And I Would do anything for God..(but i wont get bored)

In his book ‘Faith Formation in a Secular Age’ (2017)  Andrew Root suggests that the biggest motivation in society, that has infected the church – especially in youth ministry , is what seems the influence of the avoidance of boredom. And in the church this looks like:

Must make this event exciting – or no one will come along

Our new youthworker must be excited and innovative (always thinking of the new)

What will make the programme lively and attractive?

We cant be doing the same songs, we must do new ones every now and then!

Young people wont be interested in coming to sunday church, they must have their own meetings

And, some of this also plays out in worship songs, using screens, countdowns and smoke machines, even in an avoidance of reading the bible or meetings (these are deemed boring).

Is Andrew Root right?

in Faith Formation he tells the following story:

‘ A famous bible scholar was meeting up with a young muscle bound man who expressed to him his deep deep love for Jesus. Judging from his passionate excitement, the professor believed the young mans commitment, so they talked about faith and the bible. When the topic of sunday worship came up, the young man explained that he rarely went, telling the professor that it had none of the adrenaline of the workouts, that ultimately Sunday worship was just too boring.

‘I thought you loved Jesus’ the professor asked

‘i do’ said the young man, and said with genuine authenticity, I really do!”

So, the professor asked, ‘do you think you would be willing to die for Jesus?’

Now more reserved, the young man said ” Yes…yes, I think i would, yes I would die for Jesus’

‘So let me get this straight, the professor continued, you are willing to die for Jesus, but not be bored for Jesus?’  (Root, A, 2017, p7)

The point that the scholar would try and make from this is that is the importance of co-orporate worship. The inconsistency of boredom vs commitment.

But Root seeks a different point in Faith Formation, because in an age where the authentic experience is sought… think not adrenaline junkies of the 1990s, but the authenticity of the farmers market/homebaked bread/real music – then in such an age, anything is deemed disingenuous if it lacked connection to the depth of subjective desires.

Therefore to be bored in an age of authenticity is not simply unfortunate or unpleasant it is to be oppressed and got rid of. if we have responsibility for our own individual journey of spiritual life then why would we consider anything boring to be worthy and part of it? if its boring our needs are unmet… arent they?

On one hand is Root right?

Well hang on just a minute. He goes on:

Because if on one hand the church’s pursuit of youthfulness (see this post  ) has created churches that are having a juvenile tantrum (Roots words not mine), then what an age of authenticity also reveals is that churches are criticised not for too much spirituality and depth, but not enough. It is as if they have somehow lost what they are meant to be. The depth of experience (found in the gym, or found travelling the world to ‘find oneself’) is not found in the church.

There are two issues here, and Im not sure even I can do both justice in the remainder of this piece. So, i will focus on the first of the two.

Has the church, in regard to youth ministry played the ‘avoiding boredom’ card far too often?  and what has been its response..

  1. Make everything louder than everything else? Ie bigger and brighter music, churches, buildings, more attractive – keep up with the entertainment
  2. Work out what it might mean when people say that they are bored of church..?

Boredom might mean actually not being involved. Boredom might mean that it is too simple. Boredom might mean that it is not challenging enough. Not that it isnt loud enough. Boredom might mean that it isnt real, or authentic enough. And what might make church authentic… authentic relationships, authentic involvement, authentic respect and faith formation, authentic opportunity to make decisions. (see my post here on developing these) So often boredom has just caused a reaction of adopt technology, adopt fun, adopt noise.

Whats strangely interesting is that the churches that have fared better over the last 50 years are those which retained something of the youth movement of 50 years ago. Possessing the spirit of youthfulness is equated to authentic, because being and staying young is exactly that. In and amongst this is a pretty non existent space for what church is or isnt actually meant to be about. But is that to be the case today? im not too sure…

The possibility of divine action is somewhat minimised for the sake of authenticity, faith is not connected to divine action but meeting in an authentic way. In short, is God more present when im not bored..?

