What are we becoming?

I have a comfort zone and I’m in it right now. I’m sat in front of a screen, writing, in an empty house. This is comfortable for me, I am alone with my own thoughts. Paradoxically, I actually prefer to spend a lot of time outside my comfort zone. I actually get a little bored being comfortable, a little complacent and no more so than when in comes to church.

Before Lockdown started I used to joke with my wife, Karen, about Sunday worship meetings being like a club meeting. We all turned up, watched the show, said our piece, chatted with fellow club members and went home until the following week. People got upset if there was a change to the schedule, it interfered with their comfort. I include myself in this. I had my “traditions” for a Sunday morning. I liked to get there early and speck to everyone. I didn’t enjoy sung worship so instead I would stand in the foyer, greeting late comers and making sure no children escaped. Then I’d return for the notices and sit quietly, half listening to the sermon and then escape quickly afterwards. I was a part of all the outreach, I love talking to people but Sunday morning was about greeting people and the sermon (if it connected with me).

Then Covid 19 hit and we went into lockdown. I found myself leading one of the daily morning prayer meetings, week in, week out. Now prayer, I would have told you if you asked, is not my thing. I feel uncomfortable with many people’s prayer styles and I struggle to find words in public prayer meetings. I have complicated feelings about asking for things in prayer, healing particularly and I would have been my last choice to lead a regular prayer meeting.

For the last thirty weeks I have spent time in prayer and contemplation before hand and have brought something different to each week as a way of focussing prayer. I have prayed for people, for healing (in my own odd way), for jobs, for peace, for my community and peoples’ mental health as we struggled through this odd world. This is not where I saw myself this time last year.

I was asked to do some of the family and children’s talks for the on-line Sunday service. I’ve always avoided children’s work because it felt uncomfortable, that comfort zone again, but it needed doing so I stepped out of my comfort zone and did it. I sat down with Cornelius, my parrot puppet, and we talked together about various Bible stories, this last week we discussed together the story of Martha and Mary and the importance of the Marthas of this world who got on and did the practical stuff that we all need. Again I’ve tried new things, in my own way, to keep it interesting and engaging and stretching beyond that black and white reading of a story.

Me and Cornelius discussing the finer points of the story of Martha and Mary.

We are becoming a new thing but that new thing looks back to an old thing in many ways. Reading Acts and Letters we see that Church was the people and Temple or each others homes was where they met. I have been much reminded over the last few months that when the word Church is used in the New Testament it is often a translation of the Greek word “Ekklesia” which simply means gathering. It is a word very dependent on the context within which it is used. So we can be ekklesia on-line, we can be ekklesia in a coffee shop or a field, we can be ekklesia in our living rooms, we can be ekklesia anywhere two or more of us gather together with purpose. “The New Monasticism” seems to be a key phrase doing the rounds in a lot of places and it’s not about becoming monks and having funny haircuts. It’s reflecting on the way the place of prayer and worship fed into it’s community

So we have to ask ourselves, whatever we do, is it God’s will or ours? Is God using our current situation to adjust our understanding? God loves us to gather together and to worship, He loves a joyful noise, but we were called for more than that. It says in 1Peter 2 that we were called to be a priestly people. It says time and again in the New Testament that we are called to be one people, brothers and sisters and we are called to preach and share the Gospel. Our Sunday services, in whatever form they take, have two purposes beyond worshipping God. One is to remind us that we are all connected as part of the body of Christ. The other is to build us up to answer the calling God has placed on our life.

Church is not the building we meet in. That is a blessing that enables us to meet with ease and should be a tool that enables us to answer our calling but it shouldn’t dominate our thinking. If a group want to meet in a local pub for a Bible study or discussion group or a parent and baby group want to meet in Costa for prayer and a chat or a group want to meet and dance in the local park, that is church.

