Helen Harwood talked to Pioneer course student Simon about the Bible in Context module and his wider experience of study with CMS.
HH: You chose to join the Bible in Context module; can you say what inspired you to do so?
S: My previous experiences of John Drane’s input I have found to be very insightful. The topic of how to use the Bible in today’s missional context I have found to be continually challenging. With many of the people that I encounter, taking a position of simply stating “The Bible says” is a non starter for ongoing dialogue. I see the Bible as a living document that needs to inform and lead how we reveal or find Jesus already present in our missional context. Participating in this module humbly reminded me again of how little of the Bible I actually seemingly know and whether what I think I know is nuanced to my own particular theological biases.
How did you find the week long module up at King’s Park Conference Centre in Northampton?
Throughout this module, John brought his in-depth academic experience in a way which was contextually sensitive and positively provoking of constructive discussion. The immersion of a week together to retreat from family and home I found helped me with getting as much as possible from the module. In being residential, the additional conversations over coffee and meals further allowed the sharing of practical experience and personal insights. With another group from CMS also present in the conference centre who were preparing for mission abroad, further input and comparing with UK based pioneering provided additional food for thought.
The module leader, John Drane, has worked with us over a number of years, could you tell us something about his teaching style and what was useful?
John’s adaptive teaching style accommodated the various learning styles within the group. In addition to sharing his prepared content, John allowed for challenging questions to be brought both communally and individually. Further, John provided real examples of pioneering practice that positioned how church is being realised now in differing locations and with differing people groups. Some of these examples challenged me personally around how I potentially marginalise specific groups within our community. I found John inspired how we can envision church differently for the years and decades ahead.
How did you find the fellowship and general atmosphere at King’s Park in Northampton?
One of the main benefits I personally find through attending the various modules is the opportunity to hear the real experiences of others as they pioneer. The opportunity to discuss and pray through some of the positives and negatives I find is helped through the communal experience of living together over a week. I have found that Pioneers are real people who experience real challenges such as isolation and rejection through their missional context. Through the module it also became clear that such emotions were also experienced by those we read about in the Bible. Knowing that others who are journeying a similar path are an email or phone call away helps me personally in the times when I feel the uphill struggle.
Your studies since 2011 have spanned a number of modules with us; can you tell me something about what you get out of the course, please?
The Pioneer leadership course has positively challenged me at various levels. Theologically, the black and white objective answers that I have held although potentially still valid may not be as applicable based on how my missional context has developed. I attempt now (not always successfully) to be more open based on subjective experience of those I encounter. I have found that I am continuing the journey of change, from being a person who believes they think they know the answer to one desiring to hear the stories of others to learn their context.
A further module that comes to mind was the Missional Entrepreneurship week which I attended in 2013. I was amazed at how much creativity was generated during the week and how people’s passion for their missional context shone through. Such a module gave practical tools to potentially stretch beyond that which I thought was previously possible. A further key for me was that missional outcomes are not necessarily about quantitative goals being reached but around the qualitative journey being travelled.
Can you tell us what is on the horizon for you and how we can pray for you in the future?
A current perspective I am working through is that of the sacred and secular divide or whether there is one. I have recognised that over many years I limited my scope as to where Jesus was active or could be active. Such boundaries also limited me around where I could be missionally contextual. From this module, the Bible evidences God as a communicating God. A God that chose to speak and who continues to choose to speak. The Voice continues to speak to all today and in the specific context that the person finds themselves. Such a positive challenge encourages me to continue to review my personal beliefs and how I respond in practical missional actions. Going forward, I believe I am seeing more scope for where and how my pioneering context can develop but needing the Holy Spirit’s direction around where to focus.
For those interested in residential modules, which can be taken as standalone events, please contact Helen Harwood on Helen.firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
We will run Missional Entrepreneurship this April and this November and other residentials, such as the Bible in Context, will be in the pipeline for future dates, so please do contact Helen to find out more.