In the previous post, we started talking about our journey. In understanding where we want to go, it’s helpful to know where we have come from. With this in mind, we want to share with you a bit more about the journey so far. Our story is one that began around 20 years ago. Back in the 90’s, at St Thomas Church, Crookes in Sheffield we sat as part of a church congregation and began to grasp a whole new paradigm. Under the leadership of Mike Breen, we began to rediscover the essence of Jesus’ teaching. As we took a fresh look at the life of Jesus we began to see his life was made up of three components:
Relationship to, and intimacy with, the Father (Up)
Relationship to, and investment in, his core disciples (In)
Relationship to, and an engagement with, the lost world around Him (Out)
We called this “the triangle”: The three dimensional life.
Mike simply showed us the principles found in the life of Jesus using what we came to know as “Lifeshapes.” They became our lens, our way of looking at the world and our shared language as we engaged with all that God called us to do.
If Lifeshapes had remained as theories, concepts and principles, then nothing would have changed. But as ordinary members of the congregation took hold of these principles and began to apply them to their everyday life & relationship with God, something happened. They found they were equipped to make a difference wherever and whatever their environment. Office workers, mums, students, families, the unemployed – followers of Jesus confident in sharing the good news.
Our lens was forever changed: Mission was no longer left to the professionals, or done through events. Mission wasn’t something we paid other people to do in a developing country.
Mission became lifestyle, and our city became our mission field.
Small groups and missional communities were formed around a particular missional vision. That vision might be to reach a particular people group, network, or neighbourhood. Many people moved out beyond what seemed comfortable or easy. These missional communities became like families on mission. Together they lived out the three dimensional life.
People left homes in the suburbs and moved to the inner cities to share Jesus with their life and their words amongst the poor of our city. Many others took part-time jobs and sacrificed pay and careers to give more time in their neighbourhood. And others began discipling colleagues in their workplace, praying for them, and sharing Jesus through the normal course of life.
Our mentality shifted as we realised that church wasn’t about what we could get out of it. Nor was it about a Sunday morning experience. And gradually we began to see that
Jesus didn’t call us to build His church, He told us to go and make disciples.
When Mike left St Thomas’ Church, Philadelphia in 2004 Paul Maconochie became Senior Pastor and Rich Robinson took on oversight of Missional Communities. The movement has continued to grow. St Thomas’ Church, Philadelphia is now part of Network Church Sheffield, a network of 3 “bases” all of whom have several missional communities. We now have 120 communities reaching out to Iranians, young families, the suburbs, professionals, teenagers, businessmen, the poor & needy and many more people & places.
Along the way we’ve made mistakes – lots of them! In fact we’ve learnt more from our mistakes than from any successes. And as we’ve led and shaped this culture we’ve always sought to ask ourselves and others the question: “What’s God saying to me and what will I do about it?” A culture where disciples are confident to access God’s word directly for themselves; where the body learns to care for one another rather than relying on a “pastor”, and where disciples make disciples.
Over the years we’ve learnt about discipleship, we’ve learnt about church, we’ve learnt about mission. We’ve learnt how to be family, and to call others into that. And we’re called to keep learning, and to guide others to learn too.
Not just information or concepts, but practical, real-life learning.
3dm UK is inviting others to stand on our shoulders; to learn from our mistakes and to gain from His successes.
We want to see our nation transformed through committed, wholehearted disciples of Jesus.
God is opening up doors and stirring His church. He is touching lives and firing imaginations. The family is growing. And the growing family is moving; beyond local boundaries and established models. People all around the world – brothers and sisters in Christ – are asking the same questions and aiming to live a different life. We are privileged to walk with you.
And we know there’s more to come…