Watch Lucy Moore discuss discipleship in Messy Church.
Hundreds of Messy Churches have been formed in the UK, and across the world, since the first one launched in Cowplain, Hampshire, nine years ago. Lucy says the question is increasingly being asked, 'Now what? Is Messy Church really making disciples?'
This is a really interesting and difficult question to answer.
Messy Church congregations are starting from a different place than many who would normally be coming into some sort of discipleship process, comprising a different set of people with a different set of expectations and perhaps prejudices.
So what we've found really helpful is to think about discipleship as a process or a journey. Instead of simply asking if people have become disciples or Christians in Messy Church, we prefer to ask, 'Are they becoming disciples; are they becoming Christians?' The answer is, 'Yes, hugely,' but they are just starting from a long way back in many cases.
The result is that Messy Church is currently reassessing what discipleship involves in the way of learning.
It's not just cerebral learning, intellectual learning,
but it's also valuing the non-formal learning and the social learning which are hugely powerful in Messy Church and a crucial part of discipleship - whole life discipleship, not just head discipleship.
This is a long haul and it's why Messy Churches are there as church, not as events. They're there month by month by month over a period of years, carrying people through on their Christian journey and accepting that this is a very gradual process for them.
The challenge for those leading a Messy Church is to offer as many chances to encounter God as possible in the limited time span available.
I wouldn't want to undervalue what goes on through joy and fun and play in Messy Churches. I think that's actually very deep in many ways but it is probably undervalued when it comes to discipleship. We (the church) tend to value the quiet, solemn, mysterious, things and undervalue the joy and laughter and re-creation that goes on.
Lucy says Messy Church has considered devising a discipleship course but the feeling at the moment is,
Not yet. If ever. If we start prescribing what discipleship should be rather than allowing people to think it through for themselves, to allow each church to discover a way that's right for those people, those families, those teams; I think we could be missing out on something exciting that God's got on offer for us. So maybe the time will come for a course, I don't think it's yet.
Paul Moore's book, Making Disciples in Messy Church – Growing faith in an all-age community, is published in March. Lucy comments,
I hope it will help people to think through the principles of it all rather than giving them ready made answers and I think that could be the catalyst that could send us off in exciting new directions as each church attempts - and fails and succeeds - with its own Messy Church. It will make progress but there will be a lot of failures along the way because this is new, this is pioneering stuff and it's not been done before. How do you grow atheists into disciples in this context as families, all ages, together? As far as I know it's not been done in quite that way before so it will be exciting to see what God's got up his sleeve for us in the next few years!