Messy Church

Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community

Final thoughts from Martyn

Posted by Martyn Payne on 01 Dec 2017 (0 comments)

It’s going to be very hard stepping away from the wonderful BRF Messy Church team and the inspirational and dynamic wider Messy Church family I have been privileged to work with over these last five years. I shall miss you all so much but – after a break – I am already wondering how I might keep in my hand in with all things messy!

My many visits to Messy Churches have always been so encouraging, so I send a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who have welcomed me through your doors and taught me so much, which I could then pass on to BRF. But just what was it those visits taught me? And just what have I learnt from over 200 visits and meeting up with as many Messy Church leaders and teams? Well, here are some final thoughts as I move on…

I have no doubt that Messy Church is a movement of God’s Spirit for the 21st century. Over the years, many of us have joined in with prayers for revival, particularly as we have seen our church go on the back foot in our Western culture. Maybe our ideas of revival were conditioned by what God did in the past, while the truth is that God always does a new thing and often, as with Messy Church, it bubbles up on the margins and in unexpected ways. The number of churches that have found a new life and new hope through starting a Messy congregation is evidence that we have a God of surprises. What is more, people brand-new to church are coming into the kingdom. As ever, the wind of God’s Spirit blows where it wills and this is not something we can ever control.

At the same time, I am deeply aware that Messy Church is only part of God’s revival plan for his church in our day. No one pretends that Messy Church has all the answers, but what is wonderful is that it is asking important questions about how we share and nurture faith among the millennial communities of our time. Despite the rise of social media and the screens that govern our lives, 21st-century families are looking for community and quality time where they can sit alongside others and share honest and authentic stories of faith. Messy Church offers just this in abundance.

Another observation touches on the reach of Messy Church. Although, in my experience, Messy Church has found a home in all sorts of church traditions and social contexts, I have noticed that this movement is particularly welcomed in more needy areas. Whether these be rural or inner-city communities, it is noticeable that this ‘new wineskin’ of church is offering a safe place to meet, real friendship, healthy togetherness and, above all, a hot meal for those who are finding it hard to make ends meet. This is Christian love in action and is sharing the gospel with more than just words.

I’ve also noticed that it is very often smaller and average-sized churches that particularly find Messy Church a blessing. The large, well-resourced churches usually find other ways to reach out in mission and that is great, but for a small congregation Messy Church offers a mission opportunity within their means, makes use of their own gifts and contextualises it for their own community. Isn’t it great that Messy Church is a fresh expression of church that is firmly rooted in the local church and the immediate neighbourhood, building up the existing congregation as much as it creates a new one?

It has also been interesting to observe on my travels how Messy Church gives permission for lots of new creative thinking about how we show God’s love to our neighbours. It is having an influence far beyond its own meetings. Often it has helped churches re-imagine how they might better welcome and enable learning among their existing congregations. We never cease to be amazed, in the BRF Messy Church team, at the new initiatives that keep bubbling up, simply because Messy Church has opened a new door of opportunity and allowed us to think differently.

Finally, for me one of the most important aspects of Messy Church has been that it provides a practical and successful way to do things intergenerationally. Like many of you, I have poured my heart and soul over the years into trying to make a Sunday morning family service truly all-age, but so often it has been a shallow compromise that has pleased no one. Messy Church starts in a different place and its shape and values really do enable young and old to learn with and from each other, so that faith can be deeply rooted in their lives. This is such a precious gift to the church and one which is not only important spiritually, but is crucial for the future health and well-being of our society.

Messy Church ticks so many boxes, but also opens so many boxes too – and long may it do so! May it continue to surprise us and be an inspiration to the whole of church… may it both remain true to its missionary calling, and also rejoice in the variety, difference and holy Mess that are true hallmarks of God’s kingdom among us!

May God continue to bless your Messy ministries.

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