First reading: Acts 1:6-14
Psalm: Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
Second reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Gospel: John 17:1-11
Jesus prays for his friends
Prayer for Ascension Day (23 May 2020)
Eternal God, the king of glory,
you have exalted your only Son
with great triumph to be Lord of all;
leave us not comfortless
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
that we may labour for the coming of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Spirit,
one God now and for ever. Amen
We pray for comfort and peace for people everywhere who are sick, lonely, distressed, struggling financially or in other ways during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We pray for all our church family while in shutdown and isolation, especially remembering those living alone and those with health concerns.
World Council of Churches – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
usually between the Day of Ascension (23/5/20) and Day of Pentecost (31/5/20) in the southern hemisphere
Prayer for Unity
“My prayer for all of them is that they will be one….
Then the world will know that you sent me
and will understand that you love them
as much as you love me.” John 17:21, 23
O God, we are one with you.
You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
you dwell in us.
Help us to preserve this openness
and to fight for it with all our hearts.
Help us to realize that there can be no understanding
where there is mutual rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely,
we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you,
and we love you with our whole being,
because our being is in your being,
our spirit is rooted in your spirit.
Fill us then with love,
and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways,
united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world,
and makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome. Love is victorious.
(Thomas Merton (1915-1968))
Pastoral Letter from Rev Andrew Smith, Presbytery Minister: Congregation Futures
How might Bible teaching happen in a new faith group that arises
from practising the five habits of highly missional people?
Maybe you have decided that you would like to gather with a small group of people (online for the time being) all of whom want to go further with the five habits of highly missional people that Michael Frost sets out in his handy little book “Surprise the World”. That is fantastic! A great first step is to encourage some people you know to read the book, and from that group find those who want to go further.
In the early stages of reading the book and trying to figure out where this all fits in with the life of your congregation, you may be tempted to think that these habits are simply a tool to eventually boost the number of people attending your existing regular weekly worship gatherings. That is a temptation to be resisted, especially if you think it is the only option. It is better to imagine the possibility of multiple new and distinct Christian gatherings finally emerging from the habits. It will probably take a decent amount of time, but as you form relationships from the missional habits with
“not yet churched” people, don’t be surprised if you end up in meaningful faith related conversations that lead to your network of relationships wanting to meet together with you to go further.
At this point the temptation might be to simply invite them to your congregation’s existing regular weekly worship gatherings. This might be an attractive option because then you can rely on the regular roster of preachers to give the “proper teaching” to disciple them.
A concern for people getting the “proper teaching” is one of the leading objections to the growth of multiple new and distinct Christian gatherings arising from living out the missional habits. Frost in his recent blog “Bible teaching can happen at the table not just the pulpit” is aware of the criticism that such gatherings do not do Bible teaching very well. He writes: “I’ve heard it said that their emphasis on conversational sharing is a kind of groupthink that just results in a pooling of existing knowledge”. This leads to Bible teaching that generally is not that great.
On the other hand, when this kind of multi-voice church is done well (compared with the mono-voice church typical of our existing worship gatherings), Frost notes that people grow into better disciples of Jesus Christ. One of the keys to forming a new Christian gathering arising from living out the missional habits is to figure out how to be a well-functioning multi-voice church in which each part does its work to build each other up in love (Ephesians 4:12-16).
Frost has some suggestions for this.
First, he suggests that teaching should happen in a conversational context. By this he means that the teaching should not just happen at the weekly (or however regular) gathering, but should be an ongoing conversation – teachers should “be involved in relationships where conversations about the gospel are central all week long.”
His next suggestion is that teaching should be conducted in conversational format: “Teachers need to foster a form of progressional dialogue, where they host the discussion and keep the group on topic and in the scriptures, but allow all voices to make a contribution. They shepherd the learning experience.”
Third, Frost suggests that teachers should adopt a conversational tone. This is helped if it is not the same teacher all the time, rather have a variety of people taking the teacher role. It is further helped by the language the teacher uses.
Using introductory phrasing like “It seems to me” or “from this I understand” instead of telling people how things are or ought to be.
Frost’s final suggestion is that teaching should promote a conversational hermeneutic. This means that our interpretation of the life of Christ is to come through the communal conversation – “learning Christ is a communal activity … all teaching in this mode should be designed to build up the congregation (gathered and dispersed)
as a disciple of Jesus in its own right.”
Frost’s contributions here are important. For the sake of people who you connect with through living out the missional habits we need to figure out how to do multi-voice church well, otherwise the objections to Bible teaching that is not that great will keep forcing us back into models that prevent church in new ways, in new places for new people.
That will be a huge loss for the church, because as Sian and Stuart Murray point out (quoted by Frost):
“Active participants in healthy multi-voiced churches are much more likely to be confident in sharing their faith with others, ready to engage in social action, hospitable to their neighbours, alert to pastoral opportunities beyond the church, and able to participate in gracious dialogue with people of other faiths or none.”
You can read Frost’s full blog at: https://mikefrost.net/bible-teaching-can-happen-at-the-table-not-just-the-pulpit/