The challenge for those of us who are involved in ministry and youth ministry is not that we cave in to calls to make churches and meetings more youthful, not to cave in to the cries of ‘young people arent going to come to church, its boring’ . The task is not to cave into church being more entertaining, for this will, or has already caused significant problems, where faith formation has almost completely been abandoned for youthfulness.

The challenge is to try and develop opportunities for ministry and gifting, usefulness and meaningfulness, not just a bigger brighter, louder, more colourful experience. If young people want that, they can get it at a coldplay concert. And that might be more authentic. For a coldplay concert does exactly what it says on the tin.

It will take a huge amount of effort to stand up in a culture that prioritised youthfulness as authentic to say hang on, lets do something meaningful, real and faithful. That might take guts to do, yet the hamster wheel of continual youthfulness is only going to have one winner. And it not faith formation, or long term discipleship. It is not experience of God, not the kingdom experiences of generosity, giftedness, gratitude and rest that permeate in church and discipleship, and ministry of the kingdom (Root, p 202) .

Making church less boring again, may well be a legitimate question. The response to it is one that will shape church for the next 50 years. Yet strategy will kill essence (Mather) , so we might as well get on and do the work of the kingdom, that looks like the ministry of God in the world. Being authentically inauthentic in a world of youthfulness. Do the essence of God.

Oh… and making church meaningful, hopeful and dangerous. A sub cultural movement of justice seekers called by God towards peace and reconciliation, generosity and gratitude. Now – who might find that boring..?

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Why might churches (only) advertise for a passionate, excited youthworker?

All together now, you know the tune:

‘The wonderful thing about youthworkers

is youthworkers are wonderful things

their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs

Theyre bouncy, trouncy, flouncy pouncy,  fun fun fun fun fun

but the most wonderful thing about youthworkers is i’m the only one….

Youthworkers are cuddly fellas

Youthworkers are awfully sweet

Ev’ryone el-us is jealous

That’s why I repeat… and repeat

The wonderful thing about youthworkers

Is youthworkers are working all hours

They’re burdened with being all jumpy

They’re running on overactive powers

They’re jumpy, bumpy, clumpy, thumpy

Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

But the most wonderful thing about youthworker is

I’m the only one

 

A cursory look at the most recent job advertisements for youth workers and ministers, not only reveals that a pioneering/creative spirit is required, and so is qualifications, but that the most common attribute for the ‘new’ youth person is that they are the following……

EXCITED! (and closely followed by..)

PASSIONATE!

and the job is usually exciting too!

Everything is exciting, Everything as LEGO says is Awesome… I have seen roles for administrators being described as exciting, in the same way i have seen roles for running Sunday schools as exciting opportunities, and also developing new pioneering youthwork as exciting too. Everything is exciting. The person needs to be excited. The person needs to be passionate. In short it feels as though any new recruit to a youth ministry role needs to be some kind of ‘christian tigger’.

Bouncy, fun, lively, on the go, busy busy busy, no time, no stopping, hours upon hours, happy, smiley, exhausting powers upon powers and ideas and on the go, passionate, excited, creative…

Lets ask a question: Who might be wanting ‘Christian tigger’? the church or the young people?

Image result for tigger

If it is the church in general, why might a church want someone to be ‘passionate’ and describe that their role is ‘exciting’ or that a person needs to be ‘exciting’?

Is this just good sales techniques? and attempt to make the role attractive to the prospective applicant?

Possibly. Or maybe theres something more than this.

What if instead it wasn’t just good sales, but that deep down there’s a fear that the local church needs a pick up, an energy boost, a lift and it is the role of the ‘new/excited/passionate’ youthworker to somehow lift the local church out of a bit of the doldrums.  Don’t get me wrong, its almost human nature to want a new person to add energy or something new to an old way of being (though ironically, how much change is a youthworker allowed to actually fulfil..) . But there’s a deep down fear as well, that Andy Root suggested in ‘Faith Formation’ ;  because of society’s equation of youthfulness with authenticity – and anything that seems old fashioned/old is not authentic – then what a local church might be buying into with the ‘passionate youth worker’ is for that person to be the person that helps them to starting thinking and being youthful again.