I hope the new thing we are becoming will be able to encompass all these things and more, Zoom prayer groups and book groups, on-line choirs, socially distanced meditative prayer, worship through art. There is space for all this and more, wherever two or three gather together, when God is at the centre. We don’t have to go back to the way we did things before. It worked for a season but now we are into a new season and we need to make space for change.

I pray God’s blessing on you all as we struggle through these odd times.

Pete

The write stuff

Just as we were getting used to the idea of possibly meeting together again, infection tates increase and tougher lockdown measures are coming back into place. Some among us may not feel comfortable with the idea of meeting together because of underlying health issues of our own or someone we live with. Maintaining connection is about to become harder again.

Many years ago I worked in a call centre. They are soulless places and leave most people who work in them with an intense dislike of phones. Phones, for many people, are a great way to stay in touch but, to be honest, I don’t like phones. My hearing isn’t the best and I struggle to hear people, I can’t see their faces so I’m missing so much of what is being said, conversation is stilted because there are no visual clues to pick up on. I struggle with phones.

With that in mind I was praying and reading the Bible looking for some insight, some word from God and I opened my Bible to this from Jeremiah 6:16

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

And I focussed and meditated on that scripture for a time.

Yesterday was my day off and, as often happens, I found myself in a bookshop where I came across a book called “Letters of Note” and I felt God nudge me. “Letters of Note” is a book of letters, written by scientists and artists and politicians and all sorts of people, often imparting some wisdom or insight into a specific area. I make it sound dry but it is a fabulous book. Flicking through it I was struck by what a wonderful form of communication the letter is. It is wonderfully personal. Handwriting has such personality and can tell you so much. It is a slow and thoughtful way of communicating, time is taken putting a letter together. Emails are fired off in an instance, a snap reply to a single instance. A letter travels by snail mail and holds so much more thought and intention that it seems to me to be far more personal. It can include sketches and diagrams and pressed flowers and glitter. It can feature prayers and song lyrics and lines from poems and recipes and book recommendations and shared photos and memories and all in a physical, tactile form that can be held in the hand and connect you with the sender.

This was a favourite, a letter from Raymond Chandler, writer of hard-boiled detective fiction, about his cat

So I’ve been thinking.

Wesley’s letter to William Wilberforce

Maybe we need to get back to letter writing, particularly to connect with those for whom leaving the house is going to become even more of a problem. If you are or you know someone in the church who is housebound, write a letter to someone else, start up a pen pal relationship with someone, even if they live at the end of your road. If you would like to receive letters then let me know. I will write to you or connect with someone who will write letters. Let’s take this opportunity to connect with people in a way that is deeper and more meaningful. Let’s put or thoughts into words on paper. Maybe even go crazy and by a nice fountain pen and writing paper.

A letter from Bob Dylan supporting John Lennon and Yoko Ono

So I’m off now to write to a couple of people I have addresses for and know would appreciate a letter. If you want to write to me I will write back but let’s make this a meaningful way we stay in touch.

Blessings

Pete Bangs

The Tree of Mental Health

So I’ve just attended the first of a series of three webinars on Mental Health and Ministry. There was a lot to it that was excellent but my major takeaway from the morning is this. We are all trees.

Metaphorically speaking of course. The point was that we all lay down roots and if those roots are deep enough and properly cared for they will support us through life’s storms. And that seems obvious enough. But the point was made that we need to care for our roots during summer sunshine because if we don’t they get weak and dried out and they shrivel and don’t hold the ground so tightly, and then come a storm we end up like this…

Blown over and uprooted.

Now obviously we are not trees but we do have things that keep us rooted, grounded, in touch with our best selves, so that when storms come we have something to hold to.

we treat mental health support like a bandage, we put it on an injury. We provide CBT to someone after they have a massive anxiety attack or provide anti-depressants to someone with extreme depression.

