Jesus is at the heart of everything we do and the way we do it
This involves encountering Christ as we plan and prepare. It means that at Messy Church the team expects to meet Christ in the child or adult who comes through the door for the first time or who has been part of the church for years. It includes hearing about Jesus and talking about him as we take part in the different elements of Messy Church. It means doing everything in the name of Christ and being a place where everyone can taste and see the kingdom of heaven that Jesus came to bring about.
Being Christ-centred means Messy Church is a church congregation alongside the other congregations of your church, not a feeder into them. It means the team comes to it expecting to meet Christ themselves, not performing ‘at’ or ‘for’ others. It becomes an opportunity for everyone to encounter the mystery of faith rather than morality teaching. Being Christ-centred is about embracing risk rather than simply delivering an event. It will almost certainly be messy, as people and relationships take priority over structures and systems: it certainly was in Jesus’ own ministry!
Christ is the reason for our serving
When I look at the enormous network that is Messy Church, I often think of the psalmist’s words:
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain (Psalm 127:1, TNIV).
This is very mysterious, perhaps especially to Messy Church teams who put in so much hard graft themselves – cooking, washing-up, serving, cutting out, sweeping up, peeling nameless horrors off the ceiling and floor: it feels as if we ourselves are doing an awful lot to ‘build the house’ and that it isn’t going to be built at all unless we contribute our elbow grease to it.
But the mystery (and annoying thing and huge relief all at the same time) is that we could do all that work and do it brilliantly but it would STILL be a waste of time, fruitless, rootless and heartless unless Christ is the reason for doing it, the means of doing it and his glory the outcome of doing it.
Giving God space to change lives
We might have an outwardly successful Messy Church but be relying totally on our own efforts rather than giving the invisible breath of God space to change people’s lives on a cosmic level.
Or we could have an apparently weedy little Messy Church that is actually one through which God is able to work wonders because it’s totally reliant on him.
Paul puts it a different way:
If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Are we growing the kingdom or building our empire? Is Christ at the centre?
What could we do to make sure the Site Foreman is given free hand with the bricks and mortar, and that the Living Word speaks verbally and non-verbally through all we say and do?
A checklist for your team
It’s not rocket science, but here’s the start of a checklist for your team to mull on.
- Work out how every theme can introduce Jesus, however gently.
- Make sure the activities and celebration point towards the Bible story or theme.
- Make sure the team know the Bible theme or story.
- Remember Jesus’ attitudes to children, to outsiders and to his friends in every conversation or interaction we are given at Messy Church, with families, team and newcomers.
- Make space for families to encounter Christ, not just to hear about him.
- Deliberately look for the Spirit of God already at work in the people who come and be ready to love the spark of Christ alive in them, whoever they are.
- Remember that people will learn much more from what you do than from what you say: be sensitive about when to talk about Christ and when to let the activities, ambiance and environment do the speaking.
- As you reflect on your Messy Church session, ask each other where you saw Christ at work.
- Invite Christ to be at the centre of your life, day, workplace, crisis, relationship, activity or moment, perhaps in the words of St Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me.
Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger.
Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.