LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DMINLGP

London/Oxford Advance 2016 — Signs of Life

Written by: on June 8, 2017

 

“Reflection in its highest form is an oasis from a world filled with noises, voices, colors and distractions.” 

I’ll begin by saying that the advance was a profound and life-changing experience. The lectures were all excellent. Steve Chalk’s concept of being embedded into a community is a compelling idea especially as it relates to the field of church planting. Additionally, Jeremy Crossly exemplified reaching a particular demographic; David Male encouraged that it is possible to work across denominational borders and Dr. Mary Kate Morris’ image of the hand on the door step stirred my heart. It was Dr. Keith Ward’s lecture—actually one small section—that inspired me to look more closely at the signs of life without color and the usual background noises. It is with this in mind that I made my visual ethnographic presentation—Signs of Life.

Before I move on to thoughts about reflection, I would like to highlight Steve Chalk’s lecture in particular and it’s application in my ministry context. The concept of being embedded into a community is not unique in the missions community. It’s what we do. However, I found the idea of purchasing a building, plotting off one and a half mile radius around the building and making that the ministry zone a pragmatic approach to church planting and ministry to a community. When planting a church in a major European city we often state, “We’re asking God to give us the whole city.” In this paradigm, the work can quickly become overwhelming, and the once burning vision can wane under the load of the serving the entire city.

However, To classify a city into one and a half mile zones with a building in the center is more manageable from a financial and logistical perspective. In this way, the total resources and management focus is on a smaller more focused area. From a pastoral/spiritual perspective contextualization becomes more manageable as the ministry and outreach are more local and focused.

For the purpose of application, our AGWM Europe Leadership team could use Chalk’s model and apply Lowney’s Heroic Leadership methodology preinciples—especially the idea of training leaders at every level—and develop a unique church planting model for major European cities. It may be possible to reach an entire city, not by one larger church but by one 1 1/2 mile church at a time.

And no to the subject of reflection.  When I started the DMin program I thought that my journey would be purely academic—or at least mostly academic. But the advance began in me a new understanding of reflection and reflective practice. Within the first week of the Advance, the concept of reflection and becoming a reflective practitioner was mentioned no less than ten times.

I wrestled with the idea of reflection because—I’m sorry to say, the practice of intentional reflection had not been a part of my life, as has prayer, worship, reading the scriptures and ministry. It’s not that my life and ministry were without reflection, but the deliberate practice of reflection was missing.

The atmosphere and the setting of the Advance helped me to take a closer look, and I began to realize that most of what I practiced in the way of worship, prayer, and ministry was rather—in musical terms—fortissimo. Of course, I am Pentecostal and my expression of faith and love for God can lean toward the fortissimo. I am finding, however, that as I practice reflection intentionally, that both styles are complimentary. Fortissimo and pianissimo are to a moving melody as are resounding and reflective to the spiritual song of the believer.

In conclusion, since the Advance I have been practicing reflection on the scriptures, the books we read, the posts we write and the papers we produce. Reflective practice has entered my world of ministry as a welcome tool in strategic planning and implantation. I confess there is a renewed quietness in my spirit and my life. Reflection, like my studies, has become for me an act of worship and I continue to see signs of life.

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Jim Sabella

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