Not just for Christmas

Monday, 15 November, 2010

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

A long term aim of any fresh expression of church must be to engage people with the story of what God has done in Christ. Christians are not just people who know the story, they are people who have a place in the story. Because of what Christ has done they have become members of God's family, with their part to play in Christ, as the story works itself out in human history until Christ comes again. Many non-churched people have minimal knowledge of the story and very little understanding of the Christian origins of the public holidays they enjoy. For many younger people, in particular, the 'chain of memory' by which knowledge of the faith is passed from one generation to another, is very thin. For some de-churched people, or once a year churchgoers, it is the public festivals, particularly Christmas which form their strongest connection to Christian faith.

So fresh expressions need to take the opportunity of Christmas to help people to a deeper understanding of God's gift in Christ. But as God's story is for life and not just for Christmas, I want to commend the pattern of the Church's year to everyone who is planting a fresh expression of church, not just those from denominations which use a liturgical calendar. As people begin to attend a fresh expression of church they need to learn how the story of God in Christ fits together, not just to learn it in individual chunks. You can't find your place in a 'chunk' but you can find it in a story line. There is plenty of room in a year to address other things, but take the chance to celebrate the key moments in the story of our salvation, help people to reconnect the faith with everyday life, by reconnecting it to key public holidays. The annual calendar of our rather secular society is still a gift for mission.

Fresh expressions of church come into being through discernment and incarnational or contextual mission. 'The Church's Year' may not sound very contextual, but the whole point of incarnational mission is to take the message of the incarnation and to live and share it through the life of the church so that people discover it as their story to. I am not suggesting cutting and pasting traditional church practices into a fresh expression. You don't have to copy the way in which traditional churches follow the year – with special colours etc. You can work out your own way for your context. But what better way to share the good news of this story than by following it month by month, in a way which involves you in it, gives you a feel for it and invites you to find the place that God has prepared for you in it?.

We dare not underestimate how little people know about the joined up story of our faith. Tell the story again this Christmas, but remember the story is for life not just for Christmas.



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