There’s a fear maybe that a church is getting old, and the enthusiastic youth worker might be the person that helps the church feel young again. Is that the real reason an enthusiastic person is required… that’s some responsibility… not just bring youth into the church, but bring youthfulness too. What do you think – ever seen this happen?

Whilst ‘passionate’ is flavour of the decade for the youth worker role – whatever happened to compassionate? 

Again, a quick cursory look around the youth ministry job adverts, and compassion is lacking. Even in some of the job descriptions, passion is ahead of compassion – its compassion that may just be what young people need/want – and empathy – well above just someone who might be ‘passionate’ to be there and full proverbially of themselves. Compassion situates the ‘ministry’ of young people with young people – young people as primary. Compassion is about the other. Because as we fundamentally, young people don’t care that much about the youth worker anyway, or the church, or the ministry, or the activities, they are more interested in themselves – so the more compassion a youth worker has the better. The more the youth worker is less of themselves, less of their own powers, passion, ministry – and the more listening they do and being interested in young people the better.

This is nothing new, Young Life in the 1960s, developed contact ministry – in which youth workers would spend more time in the world of young people than the opposite, be in their space. Be less passionate, be more dependable, be more compassionate, or more enthusiastically present.

If young people designed job adverts for the youth minister- would they opt for passion or compassion, what do you think?  Because they’re looking for passion and excitement, are churches are looking for is someone for themselves – not just someone who is for and with young people?  And yes of course it might be a bit of both. But is it passionate excited youth ministers who churches have in mind in their job adverts…

Why might churches want a passionate, excited youthworker ?  Because maybe, there’s too many Eeyore’s in the church already, and a tigger is needed.. What happens when the Tigger cant be Tigger anymore?

What if a youth worker helped churches to be more compassionate about young people in their local community, to fight for injustice and help to remove barriers – would compassion lead for something good happening that the church locally could be part of. Not just the passionate youth worker tries man/womanfully to engender youthfulness or passion in the church and ministry of it. I wonder…

NB – And sorry, the tigger song will be going through your head for the rest of the day now…

References

Root, Andrew, Faith Formation in a Secular Age, 2016

Ward, Pete, Youth work and the Mission of God, 1997

 

Have churches embraced youthfulness – but given up on young people?

This is one of the key premises of Andrew Roots book, Faith Formation in a secular age in which he suggests that one of the key reasons that churches, from an american protestant perspective (and he makes this point clear), are obsessed with involving young people is that a youthful church, is also, in an age of authenticity, an authentic church. Root makes a coherent argument, on the basis of his own reading of Charles Taylor, that as youthfuless, (staying youthful) is deemed as authenticity, then for a church to be deemed authentic it must embrace the trappings of youth. Relevancy is youthfulness, youthfulness is authenticity.

As a result in an ‘age of authenticity’ an authentic church is one that embraces and includes the trappings of youth.

The question that I hear often, and Root builds up in his introduction is ‘How might young people become part of church?’ Especially if theres continued considerable research distributed about the whos left and the who’s not in church. In thinking about the question, there is another question to be asked, like ”why young people?’

A few years ago I was asked by a church to do some research into young people and their activities in a local area, what they wanted, what they did and other community activities. The church were focussed on the young people. What the church was wanting to do was work with young people, as there were none in the church – but there were also no 30 yr olds, 40 yr olds or 50 yr olds either – and this group of people made up more of the population in the parish. yet the focus was on ‘young people’ .

It goes back to the why – why is the church obsessed about children and young people? and why not the 30-50 age group (parents of children/young people) and may be more pertinently – has the church in the UK given up on its obsession with young people anyway?

