“Blowing Up the Church” means taking the message of Jesus Christ to the World
No one attending the Christian Formation Conference entitled “Blowing Up the Church” held at Camp Hardtner Saturday, March 15 really expected instruction on….. you know, “blowing up a church,” or least no one admitted their interest in such an action. What they did receive was day-long instruction, exhortations, group reflections and urging to “Blow Up the Church” by filling it with new people, eager and needy for the healing and transforming touch of Jesus Christ.
When asked about working with such a concept, keynote speaker, Sharon Ely Pearson said, “At first, I began thinking about ‘Blowing Up’ as speaking of violence and explosions, but then in talking with Joy Owensby (Diocesan Staff Support Person to the Christian Formation Commission who named and staged the Conference) and members of the Commission, my viewpoint was broadened. Blowing Up the Church was bigger—to expand the church so that it was bigger, bringing more people into the church. Blowing Up meant opening wide the doors, so that we are more welcoming and inclusive, bringing other people in who might not necessarily come to us. Blowing Up means thinking of ways to take the walls off the church, so that we can be the church in the world and stop being so insular and thinking about ‘this is who we are here.’ By Blowing Up the Church, we become committed to trying different things to take the message of Jesus to the world.”
Addressing a high percentage of the 103 that were registered for the conference, keynoter Sharon Ely Pearson began her presentation with a clever blend of statistics, anecdotal evidence and demographics to paint a picture that Christians deal with daily.
“We live in a post-Christian society,” Pearson declared. “Our society presents a much different setting for the Christian Church today, with conditions and the makeup of the populace much different than 30 or 20 or even 10 years ago.” The upshot of this is that “Today the mission field is right outside the doors of and walls of our churches, which means that we are all called to be missionaries.” Pearson said.
But missionaries must be trained, prepared for the mission field and equipped for the struggle they will face.
Pearson likened the equipping of Christians ready to step into the mission field as something akin to baking. The creation of faith in an individual is much the same as the effect that yeast has in bread. The acceptance of Jesus Christ as our savior comes first. The Holy Spirit is the yeast. A tiny part of the initial loaf, yeast starts very small, working within, acting as a change agent.
“Jesus works within the individual like yeast, slowly, steadily, bubbling up,” said Pearson. “We can’t always see this action, but we can see the result in an individual that is changed from within by the actions of the Holy Spirit: God’s grace grows within our hearts until we have a new life. This is a life that is of use to God.
The action of “Bubbling Up” continues as we become followers of Jesus and as we live out our faith. We are constantly reborn as followers of Christ.
“The creation (and enlargement) of a faith community also mimics the action of the yeast: starting small, increasingly in size gradually,” Pearson explained. Jesus himself started small, creating his inner circle (the Twelve) very slowly and carefully.
In revealing her vision for the Church that is about mission, Pearson spoke to the roles of “education” and “Christian Formation” as components of the church concerned with mission.
“Education” is taking instruction and relating it to a person’s life.
“Formation” is continually striving to ensure that everything that we do makes us better followers of Christ. We are always accompanied in this quest by the Holy Spirit. Therefore “Christian Formation” is the life-long process of growing into what God calls us to be.
We are called by Christ to be “aware” of, and supportive of Mission. To be supportive of “Mission” requires three kinds of listening: 1) to God, 2) to one another, 3) to the community that surrounds us.
Following Pearson’s keynote remarks, attendees divided into groups and addressed the following issues:
• What is the new invitation that God has given us in a changing world?
• What is God doing in my context?
• What biblical stories and images illuminate and inform my understanding of the changing context?
•How can/will/do I respond to my changing contextual realities in light of my biblical reflections and my understanding of God’s mission?
The “Blowing Up” conference was a challenge to those present and those not present, but dedicated to Mission and Evangelism, to consciously consider next steps that our congregations must take to enter the missions fields “right outside the doors and walls of our churches.”