet, if ever. It feels as if this principle of trying out things that are right for your community is something that exists into the discipleship question as well as just putting on a Messy Church and if we start prescribing what discipleship should be rather than allowing people to think it through for themselves, to allow each church to find its own way to a certain extent, in a way that's right for those people, those families, those teams, I think we could be missing out on something exciting that God's got on offer for us. So maybe the time will come for a course, I don't think it's yet, I'm hoping that Paul's book that comes out in March 2013 will help people to think through the principles of it all rather than giving them ready-made answers and I think that could be the catalyst that will send us off in exciting new directions as each church attempts - and fails, and succeeds - in different directions with its own Messy Church. I think we'll make progress but there will be a lot of failures on the way because this is new, this is pioneering stuff and its not been done before. How do you grow atheists into disciples in this context as families, all ages together? As far as I know it's not been done quite that way before so it'll be exciting to see what God's got up his sleeve for us in the next few years I think!

Comments

Written with clarity and conviction, Making Disciples in Messy Church is a timely and helpful book for a movement that is deeply serious about discipleship. Drawing on biblical, monastic and catechetical approaches, the book contains much wisdom and inspiration for those seeking to make disciples in all forms of church, not just the phenomenon that is Messy Church. The affirmation of the places of family and community in discipleship formation is especially welcome.
Andrew Roberts Director of Training, Fresh Expressions

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