I had a bit of a breakdown at the end of last year. According to the doctor it was a combination of anxiety and depression but there were days when I could not get out of bed, there were days when if the phone rang or there was a knock at the door I would literally hide behind the sofa until whoever it was went away, there were days when I struggled to string enough words together to say “good night”. to an extent I saw it coming. It was like being on a runaway bus, I could see what was happening but was too far down the road to affect it. I couldn’t stop it. To go back to the tree metaphor, the storm had hit and my roots weren’t deep enough to hold me upright.

So what are our roots? It can be hard to tell. Many people will tell you their family keep them rooted and make them happy, but family can be a major cause of stress too, something we often consciously deny. That’s not to say that family cannot root us, it’s just that if we want to be grounded by our family then we need to make sure we cultivate our family so that they have the strength to hold us in place when the storm hits.

Easier roots are all the things recommended in general information about self care. Quiet time reading or having a relaxing bath, countryside walks scented candles, curling up on the sofa with a cat and some relaxing music. All of these can help keep you are mentally healthy track if they become part of a regular part of your daily life. Going one step further, and making bigger, stronger roots, you can do things like make art, journaling, wood working, communing with friends, volunteering for charities, things that put you in touch with the best you. The third level of self care centres around spirituality and beliefs. everyone has some sort of belief system. It may be a spiritual one or a humanist or philosophical one but it is a belief system. Your beliefs and spirituality have the potential for the deepest roots. They go to the core of what makes you the best version of you. I think the key to any belief system as self care is that it makes you part of something bigger than just you. The weight of the world no longer rests on your shoulders alone. Whether you are Buddhist, Humanist, Christian or whatever you are part of a community looking to make the world your version of better. Connection is key to self care. Whether it is a connection to other people, the land or God, connection takes some of the pressure off of you and that attachment to community and whatever your belief is built around gives you strong roots.

My roots are built around many things. For a quick fix then forest bathing is the way to go. A walk in the woods will sooth my troubled mind fairly quickly and it’s something I try to do at least once a week. for a stronger remedy there’s art. Creating something raises my spirits, even if it’s rubbish, and It’s something I try to do regularly, whether drawing, painting, writing or some other form of craft. Thirdly and most deeply I try to stay rooted in my faith. My belief that God loves me, that something infinitely bigger than me sees value in me is something that keeps me rooted and, to swap metaphors for a moment, is a lifeline when I slip to far down the dark road and into the pit.

It is important to talk about mental health and my own issues, though mild by comparison to many others, give me a way to illustrate what I’m talking about. It’s also a way of showing anyone reading this who is struggling that they are not alone.

Looking after yourself may not stop you having mental health issues but hopefully it might lessen them or lessen the frequency of problems. ANd always remember “it’s good to talk”.

Prayer. What is it all about.

Prayer is a concept common to all religions. At it’s most basic level it is simply communication with a higher power.

DIctionary.com offers this definition

noun

a devout petition to God or an object of worship.

a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.

the act or practice of praying to God or an object of worship.

a formula or sequence of words used in or appointed for praying: the Lord’s Prayer.

So in most religions it is a way of petitioning the higher power for support in some way and in Christianity that has often been the case. Beyond that though, in Christianity at least, it is a way of having a conversation with God.

The strange thing about Christianity is that, unlike many religions, God did not choose to position himself at the top of a hierarchy but instead looked to human beings as companions. He created people to be in relationship with them and the Bible can be read as having an over arching story about God trying to rebuild that relationship he had with us at the start. There are lots of sub plots but the main story is about God wanting a relationship with us, up to and including sacrificing his own son to free us from Sin.

If that is the case then it has to affect how we pray. We can follow formulas if we want to request God to intervene in a matter. Structure can help make those requests clear in our own mind and have enormous value for us in those circumstances. However, in the same way that you wouldn’t only talk to your best friend when you want something, you can turn to God for other things, to share worries or good news or just talk about your day in a time of isolation. In those circumstances your way of talking, of praying can change. It can become more informal, more conversational.

