What getting my new Smartphone taught me about being a pioneer

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A maverick steps out from the crowd solely to be different but a pioneer steps out from the crowd so that people will follow. I was one of the first people to get the new BlackBerry z10 when it was launched in January 2013. The z10 did not come with all the latest apps, I wanted but more of these have been added over time.

A pioneer is driven by a passion for what they do, that enables them to move forward sometimes against the odds. What is it that motivates you?

Small changes can have a big impact on what you do. Changing the company name from RIM to BlackBerry has helped to focus people on what they do best. What small changes can you make to improve your work?

A pioneer is careful about who they listen to. Some ‘helpful’ comments can lead you away from your core distinctive.  BlackBerry had lost its way but it has now rediscovered that people want a phone with a good ‘work/life’ balance.

Time is more precious than money. Networking is all built into the phone but social media can also be a big time waster. Set clear limits to how much you do.

A pioneer is strategic about the release of what they do. We all have so much to give but not everywhere is ready for it yet. So set dates that you can work towards rather than seeking to accomplish everything in one day. What small step can you take today to accomplish something long term?

A pioneer believes that what they do is essential.  If you talk down to yourself and don’t believe that what you do is needed, why should anyone else get excited about it?

A pioneer is backed up by many ‘unseen’ people. BlackBerry gives incentives to those who develop apps for the phone. Remember to appreciate those who help you.

A pioneer seeks to be successful, not necessarily the biggest. BlackBerry will never have 100% of the market. If you do things well there is nothing more satisfying than that. Some people will expect you to do more based on what they see others doing, but stay true to who you are. The secret of satisfaction is to learn to run in your own lane and to enjoy it.

A pioneer looks to find ways to share and add value to people lives. Get the new 40 page booklet (Published April 2013) called ‘Cafechurch: Get Inspired’, that is full of articles, ideas and resources for churches and individual who are seeking to pioneer in mission. I’m also doing an inspiring speaking tour to encourage churches already running cafechurches. Book a date now – a few are available this year. Email Alisonlatty@cafechurch.net or call 020 8664 8506.

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Calling time

We live at a moment when it is possible to be a film critic and have never produced a movie, a food critic and never live in the heat of the kitchen, a church critic and never have led a church, a book critic and have never faced the rigors of writing one.  It is possible to be a Christian and not believe in God, An Evangelical and not have mission on the agenda, a Charismatic Church and not display any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, hold Reformed values but shy away from Christian disciplines.  For me all of this is a misnomer.

I believe that at the same time we are seeing a whole host of people rise up again and call for integrity – which means that that which we proclaim publically is the same as what we do privately. There is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Don’t be surprised if you see more and more people stepping forward risking their own comfort out of a deep search for integrity. They are just seeking to live up to what they have attained (Philippians 3:16).  Are you one of them?

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How to affair proof your relationship – just a few thoughts

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Can your church live?

I have spent the last 18 months pioneering the Living Well project which works on a simple idea – the power of vision can turn a church around. After a consultation process a church is offered a way forward and given support as it moves forward. This may be support in mission, appointing leaders or encouraging the church itself into action. Here are some of the key ideas we have discovered in helping declining churches.

There can be a culture of negativity which either holds a church back or creates failure in anything they do. Seek to be positive even when you have difficult things to say.

Small churches sometimes seek to act like big churches with multiple projects. Seek to do one thing well.

Research the pioneering impetus that got that particular church started. It might give clues as to it’s future.

What are the present needs of the community? Is there something the church can do?

Link up with other churches around a project that benefits the community.

Application preaching and discussion are great tools in helping people apply today what they know to be true.

Living Well is ready to help other churches – more details are on our website. http://www.cafechurch.net

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You’re a pioneer

If you do cafechurch you are a pioneer.

Being a pioneer means having vision. This means seeing beyond yourself to the possibilities in the world around you. Pioneers can see opportunities where others may only see obstacles. They see promise where others only see confusion or problems.

Being a pioneer means having courage. Pioneers are risk-takers. They understand failure, but they focus on the great potential for success.

Being a pioneer means being generous. Pioneers believe in helping others. Even when others don’t appreciate that generosity, the pioneer is a giver.

The pioneer spirit means hard work. Nothing great is accomplished without great effort and great sacrifice.

Adapted from graceproducts.com

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The next transitions in the church (Part II)

Small is beautiful

One of the lessons we are learning from emerging expressions of church is that being small is good. For many in the Church this can be a struggle as we judge success in terms of numerical growth. Yet there is no evidence, however, that the Apostle Paul judged the Church by these standards. Our expectations may need to change so that the church becomes a place that is easy to join but has high expectations of those who do join. One of our cafechurches has experienced this first hand. They number about 30 people, meeting in a high street coffee store. They have recently started to meet in small study groups in addition to this monthly cafechurch event and one of these small groups is made up entirely of people who are not Christians. Something transformational is taking place in the context of something very small and God does not despise this (Zechariah 4:10).

Meeting where people are

I told my optician about cafechurch and he said ‘Oh, that sounds great – going to where the people are.’ Rather than being behind our own walls churches are finding places on the high street, or somewhere similar, so that they can be where already meet. There are challenges involved because our default system in our own buildings can excuse a lack of organisational ability. When we go to the high street, the context that might look familiar but it is wholly different. Everything from the style of our leaflets to the length of our talks is crucial. In a coffee shop if our talk is boring, people start to talk amongst themselves and we may struggle to recover. Meeting people where they are may sound easy, but actually takes a great deal of thought and attention. A high street venue is significant because it gives less hurdles for people to cross over – it’s us that have more hurdles to jump to get to them, but maybe that’s the best way round! Somebody who came to speak at a cafechurch event became a Christian because the context meant they were ‘met where they were’. The next transition in the church is meeting people where they are.

