Shaped by God
last updated on: 11th Mar 2013
Welcome to Shaped by God. Shaped by God is the long-term vision of the Diocese of Leicester. Watch an introduction from Bishop Tim by clicking here:
In the Bible, in the book of Jeremiah, God expresses a longing to work with His people in the same way a potter works with clay. In 2005, the Diocese of Leicester embarked on a long-term strategy with the clear aim of being ever more shaped by God. As Bishop Tim wrote in the initial vision document, “We are God’s work of art. Our purpose as Christians is to discern God’s design for each of us and for His church and to allow the loving sensitivity of the potter to shape and to reshape our lives by love.”
The diocesan wide Shaped by God vision has mission at its heart. It is a vision that marks of mission will be visible in every one of the three hundred Anglican churches of the county and city. This is no small task and one which is impossible without the help of God’s Spirit. Shaped by God also recognises, that the best way each of the nine marks of mission can be developed across the diocese is by working together in Mission Partnerships. These Mission Partnerships vary considerably in size and style, but at the heart of each of them is a desire for effective mission and a place for sharing, learning and growing with others for this mission. Even when the temptation is for us to be introspective, Mission Partnerships remind us of God’s calling to effective mission in His world. You can read more about the nine marks of mission and the role of Mission Partnerships below. For a full list of Mission Partnerships, and to see who is the Convenor and member of each one click on the link in the red bar at the top of this page labelled 'Mission Partnerships'.
'Mission' is a word used to convey many different things, so to focus our work Shaped by God identifies nine marks of mission. Shaped by God also recognises that the task of being missional congregations isn’t something which we can do in isolation and so each church across the diocese has been invited to partner with others in Mission Partnerships. Sometimes these Mission Partnerships will engage in mission together, but more often they will work together to resource and serve the mission of local churches – learning from each others strengths and working together to minimise the areas in which we are weaker. Read more on both below:
The Nine Marks of Mission
The initial Shaped by God document discusses these in much more depth, but in summary the nine marks are:
- lives and communities transformed, through the Good News of Jesus Christ;
- worship in a way that renews and inspires, echoing the praise of heaven;
- self-giving service to the community, because the Church is called to be local and outward looking;
- being rooted in prayer, because prayer is part of our loving response to the needs of the world;
- confident and sensitive evangelism, responding to Jesus’ call to share our faith in word and deed;
- lifelong Christian nurture , because our mission overflows from our own discipleship;
- the welcome of newcomers , helping those who come close to the church to feel welcomed and cherished by God;
- becoming child friendly, following our Lord’s example of putting children at a central place in His ministry;
- celebration of people and places, because godly celebration is at the heart of the gospel.
Many churches across the diocese have chosen the nine marks of mission as a small group discussion or service theme series. To aid in this, an initial toolkit was been prepared with leaflets on each of these nine marks, with questions and pointers for developing them locally. They can be downloaded for free by clicking on the resources page or by contacting Church House. Stepping Stones, a guide to nurture, discipleship and faith sharing courses has also been produced as a resource for churches, especially in the marks of mission concered with welcome, evangelism and transformation. It can be downloaded from resources page (click in the red bar at the top of this page).
With over twenty Mission Partnerships across the diocese, which vary considerably in size, style and make-up, they each function in quite different ways (there is a separate page for each Mission Partnership, just click on Mission Partnerships to the right of the red bar at the top of this page):
Some see their role, given the context in which they exist, as being to engage in mission together. A common example of this is in work with children or young people (such as one who jointly employ a Youth Worker, or another who run a Kidz Club together).
Others, often because of a more geographically dispersed area, see their role not as doing mission together, but as resourcing mission together (for example, supporting and training leaders for churches separate evangelism courses, or together hosting a course on how individual churches might build on the welcome they offer to newcomers).
Either model, a considered combination or a different model altogether is fine. What we’d suggest is important is to make sure all member churches are agreed in what the model is, so together you can be intentional in what you are for (and not for). Some Mission Partnerships have found themselves stuck in a rut, with the underlying cause being a range of different visions for what the Mission Partnership is for. Intentionality and constantly sowing the vision are key. It is likely that the start of a new Convenor will give opportunity to review and discuss this in a way which might be harder a year in.
The role of a Mission Partnership is not to ape existing structures (either Churches Together or the Deanery), nor to create a ‘super congregation’ or make it easier to amalgamate congregations. The aim is to strengthen the local church in being ever more effective in mission (as defined in the nine marks of mission in the initial Shaped by God envisioning report). As Dallas Willard often writes, ‘the local church is the hope for the world.’ The litmus test to all activities, discussions, and the like should always be ‘how will this help God to grow His Kingdom’. It maybe that the key role of some partnerships is less in doing and more in helping to bring about cultural change to be evermore missional. In seeking this goal, three metaphors which some Mission Partnerships have found helpful in discerning how they understand their calling are:
Take nitrogen and oxygen, two of the most common elements on earth. Put them in a sealed container. Come back a day later and you’ll still have nitrogen and oxygen. But, if you then add iron to the equation you’ll get ammonia, an important ingredient in a host of things (glass cleaner, fertiliser, polymers, etc.). However, ammonia doesn’t contain any iron. The iron just facilitates the bonding of the nitrogen and oxygen. Iron is a catalyst.
A catalyst gets something going, and is essential to that process. But then, at the appropriate time, fades away into the background. It speeds the reaction, but is not itself consumed in the reaction (although may degrade a little, so important it is sustained and added to). It may participate in multiple chemical transformations. In many ways it is similar to the architect of a house – essential to the building but doesn’t move into the home.
There are various scriptural illusions aspects of this kind of role, often in the more itinerant ministry of the Apostle Paul, or Andrew inviting the young boy with food to meet with Jesus before He fed the crowds. (credit for some of this illustration belongs to the excellent book, The Starfish and the Spider)
A conductor sees both the whole score and individual notes. S/he is well aware and understands each instrumentalist, but normally can’t play the instrument as well as the principal instrumentalist. They are not needed the whole time, but are there to ensure harmony. Lots of working behind the scenes often means that at the key moment, their role appears almost to blend away.
Think of a sporting or music promoter. Similar to above, they are not the sportsperson or musician themselves, but they see the need for something (either from ‘consumers’ or the sportspeople/musicians themselves) and make it happen. They bring the key parties together, often pump prime the finance and bring in additional resources and expertise as needed. We see some examples of this in the watchmen of Isaiah, waiting, watching, discerning and acting as needed.
To learn more about Shaped by God why not read the review and re-envisioning document from November 2009, which can be downloaded here. There's also a link to the initial vision document at the bottom of the page (although best to read the review alongside this as some of the focus has shifted).
Why not also visit the new Shaped by Gog blog, updated regularly with more resources, at http://www.shapedbyGod.co.uk or by clicking on the link at the far right hand side of this page,
Shaped by God is resourced by a wide range of people from across the diocese, but with dedicated resource from Barry Hill as Mission Enabler (supported by Carol Gibbons). Barry or Carol can be contacted at St Martins House, 7 Peacock Lane, Leicester LE1 5PZ, by phone on 0116 261 5611 or by email here. A Co-ordinating team steers the Shaped by God vision and is always welcome to recieve comments, ideas and questions. A copy of its terms of reference and membership are at the bottom of this page.
Please hold this vision in your prayers that together we may see evermore lives and communities transformed by the Good News offered by our Lord Jesus Christ.