My favourite prayer goes like this

Dear God

Amen

If God knows what is in your heart (and he does) then the words that you say may be more about you than him. When I first became a Christian and prayed publicly my prayers were short and to the point. Sometimes they were as simple as “what are we doing today?” Other times they were a verbal equivalent of the scribble as frustration robbed me of coherence. As I prayed publicly I began to consider the needs of others too. Some people appreciated structure and frequently invoking the Lord’s name was part of how they had learned to pray. Others required a time of silence, to listen for God. And some were new to prayer and God and Church and were feeling their way and one day their prayer could sound like the curses of an Old Testament Prophet and the next show the simplicity of a child.

As time went on I met people who prayed through dance, through painting, through doodling and in so many other ways. Prayer doesn’t have to be about words any more than worship needs to be about song (but that’s another story).

Jesus said we should shut ourselves alone in a room to pray but prayer fulfils another function too. It let’s us know we are not alone. We have faith that God is there and listening even when we cannot discern him but when a brother or sister prays with us or for us we know we are not alone. That is the value of corporate prayer. We know someone stands with us. In unity.

Prayer is a conversation of words, images or movements. However we feel best able to communicate, God understands our meaning.

Peace be with You

Pete

The Elemental Tent Consultancy

Part of my role as Missioner is to promote the Elemental Tent as a way of doing mission and evangelism. Promoting something that is essentially a fluid idea is difficult to say the least. The Elemental Tent is about a handful of core concepts that can be dressed to match the environment in which you are using it. But people want to see the dressing.

God provides though. This August’s outing for the tent and its volunteers was cancelled because of Covid 19 health concerns and shortly after the festival at Wickham was cancelled too.

It occurred to me that we could take certain elements on line to share them with a much wider audience of people who might be able to make use of it in their own locales. I needed straight forward and easy but adult friendly crafts to video and mix in with a raft of Celtic Christianity and open spirituality to give a feel for the core of the tent.

The tent is built around 4 pillars, hospitality, delivered through free drinks and cakes and sofas and conversation, crafts, craft sessions offering a variety of family friendly but not kiddy things to do, Open spirituality, demonstrated through a willingness to find a connexion with everyone and the use of Celtic Christianity and Ignation meditation techniques and acceptance that we are all created in God’s image, no matter what we may believe.

Beyond that, the tent is dressed in a manner appropriate to where it is. It’s at a music festival so the tent is decorated with wall hangings with Celtic crosses, labyrinths, and images reflecting the elements. If you were to take it to a library festival you would dress the tent differently. If you took it out to a car festival or a steam rally you would dress the tent appropriately.

The tent works best as almost guerilla evangelism. People can’t tell what you are but are drawn in by the offer of free crafts or sofas or a cup of coffee and then in conversation you learn more about each other. Where those conversations lead can be a wild journey, a heart breaking story or a restoration of faith

Visit the tent on Facebook, just search for @ElementalTent.

Please check out the 40 or so posts and videos that make up 4 days of living on-line in a virtual tent. If you think it is something your church might be able to take to a big event near you and you want to chat, I’m here and available.

The responsibility of being part of the priesthood to all believers.

When lockdown was seen to be inevitable back in March the pastors at the church I regularly attend met together to figure out how we stayed in touch with each other as a church. There was a recognition among the leadership team that the Head pastors would have a lot on their plate with the difficulties and changes that lockdown would undoubtedly bring.

It was, however, viewed as vital that the community of the church be maintained even though meeting together was impossible. Somewhere in the discussion someone realised tha virtually everyone in the congregation had a good connection with someone else. The church body had fulfilled that part of its role. Everyone was connected somewhere. Not everyone was connected directly to the leadership but they knew, if the need was great, that the leadership were aware of them and would contact them if necessary.