However, the church has embraced trying to be youthful.

This is evident by changing its very public face, programmes and styles to embrace the latest thing – so websites, twitter feeds, guitars, lights, coffee in services, ‘cafe church’ – all of these are positive in one way – but also symptomatic of the wider culture of trying to be authentically youthful. And what then tends to happen is that people are disappointed that ‘youthful’ doesnt work. Its often because it lacks actual authenticity. Root is right, youthfulness drives authenticity, but there is a clamour for real authenticity too, and young people can smell a rat, or people trying too hard, or that they are the target or pawn of a church’s strategy.

At the same time churches have taken up youthfulness – but given up on young people.

I would like to say that there are still some positive signs that this is not the case.

But it is very difficult looking out from the north east of england to make a case otherwise. There have been far too many redundancies, ends of contracts, and ended ‘ministries’ in the last 10 years not to think this. Now it could be that a particular way of working with young people has reached an end point in the north east, and it was a way of working that involved large gatherings, ‘christian rock’ concerts/events, festivals and youth worship services, the scene of worship gatherings in an evangelical sense may be at the low point of a cycle, yet it was deemed the dawning of many a changing generation at the time. There may be other ways of exploring worship with young people in local contexts, but the big gathering time could have had its day…

The down side is that this created an element of enthusiasm for developing working with young people in areas, and taking them to a ‘thing’ could be a huge event or marker point. And large numbers, gatherings and events imply success. What these events, styles and formats did was to imply to those who participated in them that this was the ‘way to go’ – and similar forms of embedded youthfulness continue, and can be seen in the rock concert warehouse churches. And, as Pete Ward talks about in ‘Selling Worship’ songs and the ministry and industry of them have shaped the church, shaped it, Root might argue around maintaining youthfulness.

And that’s before a discussion about the cutting of strategic youth posts across nearly all affiliations and shrinking of denomination posts. Youthfulness has value. Valuing the practices of working with young people….. a different story.

Youthfulness is rife in the church, at the same time, there are few young people. Maybe that is a good thing, as they might be scared by the youthfulness on offer. But ‘be youthful’ attract young people has been the mantra. Be youthful – attract young people- create authentic church might have also been the intention. Though I imagine that in the UK the drive to attract young people has less to do with authenticity, and more to do with survival.

If the church is to be obsessed about young people again, and not just youthfulness, then there might be some re-thinking needed about how a church might re-connect and review on what it does and is for and with young people in every local setting in the UK. As, even in areas of high youthworker population (not the north) – may churches still do not have young people, children, or the under 45’s. So there is much to be thought through and reflected on. If the church became obsessed by young poeple (and their families) again – what might this look like? What might it look like in your parish, your church, your community?

What if everything that a local church did, every decision it made was for the good, or with families and young people in mind? What would change? In what way would a church be both practically for, with and loving young people and families – and prophetic viewing young people/families within a wider context, as ‘victims’ of society, or as important within the faith community (despite what others may say). Most of the time, churches connect with many children and families – but are not able to build on the opportunities – so toddler groups, confirmation classes, school assemblies, and other activities. Building from those already being sent might be a first step. Trying to attract through youthfulness… hmm..

Making the church and faith authentic in an age of authenticity? Well that’s not about trying to be youthful – its about being faithful to being practical and prophetic in the world. Do this, and young people might find distinction and hope in a church, a challenge that causes them to dismay at the authenticity of every lie about them in technological media, and, like i said in my previous post, give them real quality time.

References

Root, Andrew, Faith Formation in a Secular Age, 2017

Ward, Pete, Selling worship, 2005

This is my third post arising from Andrew Roots book, the second ‘Where does God act in Youth Ministry is here: https://wp.me/p2Az40-1bR

The first is here : Does it matter what Age we are living in for youth ministry anyway? 

