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25 August 2017

The 21st century Reformation – re-painting the fence

The 21st century Reformation – re-painting the fence

"If you have a white fence, and want to keep it white, you have to keep re-painting it." That's the analogy Roy Crowne uses when talking about the Reformation. "If you want to keep the gospel bright and attractive, you have to keep 're-painting' - reviewing and re-presenting it for today's culture," he explains.

When HOPE began with Hope08, evangelical churches could often give a clear presentation of the gospel, but many were not engaged with their local communities, so found that they were almost always preaching to the converted.

There were other churches that focused on being Jesus' hands and feet through social action, but rarely put faith into words to point people to Jesus. Hope08 brought words and actions together to make Jesus known.

Now as churches across the spectrum of denominations prepare for HOPE 2018, that reformation in church mission is embedded into the life of thousands of churches in villages, towns and cities across the country. Along the way we've learned some lessons that will be valuable for us all.

Words
We need to talk about our faith. Laurence Singlehurst, one of the HOPE leadership team, describes spiritual conversations like a game of tennis: "A comment is made – for example we might be asked, 'Did you have a good weekend?' I might say, 'Yes, there was a very good service at my church.' That introduces a spiritual element. Now it's their turn to respond. If they hit the metaphorical tennis ball back and say something like 'Really, you go to church!' then I can take the conversation further; but if there's no return then I need to stop talking about spiritual things."

Action
As part of HOPE, many churches run practical projects in their communities during the summer. In Carlisle, Give a Day to the City was started by Andy Fearon of Carlisle Vineyard. Volunteers from churches and the wider community donate their time for the now-annual event. Andy says, "Whether you give an hour, a day, donate blood, give food, renovate a garden, help a neighbour, everyone can do something."
In Preston, the Inside Out project helps hundreds of people, restoring their self-respect. Its work ranges from gardening, cleaning and decorating, to providing furniture or clothing or food: doing whatever it takes to demonstrate the hope Jesus gives.

Together
Rev Yemi Adedeji, HOPE's associate director, says: "HOPE unites the Church across denominations, race, culture and customs. Jesus prayed that we would be one (John 17:23). When we come together in prayer and mission we show the world what God is like, so they can believe in him. Our unity has a powerful impact."

When churches use the HOPE brand, local initiatives gain the impact of a national campaign. Sharing in mission together means there's less likelihood of mission burn-out as different local churches can take the lead in a rhythm of mission through the year.

Rhythm of mission
Writing in HOPE – The Heartbeat of Mission, Bishop Steven Croft encourages churches to use a rhythm of mission through the Christian calendar. HOPE has developed resources for churches to use every season. Summer fun days and harvest suppers are great ways of building relationships with local people. Churches need to have something to say, something to give and an invitation to offer.



In 2018, as the nation and Commonwealth mark the centenary of the end of World War I, HOPE will be working with ministry partners to develop a pocket-sized gift book for Remembrance services. The Christmas HOPE magazine will be a great give-away in 2017 and 2018. HOPE, Bible Society, Sports Chaplaincy UK and Integrity Music are working together to provide churches with souvenir carol booklets to use at community events. Easter is another calendar highlight, when HOPE's latest book Who do you say I am? is an ideal give-away.

HOPE is continually re-presenting the gospel for today's culture, looking for ways to put the church in villages, towns and cities at the heart of national events. HOPE invites churches to this 21st century reformation.

Roy Crowne says, "Be courageous; take some risks for the sake of the gospel. Let's be intentional about making Jesus known through what we say and what we do. Let's invite people to guest services, always keeping Jesus as the focus, and giving guests an opportunity to respond to the gospel."

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