The Untaming

Learning to build missional community in secular France

A few days with the Crowded House church in Sheffield

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Last month my wife and I spent four days in Sheffield, UK with The Crowded House church on what was described as the “TCH House Party”.  Steve Timmis and Tim Chester’s writings had helped me think through what mission-minded discipleship could look like here in Western Europe, and this was a chance to hang out with people already doing this stuff for several years and get insight into their principles, their successes and their struggles.

Disappointment

The disappointment: there are no magic answers!  Living in community on mission is long term, low key, daily work.  Once you get out of the lecture theatre and into the mission field, it gets messy! They also encounter many of the daily challenges we  have been facing in living and sharing the gospel.

Encouragement

The encouraging thing was that it’s not complex.  The TCH model actually is a lot simpler than many churches. As one of our hosts put it “I get the feeling in other churches being more committed means signing up for more rotas. Here it’s not like that … it’s just about living more on mission.”

Sharing daily life in small (8-25 people) ‘gospel communities’ turns out to be about making time for each other, building relationships with the broader neighbourhood, and mixing the two. They get involved in social action but tend to piggyback on existing initiatives rather than setting up parallel and cumbersome structures.  No rotas or programs; most people really are released into living daily life with gospel intentionality rather than getting sucked in to putting on church events and programs.  It really is about building relationships and not structures.

We in our fledgling missional community aren’t a million miles away.  We are relating more as friends/family, we are trying to encourage each other and reach out together.  We are on a similar track, though at an earlier stage of development.

Challenges

The TCH culture gave us some challenges to chew on too. They are very intentional at speaking the gospel as the way of discipling each other AND evangelising others.  This “speaking the gospel” is clearly culturally engrained; for us it is a skill we are trying to learn.  It involves looking at behaviours and reflecting on whether this reflects a heart-idol (chasing after something that promises fulfilment that only God can really provide) or a false belief (a lie about God that is holding them back from receiving His grace).

It was challenging and exciting to see people so committed to the gospel that they really do ‘put their money where their mouth is’: many of the people we met had moved houses, left comfortable middle-class settings to reach the unreached (Kurds, Asians, white working-class estates, rural communities…).

Questions

I didn’t see much prayer during the few days I spent at TCH.  I have no doubt this goes on, but perhaps it would have been good to see a bit of that and taken part. So my question back to the TCH team would be around that balance between activism and prayer.  I’m sure Steve and Tim would point me to Value #8 or something, but I’m talking about what happens on the ground.

Anyway, it was a well organised, fun and thought-provoking week.  It has definitely helped us shape our life around the principles of ‘doing daily life together, in community and on mission’ and I would recommend it to others looking for some tangible inspiration of do-able mission in a UK/European setting.

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