I am sure there might be more, I reviewed two of Roots previous books in my ‘Best of Youthwork reads for 2017’ post.

Renouncing second hand expertise in Youth Ministry

I had been guilty of fake-reading Soul Searching. I think it is a common curse. A friend of mine was telling me about the book a few years ago as he was I think just starting his Phd, and we had a great conversation about it, he even put some quotes up on facebook, when putting ‘notes’ on facebook was a thing.

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But I didnt read it myself.

Fast forward a few years, and I am reading a Vanhoozer book, on the place of doctrine in Ministry, and in an article, he refers to the key conclusion of ‘soul searching’ and considers ways of overcoming this.

Oh well and good I think, Vanhoozer is much more challenging to read than Christian Smith, and he knows what he is talking about, so I neednt bother reading it myself. I even write a great blog on it, well i say great, a few people thought it was great. But I still hadnt read the source material. I had fake-read Christian Smith then proclaimed to be a trusted source myself to talk about it.

I wonder often this occurs in aspects of Youth work and Ministry. Somebody else reads a book on something, then uses the idea from the book to be an expert on a thing, and those receiving it only hear an interpretation and leave trusting that the person has represented it right. That person becomes the expert on Freire, or Jeffs and Smith, or Vanhoozer, and then its the few snippets or quotes that are circulated. I must admit, I still have a few of these blind-spots in my literature closet, but having now read Christian Smith, this is now not one of them. 

There is a task in the ongoing practice of youth work and ministry to be maintaining integrity to what we say we base our practice on, if we do have notions of doing so with theory or theology in mind. The pain of the personal hard graft to read it ourselves is worth it, we are changed through the process of reading. 

It is not enough to be on the bandwagon of someone elses expertise, yes be inspired when someone refers to a book or article – but then get hold of it and read it. This is what I did when Helen Gatenby refered to ‘We make the road by walking’ by Friere and Horton a few years ago in a conference, and what a book it was, to read the whole thing. Deeply inspiring for practice and a view of educating humanity presented in conversation very inspiring. But i could have just taken Helens word for it.

Oh – but when have we got time for reading you say? Its not a matter of time, but a matter of priorities. A conference or lecture might give us a dip into an authors perspective – but in reading it ourselves are we opened to new possibilities and use our skills of interpretation to bear further fruit on and in it. As reflective practitioners we can consume contemporary culture and learn through it, and contemporary culture includes publications in sociology, psychology and theology to inform , shape and bring insight to practice, and to ourselves as persons.

What i found in ‘Soul Searching’ was considerably more than the headline of it that has been oft quoted. That of MTD, (Moral Therapeutic Deism) – and as I am reading it, I am reflecting on whether it is significant 10 years after its publication, and in my context the world of Christian youth work/youth ministry in north east England. Especially in light of two pieces of research regarding the faith of young people and their engagement in churches. What i can use the detail of the book for, and reflect on is far more than the headline, and ill be posting some of the highlights from Soul searching in the next few days, but this post isnt about the content of Soul searching, though what it does say is that young people arent given the critical skills or deep theology as part of their faith, thats ironic – because unless we as youthworkers develop a love of gaining ‘first hand’ knowledge, and the critical skills to go with it, then not only might we sell ourselves short, its likely we’ll do the same for the young people.

 

8 Reasons for youthworkers to watch La La Land

This blog will inevitably contain spoilers! You have been warned, so if you are heading to go and see La La Land, look away now. However, if you want to know why you should go and see it, and dont mind hearing a little about what its about then read on.

This week, as a bit of a celebration for getting a part of my dissertation completed I went out on a 2 for 1 deal at the local cinema to watch the multi oscar nominated La La Land. Outside of a High school musical (3) it was the only the second musical I have seen at the cinema, having been to see Evita in 1996/7… (hmm) Anyway, La La Land it was, and it served up a distraction of colour, vibrancy and music compared to the events in the world right now. But here are 8 reasons why youth workers should go and see this film.

