This week we will be drawing your attention to several of the seminars that will be taking place over the course of New Horizon next week. We hope this will peak your interest to just some of what will be going down at NH2012, as well as acting as a guide to where some old and maybe even new  – but equally significant – questions and issues are being highlighted and explored.

The first of these is Paul Coulter‘s seminar, ‘Maintenance or Mission? Missional Church Thinking’, which will be taking place of the morning of Monday 13th. What follows is Paul’s breakdown of the direction, intention and thought behind the seminar – we hope to see you there!

Maintenance or Mission? Missional Church Thinking

The world is changing.  The church, which was previously in the mainstream of society, at the centre of national and community life, is increasingly marginalised.  The Bible and Christian truth were once familiar, woven into our cultural fabric, are now foreign.  Christian values were once dominant in society and when the church spoke people listened, but in our new world of cultural and religious diversity the church is just one voice among many. You probably agree that this is the reality in Great Britain, but what about Northern Ireland?  Surely this patch of hallowed land is different?   Well, it is different – we all know that there are more Christians here, that more people attend church and that Christianity has greater influence in the public sphere.  Yet we also fear that we are following on the same curve as Britain – only a decade or two behind.  More significantly, many Christians in Northern Ireland are unaware of the degree to which there is already a sector of society who are every bit as secular and post-Christian as the ‘heathens’ across the water.

How should we respond to this changing world?  We could batten down the hatches, settling on maintaining what remains.  We could carry on with business as usual, fishing in the diminishing pond of dechurched people who will respond to the right invitation.  Or we could seize the opportunity this moment offers to become once more what the church has always been called to be – a people who are strangers in the world but who have a glorious hope; a people on mission in all of life; a people who embody the extraordinary kingdom of God in the ordinariness of life.  We need to think seriously about how Christians and churches can learn from our new context and how we can reach the masses of unchurched people who live in the shadow of a thousand spires in every part of Northern Ireland.  Evangelistic strategies that bore fruit in past generations simply aren’t effective with the people who have concluded that church is part of the problem and should be relegated to the past.  It is no longer enough to tweak at the edges of how we ‘do church’, adding another programme or adopting the latest trend.  We need a radical revision to become missional people and missional churches.  Let’s learn together what it might mean to be ‘missional’.