I have shared four key points about the next transitions in the Church:
• giving a good welcome
• talking about real issues
• seeing small as significant
• meeting people where they are

Here are some practical applications to help us move forward.

• Rediscover how we can be welcoming

It is important that the people who give a greeting have others to refer guests to that the guest can sit with, have coffee with and talk with. Have other events to invite people to outside of the church service (e.g. pizza parties, pampering evenings, sport, etc.,)

• Raise issues that people are thinking about

The Church is increasingly becoming a place where people can talk about issues that matter to them. Is there something you could do that combines ‘word and deed’?

• See small as significant

Having a meal together as a church, is a good way of showing love in action. Try holding a simple bread and soup meal after which people donate money to sponsor a child with World Vision or Compassion.

• Meet people where they are

Find somewhere on the high street or the equivalent where you can be. (See ‘10 ways to draw people’ in my blog archive.) Why not think about starting a cafechurch – check our website for training days. This could help you to position yourself to be part of the next transitions in the Church.

Summary

Some people think that the Church is like the Titanic, rearranging itself whilst oblivious to the oncoming dangers that will eventually cause it to sink. I don’t believe that for a second. What I see is the Church moving forward changing direction but always on course. When Jesus said ‘Let’s go over to the other side’ (Mark 4:35) he was giving transitional direction to the church that could not be diverted or destroyed even by storms. The church will surely reach its destination intact.

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The next transitions in the church (Part 1) by Cid Latty

A recent report to the General Synod of the Church of England stated that unless drastic changes took place within the church ‘a perfect storm’ would lead to a crisis through which the church would be unsustainable. This view was also shared at the Methodist Conference, previously, when the statement was made that ‘we are prepared to go out of existence.’ With changing demographics, ageing of the financially secure ‘baby boomers’ and cultural paradigm shifts for some the future of the Church in its present form looks less than certain. Will the Church survive the downturn?

There have been many warnings, but church decline is much like sand in an hour-glass; it falls slowly and can go unnoticed, leading to what Stuart Murray called the ‘complacency’ of some denominations to respond with urgency. However, amidst the stark reality of church closures, there are mustard seed signs of hope that may take many by surprise. Something is happening that often falls below the radar of church attendance statistics, as parts of the Church instinctively begin to move in a more missional way. (E.g. Fresh Expressions, Incarnate and Urban Expression)

Whilst helping many churches start cafechurches over the last few years, I have noted a conglomeration of signs that point to what could be the next transitions in the Church. I am going to highlight the most obvious ones and give a few practical steps to help implement them.

Give a good welcome

One children’s nursery rhyme says ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. If only that were true, it was just a few words that made the prophet Elijah run for his life. Make no mistake, words are powerful. There are two words that most churches display on their notice boards as a way of inviting the community to come to experience the love of God for themselves. The words ‘All Welcome’ have been faithfully used as an invitation for decades. No church would like to think that they are anything less than a welcoming place. The reality, however, sometimes does not live up to the ideal. As John Drane says (After the McDonaldization of the Church) what people are sold and what they receive from the Church can be two different things.

What we need to understand is that a welcome is different to a greeting. A greeting is saying ‘Hello, how are you?’ but a welcome goes further than that and makes someone feel at home, inviting them to be friends with your friends and shows them ‘hospitality that includes them in our conversations around a meal table’. (‘Open Heart Open Home’ Karen Mains) It is sharing life together and this is a transition that is taking place within the Church. We are increasingly seeing the Church say, ‘when we meet, we eat’ and they understand that hospitality is a spiritual gift that must be intentionally exercised. At a recent baptism of somebody that had visited one of our cafechurches, the baptismal candidate said it was the ability of the cafechurch to lovingly welcome them that made them seek out the reason for this embrace.

Talk about real issues

Whenever religious people want to discount small contextual movements they call them ‘church lite’, saying ‘When are you going to talk about spiritual things?’ The fear is that in contextualizing the scriptures, eisegesis may occur. Of course there are risks but why should fear stop us? Once we had someone walk into one of our cafechurches after arguing with their spouse at home. It just so happened that that night we were talking about relationships. Our guest returned home telling us of the ‘miracle’ that had happened that that night which equipped them to heal their broken relationship. I am convinced, that if we unpack the values of Christ we have better foundations to share the Christ of the values. I see the next transition in the Church addressing the felt-need to talk about real issues. After recent riots in the UK that shocked many around the world, Sheldon Thomas – a former gang member who now directs a helpline for gang members to help them turn their lives around – stated that the underlying reason for the riots was that children are bringing up children and they need to be ‘shown how to be good parents’. Churches have a mandate and the people who can do that very thing. In a world that will not wait ‘self-contemplation and selfishness’ within the Church, is ‘dangerous’. (‘Turn-around churches’ George Barna) It is vital that the Church speaks now about the felt needs of people. Contexts within the Church where people can have conversations about life and discover ways to respond are being developed on an ever increasing scale.

The story of the demise of The Crystal Cathedral (whatever you think of the church) should be a stark reminder to all of us that unless the church intentionally is redefining itself, a slow demise is inevitable. The next transitions in the church must be more than cosmetics then but flow out of a rediscovery of essentials we forget.

In part two we’ll look at two more transitions and a few practical steps to implement them.

This article first appeared in the Baptist Times.

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