  1.  Because evLa La Land (2016) Posterery now and then go and see something that might be different, a change from the normal might provoke something, an emotion, a reflection – Musicals probably wouldn’t have been my thing up until recently, then probably undergoing many many repeats of High School musical and Disney films with my daughter, then the films with music like School of Rock, Rock of Ages, Les Mis, and the magnificent Sing Street (sadly overlooked at the Oscars) , musical films have become family favourites, and personally something uplifting, poetic and yes emotional. That’s not a bad thing. Doing something a bit different is good for us. Shakes us up a bit.
  2. La La Land isnt meant to have Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers as lead roles, but two ‘ordinary actors’ uplifting themselves to these parts, as if ‘normal’ people being enveloped by song, and dance, they arent meant to be perfect in every routine, and this is refreshing its a reminder to us in the roles that we have with young people. They take what they have and work and practice and develop their skills and gifts.
  3. La La Land required months of rehearsals, but theres a number of ‘one take’ scenes. Youthwork is like this, in the present moment there might be only one opportunity to ask the right question, do the creative thing, in effect perform, but that ongoing reflections and rehearsals are important for the active live moments.
  4. At the heart of La La Land is a story about Jazz, about improvisation and so its only appropriate that there were some long ‘takes’ which had the freedom of the actors acting with the music and the scene. Improvisation is part of being a youthworker, it is part of theology, as Benson says: ‘in the beginning, there was improvisation’, we need to reflect on reacting and hearing the music from the context we are in, on responding to the cue of God in the midst, of improvising from being prepared. To offer into the space our piece, and to receive from others. (Wells, S, 2005)
  5. ‘The reason you can’t be a radical, is that you’re too much of a traditionalist’ was a line from one musician to another in the film.  When it comes to enabling young people to be radical and take risks – how radical are we going to let them? What traditions of our own practice, heritage, faith, culture might cause us not to take radical steps in youth work ?   Do we hold on the beautiful things and miss the heartbeat of a new walk, a new tone, a new colour.
  6. It was a story about creating music, about creating theatre, about performing and sharing creativity and not always worrying about who will see it, but doing it because it is a vocation, our youth work practice is an art, unpredictable creativity a performance of our vocation. How might we help young people develop their creativity or have space to play their 8 bars in the jazz performances of youth groups.
  7. It had all the hall marks of an old film, the dance numbers, the technicolour, the music – the story in itself was not revolutionary or modern, but it connected because it was played authentically, the characters weren’t flawless, or perfect, but real. Their relationship wasn’t Hollywood, but had ebbs and flows, their career choices weren’t without disagreement, they had stony silences over the dinner table. It evoked something authentic about real life. Something old wasn’t made relevant, it was made authentic. As youth workers, the faith story we help young people navigate within is to be made authentic through us.
  8. Just watch it, it was good enough without it being all these things as well. Take a night off being stupidly busy, get yourself some decent food and have a night to yourself.

Apologies for the spoilers and for anyone who knows far more about theatre and Jazz than i do, there was much that resonated with me in it, is it deserving of the oscar nominations, hmm not sure about that one, definitely some very good performances in its, and it was a positive, bright distraction – but hey this isnt a movie review blog…

 

Towards Authentic Placemaking

“What turns nondescript space into a particular place is what embodied persons experience or do there.. the challenge is to play Christ in ten thousand places, and this means place-making” (Vanhoozer 2014 p175-176)

The question that Ive pondered over the last few weeks isnt ‘whats the difference between a space and place’, more- what kind of placemaking is authentic? and does authenticity matter in the pursuit of placemaking anyway?

As a youthworker one of the ongoing dilemmas, especially in the kind of youthwork that i’m involved in with DYFC, is the question of ‘when is it appropriate, or when should we tell young people about faith, about salvation, about Jesus?