Mostly though we had our little groups and huddles, checking on each other, making sure people were staying safe, providing a safety line for those with health and mental health concerns. We pulled together like the early church. We recognised that, as a priesthood of all believers we had a responsibility to each other. To be honest, I valued more a check-in text from another member of the congregation who had similar depression and anxiety issues to me than a call from the lead pastor.

We were learning what “priesthood of all believers” meant in a practical way. A text or a call from the guy who sat at the back of services and struggled with much of what he heard, had no more and no less value than the same from the pastor. In the body of the church we were all equal in the eyes of the Lord.

Not everyone was happy. Some put a greater value on contact from “leadership” but in doing so they missed out on what was key to the early church. The community, the realisation that we’re all in this boat together and we can’t look to one human being, we must work together.

Last week I had a meeting with our pastor. I learned just how busy they have been over the last four months. I discovered that leadership is like an iceberg. There is so much that happens that you don’t see and would likely never know about unless it didn’t happen. I also learnt how valuable to them it is that they have a congregation that looks after each other.

It is a real blessing to be part of a priesthood of all believers. It keeps you connected to the reality of the church and stops it being something you just do on a Sunday.

Be blessed as you go about your day.

Be blessed for all you do as the body of the church.

Be blessed for all you do as part of the priesthood of all believers.

A difference of opinion

One thing you learn early on in this business is that Christians disagree about a lot of things. Life, however, is too short to list them all so I’m going to focus on one that has come to the fore for me this week. Healing.

There are many differences of opinion over the idea of God answering prayer and healing people. There are those who believe things like healing don’t happen anymore. They were just for Bible times. And there are those who believe God can and does cause miraculous healing to happen.

Its that last group I’m interested in today. Now the thing with healing is that there is no empirical proof that it happens. I believe it does but I could not prove it to someone who disagrees. There is much anecdotal evidence from eye witnesses but that can always be argued with. There is occasional scientific evidence of cancers disappearing after prayer and things like that, but that is only proof that it happened, not that God made it happen. Healing is a matter of faith. And that is good. How a cancer is healed is the province of science as far as I am concerned. The why is more important from a faith perspective. You were healed because God loves you.

And that is where the problem can set in. It is very easy for someone who has prayed and been prayed for extensively and not been healed to take away from that situation the idea their faith wasn’t strong enough. Its like a video game, you have to level up a certain number of times before you have enough faith power to get God to defeat your illness.

So what if it’s a difference of opinion between us and God. We live in a world where celebrities and sports people are looked on as the physical peak to aspire to and that cannot help but permeate into our church culture. We see something that doesn’t fit that “norm” and we can want to pray the heck out of it. But what if, at the end of all that prayer, you still have lupus, you are still a wheelchair user, you still have chronic depression or you still… Well you get the picture. What then? Why hasn’t God healed you?

Could it be that our idea of a whole person is different to God’s idea? Could it be that a person’s spiritual wholeness is more important to God than their physical wellness (I’m not saying God doesn’t care about physical wellbeing by the way). Physical healing is wonderful and inspirational when it occurs. It is a demonstration, a manifestation of God’s great power. But when he focuses on healing or growing someone spiritually, that can change worlds. If our focus is too much on healing of physical issues, we risk making those who have long term physical or mental or emotional disabilities feel like second class citizens. That is not our intention but that is an inevitable result of an ablist approach to healing.

If God’s çoncern is spiritual health however. I was listening to an old friend, Amy, speaking on a podcast. Amy was diagnosed with lupus when she was 18, it’s a chronic and debilitating illness that seeks to rule your world. She is a Christian and the daughter of church leaders and she received shed loads of prayer for her healing. Now married with two children she still has lupus but the things God has wrought in her spiritual life are incredible. I cannot do her story justice so I’ll link to the podcast at the end. God made her what she is, a powerful advocate for God’s grace and love, from a position of weakness. Because of her illness she is able to speak into the lives of others living with chronic illness and tell them God loves them how they are.

