Twists and Turns: an introduction to missionNovember 30, 2013
[from the Scripture Union Mission Resource ‘Twists & Turns’, Beth Barnett, 2012.]
if you are a disciple, you are part of the mission of God. There is no other special fancy category of missionary or minister or evangelist needed. There are people within the mission of God who have those titles and some specific roles….but the mission of God is the everyday business of every disciple.
This means that anyone who is learning the ways of Jesus, is caught up in the mission of God, both as a giver and as a receiver. We do mission together with those to whom we are sent. ‘We’ are not a jug of gospel and ‘they’ are not an empty glass.
Rather, we all together are thirsty people and we drink from the spring of living water together. We serve each other as we do it. Some of us, have waded out into the water, a little deeper. Some of us have taken the plunge and gone in over our heads. Some of us stand with the water up to out knees and call those on the banks to join us.
That is mission.
You can see in this metaphor, that the content of the gospel is no small thing we keep in our pocket. But something that is bigger than all of us – a gushing water flow…like the river that Ezekiel is called into, ankle, knee, waist deep. Like the river that Amos calls down to roll in waves and floods of justice and righteousness.
This image of the gospel as a mighty river, with tricky currents and motion and power of its own, that sweeps us along, transforms us and overwhelms us, is a good one to remember when we feel burdened by the ‘effort’ of mission. Or when we are scared that we might not have what it takes. We don’t…
We don’t take it – it takes us!
Twists & Turns trusts in the power of the Word. It operates on the values that God is alive and active, present by the power of his Spirit in our midst in ways far stronger than we know, or can engineer, or can control.
And it operates on the value that encountering the Bible should be (and naturally is) more like being immersed in a river than taking a sip from a water bottle.
So the design of these resources is to provided a rich encounter with the text in ways that will leave us all thinking and wondering, impacted beyond perhaps what we can name at the time.
To evaluate such a mission will not mean asking ‘did they get the point?’ or ‘can they parrot the main theme back to us’ or ‘what did we learn?’
Many years ago I developed an evaluation frame work that asked three question of any missional happening.
– Was the theme clear?
– Did everyone participate in some way?
– Did we build positive relationships?
Looking back, over 20 years of using those questions, I think they ask about the ‘immersion’ of mission.
But I think now I want to change the first question to something like:
- ‘Was everything drenched in the ideas, vocabulary, symbols, characters and materials of the Bible?
- ‘Was the text ubiquitous’
- ‘Was the Living Word alive and active in everything, propelling our thinking and being together?’
Probably ,‘Was the theme clear’ is a concise summary of the idea, so I might stick with that question. But you can perhaps see how ‘clear theme’ might limit our imagination for how strong an experience of the Bible might be.
Are you gasping for breath?
Are you feeling overwhelmed?
Are you thinking – ‘This is will be too much for the average family on holdiays?’
I hope so.
I hope as we consider our methodology we have that ordinary family in view.
How will they experience the mission of God?
As we consider the methodology of ‘Twists and Turns’ there are a couple of things to hold on to.
Firstly, the experience of immersion is in the Spirit of God, not in our program. So it is the gospel that is overwhelming not our words and actions and programs. There ‘s a big difference.
The materials here will help you create relaxed, happy, interesting, engaging environments. As you invite children and families into those environments the first waves that splash in their faces will be the waves of fun, friendliness, care, laughter, silliness, warm invitation.
But because there is no separation between the character of your activities and the content of your message you are already on the way.
The task of mission is to be disciples and make disciples. To do life together in such a way that we all find ourselves speaking of God to one another, that our conversation turns to God, because, well, God is real and there, and is capturing our attention, wonderment and ideas about how life might go.
The Twists & Turns methodology is one which shares the gospel.
“Here – you take a swig” you say, passing the bottle of life giving water around.
We share the gospel.
This is a really helpful word.
Using these resources, in which the materials and vocabulary, the emotional engagement and the intellectual structure of the Big Story are constantly present means that many times our conversations with children and families will take a turn and we will speak directly of God for a time, then things will turn again, and we’ll be speaking of holidays and work and politics. But soon enough the conversation will turn again.
With the ubiquitous flow of Living water from the open Bible there will be many opportunities for us to speak of what we know of God, and to listen to others respectfully and encouragingly, as they too endeavour to articulate faith for themselves.
In the end, the things that ‘Mr. Enthusiastic Dad’ or ‘Shy Grade 3 Girl’ says for themselves about Jesus, are more important than thousands of our words. Our aim in conversation and activity should not so much be for us to deliver a fine speech, but to release those we meet to speak. IT is in in speaking that we often discover, surprisingly what we really think.
To prepare as a team for Twists and Turns, there are two exercises that will help limber you up for immersion in missional currents and conversation.
1) Become really familiar with the concrete things of the text. The rocks and sand and hats and camels and torches aren’t just decorations to make the text interesting or attractive. They are the text. The meaning and message in attached to them, found in their very molecules. So get to know them.
2) Practice talking about the text and about your own story of God. This might seem a little odd to do in preparation together, but it will equip you well for conversations on mission. Just sit and talk together in small groups about the test, about the materials about your own encounters with God.