Making Disciples in Messy Church
Growing faith in an all-age community
Written with clarity and conviction, Making Disciples in Messy Church is a timely and helpful book for a movement that is deeply serious about discipleship. Drawing on biblical, monastic and catechetical approaches, the book contains much wisdom and inspiration for those seeking to make disciples in all forms of church, not just the phenomenon that is Messy Church. The affirmation of the places of family and community in discipleship formation is especially welcome. I warmly and wholeheartedly commend this book.
Andrew Roberts, Methodist Minister and Director of Training for Fresh Expressions
Messy Church has been widely and enthusiastically adopted as a proven and effective way of introducing families to an experience of Christian community and the good news of Jesus. Sceptics ask, 'Are people becoming Christians through Messy Church?' The evidence is clear that they are. But the next challenging question is, 'Can Messy Church also nurture their faith and make these converts into disciples?'
The aim of this book, by telling stories, analysing the journey to faith, and reflecting on what being a disciple means and the various methods of making disciples found in scripture and church tradition, is to encourage ministers and lay leaders to see how their Messy Church can be an intentional disciple-making community.
- Is Messy Church making disciples?
- What are disciples and how are they made?
- Old Testament discipleship
- Jesus and discipleship in the Gospels: kingdom community
- Disciples in Acts
- Disciple - making in the Epistles and Revelation
- A community discipleship curriculum
- An alternative - catechesis then and now
- Intergenerational discipleship
- Discipleship and faith at home
Messy Church is a gift from God, one of the Holy Spirit's wonderful surprises, where a step of faith by one very ordinary church has opened the way for more than a thousand others to engage with families who had no serious connection to a church. No one anticipated that the story publicised in the first Fresh Expressions DVD in 2006 would take on such a life of its own. Messy Church is now a movement in its own right, within the wider Fresh Expressions movement. This book, from Paul Moore, the vicar of that church, presents insights from the oldest member of this young family of churches. They are insights from which all who are committed to disciple-making can benefit.
Those who have been unsure of Messy Church, who would like it to be less messy, and who wonder if it really is church, have frequently raised the question of discipleship. How can you possibly make disciples among all that mess, especially if you meet just once per month? On the contrary, I have always believed that Messy Church is as valid a fresh expression of church as any of the many other models and examples. Because of this, I have always been convinced that the secrets of making disciples through Messy Church lay within the gift itself, in the DNA of the original idea given by the Holy Spirit, and that they would emerge over time. The temptation to bolt on ideas from a different model in order to answer questions or solve apparent problems about disciple-making has always been misguided. It is also evidence of impatience. As the gift of Messy Church has been unwrapped during its early years, the secrets have begun to be revealed.
The Messy Church world is not closed to learning from other sources. Paul draws helpfully from Scripture, from ancient tradition, from other mission practitioners and researchers, from educational theory and from the worldwide Messy family. But, above all, he draws from the underlying values of Messy Church. He tells us not so much how to make disciples through Messy Church as how to create Messy Church as a disciple-making culture, which is much more important.
He sets realistic expectations about the time it takes to journey from no church connection to active faith. He robustly defends intergenerational learning. He wants parents equipped to take responsibility for their children's spiritual development, and team members to see Messy Church as their church, not just the place where they volunteer once a month.
I suspect that there may be even more to be unpacked from this surprising gift over the coming years, but for now this will do very well.
Bishop Graham Cray
Archbishops' Missioner and Leader of the Fresh Expressions Team
From Pobl Dewi - June 2013
This book of 120 pages divides into three. The first section looks at what it means to be growing as disciples of Jesus and where this might be happening in Messy Church. The second considers discipleship in scripture and how that might affect Messy Church. The third offers recommendations.
If you are familiar with models of discipleship, the first section will probably offer little that is new, and "success" stories from elsewhere are not always encouraging. The central section gives much food for thought: Abraham and Sarah as prototype disciples and the messiness of their situations; how, in the Old Testament, growing in discipleship was done with others, as a people. Community is a recurring strand, and the "doing together" element of Messy Church does help to build relationships.
How do we grow a community of disciples, rather than concentrating on the individual? Jesus and the apostles formed a community that teaches us to model discipleship where responsibility is given early, and where learning is, initially, largely through experience and doing. Similarly in Acts, it is argued, baptism comes early to the disciple, followed quickly by doing and serving; catechesis comes only later. Does Messy Church mirror that of the epistles in being more rooted in the everyday and less- focussed on "the special"? It's not just about Sunday morning - there is a space for hospitality and serving and not just for worship services.
The conclusions are well drawn and they are valid for all work across generations. If you are not a fan of Messy Church, the book's subtitle, "Growing faith in an all age community" is surely something we are all interested in. However good the recommendations, the temptation to jump straight to the end and miss out the central discussion is worth resisting.
I admit to having been predisposed to recommend this book. I was already convinced that the principles of Messy Church are simple, achievable by most congregations, and that they can create the melting pot of church and community in which disciples might grow. I was hoping for ideas to add to my Messy Church to encourage that growing of disciples. (And the book did challenge me about the need to be "intentional about faith building.") So, did I get some ideas? Yes. Very much so. The book assumes that there is a core team overseeing the Messy Church. I need to identify that core team. If we can study this book together, the accompanying thought, discussion and prayer might, God-willing, move on our Messy Church from being a melting pot into a crucible in which faith is forged.
Reviewed by Revd Alan Chadwick
Published 22 March 2013