by | Mar 11, 2024

Let me tell you about an alley and muddy bank that has had real significance when I was growing up. The alley had a gravelly driveway with a good quota of potholes and a series of dilapidated garages and best of all a muddy bank, which I still believe is the greatest and muddiest bank for sliding down in the land! Furthermore, for my friends and I, as soon as school was finished or the weekend had arrived, this small alley and muddy bank became our very own world of adventure. This may have been a small track and almost unnoticeable slope to others, but for us it was our very own kingdom. This was where, as boys living in Sheffield, we heard with shock about the Hillsborough disaster, and the place where on a number of occasions we got chased off other peoples land, and the place where I got stuck half in and half out of a hole in the roof of one of the garages! Why am I telling you about this little alley and muddy bank? Because as I’ve been thinking about multisite churches this image keeps coming back to me again and again. Let me show you why.

Living as a multisite church (that means we are one church with multiple sites and hopefully in the future, multiple services) will always stretch our hearts, emotions and lives to look beyond the end of our own alley (i.e. thinking that things must be local).

Jesus’ mission mandate for his church recorded in Acts 1:8 says:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth.” (ESV)

This verse shows us that Jesus had the expectation that as local churches we would constantly be moving between the local (Jerusalem), not so local (Judea & Samaria) and the far off (end of the Earth). For many of us it is really easy to focus on the local (Jerusalem), because it’s like my alley and muddy bank; familiar, safe, ours, and small enough to know it in quite some detail. Many churches are also great at having big hearts for the ‘far off’ (the end of the Earth). This is certainly true at ECC with our long term support for our global partners. However, notice that in Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 there is also those uncomfortable places that aren’t in our alley (local), and aren’t far off, but are still close enough that we all (rather than the just the keenies!) need to step out of our alley and go exploring new ones (Judea and Samaria).

Living as a multisite church always stretches our hearts, emotions, and lives to look beyond the end of our alley and to see that there are lots and lots of alleyways just like ours that God wants us, together, to be involved in. Let me list some of the alleyways that we’re already living in as a church family: Reddish, The Heatons (that’s four alleyways clubbed together!), Didsbury, Levenshulme, Denton, Offerton, Burnage, Audenshaw, Bramhall, Woodsmoor, Edgeley, Davenport, Gatley, Wythenshawe, Marple, Glossop… and yes, I’m sure as a newbie to the area I’ve missed some! 

Here’s the challenge: being part of a multisite church means we need to allow God to expand our hearts to see these other alleys and muddy banks (or communities) not as places for someone else to deal with. Theyare part of our Acts 1:8 mission to see this part of the world – our region – changed and transformed by the power of the gospel.

In order for this to happen we need to ensure that Acts 1:8 is soaking down into our hearts, thoughts, emotions and commitments so that there is a place for the local, not so local and far off. As this happens any sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ will leach away, because we’re learning that Jesus is looking for a church that is willing to move between the local, not so local, and far off with equal passion and equal commitment.

What about you? Are you willing to see another man’s alleyway and muddy bank as part of your Acts 1:8 mission field?

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