If you are spiritually and emotionally whole, if you recognise that God loves you exactly how you are then surely that is good. If Christianity is a journey of becoming more like God until we meet with God, maybe we need to let go of our anthropomorphic images of God, stop looking on him as a white, bearded old man in a long robe and take an alternative scriptural view and see Him as the pillar of cloud or the pillar of fire, and consider that the healing God wants most to bring about is spiritual because God is spirit.

Thank you for listening to the ramblings of an old man. All views expressed are entirely my own.

Interview with Amy

The Woes of the Pharisees or How some Christians can be stinky

The Bible is full of lists, my wife loves lists so trust me I know a list when I see one. From what happened on the various days of the creation to those “begetting” genealogies, to the 10 commandments and that barely scratches the surface. One I wasn’t familiar with was the Woes of The Pharisees. This is a list of problematic behaviours Jesus attributes to the majority of the Pharisees. Last night though I had a bad night, woke around 1am feeling hideous and went down stairs to read. And for whatever reason I found myself reading about the Woes of The Pharisees.


God is beyond our understanding. That’s my starting place in my life as a Christian. His thoughts are not our thoughts and his decisions do not make sense to us all the time. It’s like a two year old watching their parent use a washing machine. The two year old knows, maybe, that dirty clothes go in and clean ones come out. Only the parent has a true, more complete view of what is happening.
The Pharisees thought they knew all about the inner workings of God’s mind and focused on the minutiae of the law, often man made rather than God given laws. They thought themselves better than others and, in Jesus’s eyes, put on a show, more concerned about looking pious than living a Godly life.


Jesus’s advice to them was that unless they changed they were not destined for the kingdom of heaven. In many ways these were sinful, broken men, no different from the tax collectors Jesus spent time with so why did Jesus condemn the Pharisees but not the tax collectors? The tax collectors were hated because they were viewed as greedy collaborators working for the occupying Roman forces, the Pharisees were respected members of Jewish society.


I think it came down to their understanding of themselves. The tax collectors would have had no illusions about themselves and their position in society so when a rabbi, a teacher, chose to spend time with them they listened with respect and, at least in the story of Zacchaeus, changed their ways because what Jesus said


The Pharisees on the other hand believed they were beyond reproach. They knew their scriptures and their prayers, they made exactly the right offerings at the right times and perfectly observed the many laws that governed them. But Jesus described them as ”whitewashed tombs” beautiful on the outside but filled with dead bones. They were all but unreachable and unteachable. They were the only group that made Jesus angry.

We’ve all met someone like this.


These days we don’t have Pharisees as such but most of us know people made in that mold. Many people who don’t like church can point to a Christian with a similar spirit to the Pharisees as the core of their dislike. There are whole churches built around the core ethic of “meet our standards” if you want to belong, churches where the command “love your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself” has been edited out of their Bible. Most Christians have met other Christians like that.


These people do not represent Christ though. God can and does work miracles in the hearts and lives of those who let him in. Those who are broken often have a love shaped hole that needs filling and, as Christians, that’s where we become part of God’s work. Modern day Pharisees though, I’m not sure they can be changed by anyone other than God alone. When that happens they break and we can help God with rebuilding them. Sometimes you have to knock the old down before you can build the new up.

So that’s where your brain can end up a 1am. Trying to get thoughts down from that hour in a way that can make sense can be very difficult so I hope my ramble makes sense.


If you’ve ever felt Jesus’s call on your life but have been put off by a bad experience, please give him and the church another chance. If you walk into a church you will know what it is like by the greeting you receive. Take this strange time we are living in to take a look around at on-line services and on-line Alpha courses and blogs and YouTube videos. There are people out there who will speak of the Bible in a way that will make sense to you, you just have to look.

Elemental Tent on-line

So Wickham Festival has had to be cancelled this year and we have thought creatively about what that means for The Elemental Tent. And we’ve decided, for the period when the festival would have been happening the Elemental Tent will do the kinds of things on line that it would at the festival. It won’t be quite the same of course but we’ll have a mix of interesting crafts and open spirituality over those four days.

