Do you ever get fidgety? My middle name is Bridget and the obvious rhyming nickname was attached to me as a child when I couldn’t sit still. And while I’m not actually physically fidgeting at the moment, I am doing the mental equivalent of wriggling restlessly from the seat of a comfortable chair on to its arm, flinging my legs over the back, sliding down on to the floor, crawling under the rug and slinking back again to the chair. Perhaps it’s the mind’s way of trying out new ideas, of playing with concepts before they become realities. Or maybe it’s my natural reactionary nature being prodded out of its comfort zone by the tickling stick of this Messy world I live in along with you.
What if – my mind throws the juggling balls up in the air one by one – what if, in Messy Church, we’ve done something more than just devise a robust way of introducing families to the Christian faith and community? What if we’ve inadvertently stumbled on a completely new way of being church? What if this Messy way of doing things actually has everything it takes to carry the faith far into the 21st century if we run with it wholeheartedly? What if we just need to have confidence that what feels so right really is right?
What if I listened to that voice inside me that says rebelliously, ‘I don’t want to do church as I’ve always done it: I want to do nothing but Messy (missional, outward-looking, creative, fun, attractive, biblical, generous, hospitable) Church’?
Let’s put caveats in place right at the start: no, Messy Church isn’t for everyone, and yes, we still need church in all its different forms to meet the needs of different people at different times of life. But what if Messy Church is just as viable as the ones we’ve been using for most of this century? What if it’s just as good a vehicle for sharing God’s story, accompanying each other on a discipleship journey and transforming our communities – just as good, just as deserving of resources, respect and prayerful support from the Church and maybe in some ways even better?
I suspect that somewhere deep down in the heart of those of us who have been brought up in inherited church, there is a little voice that still would love Messy families to ‘come and do church like we do it on a Sunday’. I know it’s a voice I hear inside myself. It’s what we’ve accepted for decades as the right way forward and the voice isn’t going to be silenced overnight. But what if the Messy way inherently contains all we need to go on with Jesus, to support others on their journey and to share him with those who don’t yet know him? What if Messy Church teams were to take the step of treating their Messy Church not as a bit of ministry on the sidelines of ‘real’ church, but as a church plant? What if we behaved as though Messy Church were our main, our only, congregation?
I’ve been meeting a growing number of people running Messy Churches who have (always shamefacedly and with a deep sense of guilt and disloyalty to the church they love) said something like, ‘Messy Church has ruined me for normal church,’ or, ‘I love doing Messy Church but Sunday church drives me bananas,’ or, ‘I don’t want to go to Sunday church any more; I just want to do Messy Church.’ Is this disastrous selfishness? Or what if these people – including myself – shouldn’t be feeling guilty? What if God has put new pairs of spectacles on our noses that have made us see more clearly the way he needs us to go as church into the rest of this century? What if it’s his voice calling us from within?
I suppose the problem is, we’ll never find out unless and until we put a firelighter to the boat of inherited church that’s brought us to this new shoreline so that we can’t go back when the going gets tough. Then we would need to throw our hearts and souls, our time and money, our energy, homes and priorities, into our Messy Churches with the same vigour as we have thrown our lot in with traditional church up to now – and maybe with even more commitment, as we can’t give up as soon as it gets difficult. No wonder I feel fidgety.
This article was taken from Get Messy! May to August 2015 – view all issues and find out about subscribing.