On the streets, we don’t work with young people who are actively interested, or for whom Jesus has been anything like a predominant feature of their day, their school or family life, its much the same in the junior clubs or mentoring in the schools.  The young people attend the clubs for a variety of reasons, or we meet them on the streets with open, inclusive, conversations, stemming from christian values that underpin the work.

Equally other spaces exist for you, in your youth work, in the centre, in the church based youth fellowship, the drama club, the after school group.

Spaces are inhabited by ourselves as youthworkers and young people- created in such a way to either attract, to have conversations with, to educate, to entertain, the social spaces have been constructed in such a way. Cultures of the group, dynamics of the groups, activities and discipline all stem from the people in the space, its history.

The question is, then, how important is it that for a space to become a place where God communicates, or is discovered is in an authentic way?

If you think about the image of the earthquake, or more specifically the ariel photos of the earths crust as it has moved like this below:

instead of the earth plates moving to cause an earthquake (apologies for the bad science) – but what about the image of the earth cracking open a little to let the light shine through?

If it really is that there are thin spaces of the earth surface and the light is easier to shine through, and thicker spaces elsewhere – is it authenticity of the context that allows the appropriate light to shine?

So, what about the type of space that it created, under what pretensions, values and structures means that to open up the space for God to be discovered is appropriate and likely to find as suitable hearers and discoverers?

At the acoustic cafe in Perth, we created a space where young people gathered to play, listen to music and socialise, in the first few weeks it was felt appropriate to give a short message from the front about faith. Somehow we’d earned that right after all it was a space we had given to young people, thus we had a right to do this. It was uncomfortable. not because the message was uncomfortable, but it was inauthentic to the space, it wasnt what young people expected or why they were there, it was imposed.

Instead we left bibles on the coffee tables to be thrown around or burned. Yet when it was appropriate to young people they’d ask about them, read them and be interested, we created places authentic to the space where collaboratively God could be discovered, places that fit the tone of the space.

If its an informal setting – why does ‘the God bit’ occur with the formality of school?  ie ‘this is the bit to be listened to?’ (shut up johnny at the back)

The fear we might have is that people wont come to events or activities if they know that something is going to be said, such as a band ‘with a christian message’  or the fun day at a theme park followed by some random christian giving a testimony.  Its as if the right has been earned because the space has been created – that the God will be accepted and become known in the space. Even if people know its going to happen – does that make it authentic to the space?

Nicholas Healy argues that the role of the Spirit is to confuse conformity and work over and above what is settled. (Healy 2001) What this might mean is that for a few people – despite it being and seeming inauthentic that a few people on a few occasions will respond to God in the space, the spirit will move to disrupt, and something that looks just a bit awkward is enlightened by the unpredicatable movement of the spirit. Yet should the unpredictable be aimed for and ‘hope for the Spirit to act’ to validate inauthenticity?

When i was training for Oasis Trust back in the day we were given street evangelism training. Or should i say balloon modelling training. Or should i say an afternoon to try and blow one balloon up. The idea being that if we used balloons to generate a crowd on the streets, then this would generate interest and so then we could talk to people about our events, or share a testimony. Yeah right. People go into a shopping centre to go shopping. Maybe the Spirit might humour us by guiding us to one or two people – and often that then is narrated as success for them and an approach that could have offended and upset countless others.

Surely if the Spirit might work in situations that are awkward and inauthentic – how much more when the space created is done with  authenticity- the appropriate method for the created space. Is it our role to endeavour to create authentic spaces so that the light might shine in the everyday cracks that might be opened up, and use appropriate tools to open up those cracks.

The church is to enact parables, to be theatre in dramatic conversations, to play appropriate performances in the space. The Spirit might work to redeem even the most inappropriate place-making endeavour,  but the Spirit might only have so many  ‘bail-out’ tokens. Creating places in empty space is part of the communicative act of God, its what he did in creation, the space was formless and empty, in the spaces created where might God communicate – rather just be spoken of and on behalf of.