Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Andrew Perriman on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Andrew’s local newspaper is the Harrow Observer. Here is Andrew Perriman on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

About three years ago a group of young people decided that they would do church differently. They did not think of themselves as radicals. They were not unhappy – in that familiar postmodern way – with normal church. They were not much influenced by the emerging church conversation. They were not looking for celebrity. They just felt called to box up their traditional assumptions and practices, put them into storage, and start again with an empty space – somewhere well outside their comfort zone, where they could learn what it means to be good news.

They moved together into a derelict corner of north-west London. Harlesden is no longer the Yardie battleground that it was a few years ago when gang members were gunned down in broad daylight or stabbed in high street shops. There is a vibrant, if occasionally strained, multiculturalism – a heady blend of Irish, Afro-Caribbeans (it is unofficially London’s Reggae capital), Brazilians and transitory asylum-seekers. But it still has the familiar mix of inner city social problems.

Community Church Harlesden has developed into a passionate, close-knit, egalitarian community of 25 to 30 people, mostly under the age of 30, sharing accommodation, with five marriages and one baby between them – oh, and you can now include my wife and I, who in one respect at least are well outside the prevailing demographic.

They hang out with the kids in Roundwood Park on Sunday afternoons; and in the summer months they picnic in a precarious cultural space between the bikinis and the burkhas. Last winter they helped to run a homeless shelter; they have set up fledgling charities to provide financial advice and refugee support. They build friendships; they are generous; they keep the borders of their community life open.

All this may prove to be good news for Harlesden. But the better news, I think, at this moment in the long and tortuous history of the people of God, as the church in the West slowly emerges from the social, cultural and intellectual ruins of Christendom, is that God is first doing something to redeem his people – from folly, from divisiveness, from complacency, from isolation, from irrelevance.

That is how the good news works. ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…’ (Isaiah 52:7). It is the people of God that needs to hear the good news: their God is king, the Lord is returning to Zion, he has redeemed Jerusalem from the catastrophic consequences of its rebellion. Only then is this salvation made known to the world: ‘The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.’

So through the extraordinary faithfulness of Jesus Israel was redeemed from its sins, rescued from folly, divisiveness, complacency, isolation and irrelevance, and made a new creation. And that possibility of new creation – worked out painstakingly in community – has become good news for the world.

Andrew and his wife Belinda recently moved from the Hague, Netherlands, to Maida Vale in London, a few stops down the Bakerloo Line from Harlesden. Andrew runs Open Source Theology, is author of The Coming of the Son of Man, Re: Mission: Biblical Mission for a Post-Biblical Church, and a couple of other books, teaches occasionally, is part of Christian Associates, and is strongly in favour of a narrative-realist hermeneutic as the answer to most of the world’s problems.


6 Responses to Andrew Perriman on The Good News

  1. jrwoodward says:

    Thanks for sharing a story of what it means to “be” the good news to our neighborhood and the reminder of how the faithfulness of Jesus makes new creation more than a dream, but a reality to move toward with the help of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Carlo says:

    beautiful story – although no doubt still in its early days too….

    it makes me ask myself how much of what we do as church should be about the normal stuff like praying together, singing together, shared teaching and then how much should be about living the good news within the community and the world. good one.

  3. Thanks for sharing this wonderful example of Christian community happening in Harlesden. I appreciate your final words “that possibility of new creation – worked out painstakingly in community – has become good news for the world.” The good news pays attention to hardship, is honest about our condition (and processes as communities) and therefore is an authentic expression of news that contains goodness for the world.

  4. Josh Rowley says:

    Wonderful story of what a missional/emergent/postmodern church might look like in some contexts. Part of what I wonder, though, is how to be and do church in ways similarly faithful to those described as part of a long-established denomination and congregation.

  5. I appreciate the comments, guys.

    The question of the relationship between what Community Church Harlesden is doing and what can be done in traditional congregations is a very important one. I have a couple of observations.

    First, the group has maintained good relations with the Salt and Light network from which many of the original core came. And as I said, although they had a strong vision for doing something different, they weren’t driven by disillusionment, they weren’t running away from conventional church. Whether they will be able in the long run to feed back ideas and practices into the network remains to be seen, but the potential is certainly there. This attitude is also reflected in the connections that they are making with other churches in Harlesden.

    Secondly, we had a friend, Jason, visiting us recently from our old church Crossroads in the Hague. It’s a church of 300-400 people. In the fall he will be working to develop mid-sized communities of 20-50 people, which will be much more diverse, creative and open than our existing small groups, and which will have a measure of missional and pastoral autonomy. Mike Frost really got us thinking along these lines at a Christian Associates leadership conference earlier in the year. It was clear as Jason and I talked with one of the leaders from Harlesden that these two initiatives would have a lot in common and could learn from each other.

    So the possibility of more cooperative interaction between established congregations and these emerging experiments (whose longevity is certainly not guaranteed) is there. It will depend on converging visions of how the church exists in the world; and it will depend on overcoming the distrust that so often is the unwelcome side-effect of innovation. It helps that the group in Harlesden is mercifully free of most of the typical emerging or postmodern vanities and pretensions – though that could change, of course!

  6. Josh Rowley says:

    “It will depend on converging visions of how the church exists in the world; and it will depend on overcoming the distrust that so often is the unwelcome side-effect of innovation.”

    Yes.

    Thanks for the follow-up, Andrew.

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