There's no such thing as failsafe!

Wednesday, 18 November, 2009

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

A risk-free existence can look very attractive for a while. Although the fine line between risk-free and unbearably boring is easily crossed. But those who want risk-free should never become Christians. To follow Jesus means risking all to follow him. I was recently reminded that the Church of Scotland report 'Church Without Walls' says that the essence of church is 'People with Jesus at the centre, traveling wherever Jesus takes us.' The whole fresh expressions initiative is about allowing Jesus to take us to those whom our existing churches do not reach, and working with him, as he forms a new group of people, who are willing to go wherever he takes them. That inevitably involves risk.

All churches and congregations are 'expressions of church'. Christ is fully present wherever two or three (or 25 on a cold Autumn morning) gather in his name. But no church fully and maturely expresses Christ. Each has a capacity to mature and each needs to be complemented by others. The risky thing about inherited expressions of church is that we know how to do them, and sometimes fail to take new risks for God. The risky thing about planting a fresh expression of church is that we are only just beginning to learn how to do them, and will need to learn from our mistakes. It is hard to be part of something that does not live up to our hopes and expectations, or to discover that a venture is not as easy as it seemed to be in advance. It is painful to realise, too late, that we have made a mistake. But without some failures we will never learn a better way.

Saying, 'I wish I had known that earlier' may be exasperating, but it is a vital part of the way we learn. The disciples' journey with Jesus was full of getting things wrong and (sometimes) learning from mistakes. That is how he formed them for their mission 'to the ends of the earth' and that is the way he will form us.

There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but we will never succeed if we are not willing to try. God is faithful but there is no such thing as failsafe, in fresh expressions or any other aspect of discipleship. Whether our early attempts at planting fresh expressions work out as we hope, or not, lets stay on the learning curve together.



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