We will open each day around 10.30 with a coffee and a morning blessing livestreamed on our Elemental Tent Facebook Page.

The current planned time table for Thursday 5th August

That will be followed by a craft video and on Thursday that will be about how to make a zine. Don’t know what a zine is? Then you’ll need to join us but it’s a great craft idea for all ages.

There will then be a midday Celtic Prayer and an opportunity to try out a one to one Jesus Deck reading on Zoom. We’ve no idea how that’s going to work so anyone who signs up will be a part of an interesting experiment in long distance spirituality.

We’ll have a couple of music videos in the afternoon featuring some of the less well known acts that would have been at the festival and are now signed up for next year.

Also in the afternoon we’ll be experimenting with various types of Christian meditations.

There will be another craft, a drawing tutorial on the Thursday, and an invitation to message us if you would like us to pray for you or anyone you know.

Closing out each day around 9pm will be our traditional Celtic Night Prayer where you’ll be able to just listen in or join in the responses in your own home.

There will also be a variety of downloads available to support the crafts and prayers and meditations when needed.

Do come and check us out at https://www.facebook.com/elementaltent/

And if you’re not already doing so please like and follow.

Wickham Festival

It was a sad moment last week when The Wickham Festival finally had to surrender to the current situation and cancel. Wickham is a great little festival attracting some top names in the folk (ish) world. I’m not a massive music fan myself but Wickham always has a bunch of stuff I like and this year was due to feature a musician I’ve wanted to see live for almost 40 years.

The Festival is also the tent pole for my role as missioner. We take the Elemental Tent there each year for the duration of the festival. My role is about encouraging mission and this is a great way of introducing people to mission (sharing the Gospel) in an environment where the so many have some form of spirituality and are wonderfully open to respectful conversations on the subject. For me mission, in a modern context, is about conversation. Its about sitting down over coffee, listening to someone’s troubles and offering to pray for them. Mission, in my personal definition, is like being a Gardner. You want to encourage something to grow and have roots. Evangelists are builders, looking to put down a foundation and build on it speedily. Both approaches are valid but, to me, speak of different approaches to Christianity and suggest why historically mission has been closer to my definition of evangelism.

John Stott suggested that mission should be viewed as everything the church is meant to do. He saw it as a combination of evangelism, preaching the word of God to non-believers, and living the word of God, standing for social justice, whatever that looks like. This more modern approach to mission reflects the early Church. Spending time with people, doing life with them, supporting them in the face of injustice, offering them an insight into another world and being willing to be their guide through it. The early Church lived in the midst of communities, when it was able, sharing, supporting and helping. The Elemental Tent worked on that basis. The tent was part of the festival from start of day to end of day, welcoming visitors, giving an oasis of peace with no expectation of even listening to our Christian faith. People ask though, why are you doing this? Why is it free? What’s it about?

Conversation is where mission starts in this context. It’s not about “turn or burn”, it’s not about “have you accepted Jesus as your personal saviour”. Most people are okay with the person of Jesus, it’s Christians they have a problem with. The first job of mission like this is for Christians to show they are flawed human beings who try not to judge and don’t have everything sorted. It’s about presenting a true picture of who we are because people won’t talk to you about more than the weather if you are not authentic.

Social justice is a much misunderstood term in my opinion. It has been tagged as this left wing, hippy, often violent objection to something society has been happy doing and ignoring the consequences. Social Justice Warrior is flung around like an insult. I have to wonder why anyone would be against social justice, particularly people of faith. Social justice can, however, be as simple as being the first person to actually listen to another’s complaint. Social justice can be sitting with someone in their moment of grief rather than let them sit alone. It’s about our reactions and the actions that follow on.

So that’s The Elemental Tent approach to mission, serve, listen and share when when you can.