Hidden lamps and buried coins

Spot the mission worker!

The following three passages each describe a different person’s afternoon routine at work. Take a look at all three and then decide which passage is describing a Mission Worker. (If you are able to print this story and hand out a copy to each person in your group, invite people to use a highlighter or pen to underline the sections of the text that point to the person being a mission worker.)

Sarah’s afternoon routine

By 2pm, Sarah is usually in pack up mode around an activity, spending time putting the room back together. She might spend time with a colleague, reflecting on how the day has been in terms of living out their values and purpose as a team. As it gets close to 2:30pm, parents and carers begin arriving to pick up their children. There is afternoon tea provided, so people often stay for a while to talk and watch their kids burn off the last of their energy in the playground. Sarah makes sure to spend this time connecting with at least one or two parents intentionally. For example, one afternoon this week Sarah spent 45 minutes with Joanne. Joanne’s husband hasn’t been well for several weeks. He is suffering from a mental illness exacerbated by some recent stress. After listening carefully to Joanne and asking questions around how she and the kids are going, Sarah asks if they can pray together about it.

Alex’s Afternoon routine

Alex likes to spend the morning visiting people, so by the afternoon he is usually back at home, with a cuppa, ready to do some thinking and writing. There is always a sermon or talk to prepare, and as part of his process Alex spends quite a bit of time reading. At 4pm, like clockwork, he takes a 30 minute walk without his phone. He has found over the years that gives him a genuine sense of space away from everything he needs to do and all the people he is connected with. It is a time where he can check in with himself and think about more than just what is happening this week. It’s not unusual for Alex to have an evening event, gathering or meeting to participate in, so once he’s back from his walk he is usually getting ready for the next thing.

Josh’s Afternoon Routine

2pm is a busy time for Josh, people are keen for a coffee to get them through their mid-afternoon slump. He tries to make sure there is at least three people working in the van, so they can keep the waiting times down. Most of the time he knows people’s orders before they even ask because he’s working in this community for years. Many of the customers work in offices nearby and have become regulars. Josh isn’t always making the coffee which gives him time to connect with people, particularly those who come by everyday. Josh will know if they aren’t their usual selves, when to ask ‘how are you’ and when to talk about something different. A couple of his regulars are artists undercover, so he checks in on when their next gig or exhibition is. He greets each person by name, and if he doesn’t know them is quick to build a rapport. There is a bit of a joke amongst the team that Josh doesn’t do any work because he is too busy talking to people all the time.

Sue’s afternoon Routine

 By the mid afternoon, Sue has usually seen around twenty people. She will have talked to them not just about their health, but their relationships, their work, their stress levels, travel plans as well as the smaller details of everyday life that are important to each one. She knows people well and has a great memory. It isn’t always easy with the way schedules get pushed out, but Sue has a practice of spending the five minutes before meeting with each person in a centring prayer. This has been one of the ways she’s been able to sustain her energy and commitment. Sue is always busy because people trust her and value her perspective highly; they know she has their best interests at heart. Sue reserves 40 minutes in the mid-afternoon to deal with emails and to catch up on paperwork.

Questions

  • Which of the passages above did you choose as describing a mission worker? What lead you to make that choice?
  • What does it look like to share the Christian faith?
  • At what point does an act of kindness/healing/justice/love become an act of faith sharing?
  • What comes first, believing or belonging? Share the reasons behind your answer in pairs, then with the wider group.
  • What does it mean to “connect with someone where they are at?” What might this look like in practice?
  • What is your understanding of the difference between evangelism and mission? Where do these two connect for you?
  • What is the difference between faith sharing this is implicit and faith sharing that is explicit. Is one more valuable than the other?
  • What might be some differences between a spiritual seeker and a committed Christian disciple?
  • In your experience, what have been some of the different stages or seasons of spiritual growth in your life? How did your needs differ across each stage?
  • How does your understanding of the Incarnation connect with your personal approach to mission or faith sharing?
  • If you had to choose three aspects of the Christian faith, and only three, to share with others for the rest of your life, which three would you choose?

Wisdom from the pews

“We all wrestle with with decisions around how openly to express our Christian faith in the midst of what we do. For people with specific ministry roles, this question is often at the forefront. ”

“They ask questions such as: are our beliefs and values implied, or do they need to be explicit? When people ask us “why”, how do we answer? In some instances, projects were connecting with people who had negative previous experiences with institutions, or faith based organisations which lead them to be cautious about explicit faith statements. ”

“One participant commented “Our people don’t feel safe in institutions, they feel safe in homes.” There was a need for trust and healing to take place in relationship before meaningful, direct faith sharing was possible. These projects may chose to define themselves with an anti-identity “I can’t tell you what we are, just what we are not.”

“In other instances, faith is an open component of a project or activity from the start, with new people aware of the project as a Christian presence in the public square. Sharing a Christian perspective on parts of life that are normally reserved for secular voices was a way of being at mission that new people can find refreshing or even surprising. These projects seek to be transparent and open about their identity and purpose, communicating these actively and inviting participants to connect with them. ”

“In some cases, projects use both of these approaches, having part of their life together as community in less explicit activities that are more oriented towards new people and making space for anyone to join, with other times where they are more explicitly focussed on discipleship and their Christian faith.”

Going deeper

Current research into conversion

Lynne Taylor completed a PhD at Flinders University asking the question, how do people become christians today? Find out more:

HOW Unchurched People Are Finding Faith Today – Lynne Taylor

Faith Sharing with Makes You Wonder

Makes you wonder is a resourcing project that enables faith sharing conversations, check out the intro video to find out more:

makesyouwonder.org

Faith Stories

Faith Stories is a six part video and study series from the Uniting Church in Queensland, that enables faith sharing conversations, check out the intro video to find out more:

Faith-Stories-Studies-Small