Christian Communities in Conversation (CCiC)

 

CCiC is an evangelism initiative of the Plymouth & Exeter District of the Methodist Church which is in its early stages of a five-year project. CCiC came out of many conversations about mission and evangelism undertaken as Jo Simpson the District Evangelism Enabler (DEE) rolled out the Fresh Expressions MSI[1] course across the District. A changed language about mission appeared not to change people’s views about evangelism and some conclusions were;

  • That in the main people seemed frightened by the notion of evangelism as they had been led to understand it. They felt they lacked the knowledge and confidence to undertake it.

  • The language of faith sharing seemed to be in pre-formed labelled packages that people didn’t feel they really understood.

  • Evangelism was scary and should be left to the experts.

  • That our approach has been one of knowledge rather than experience and feeling and that courses and resources are the answer though there is little evidence to substantiate this.

 

We recognised that a reliance solely on the notion of “Proclamation” of the knowledge of faith in the form of “I know something you don’t know, and you need to catch up with my understanding which is more complete than yours” leaves many people feeling excluded. We became aware of a thirst for new ways of being and sharing in the questions of life, living and encountering God.

CCiC is therefore a project aimed at engaging and enthusing people with the rediscovery of spiritual conversations. We developed a partnership with Mark Davis of The Shoreline Consultancy [2] who has much experience of such work and he led the initial training weekend. Our intentions are to;

  • Equip and grow our people with the knowledge of our own frailty in “the place where we are right”.

  • Recognise in people a God given potential to seek and explore.

  • Recover the art of Spiritual Conversation and explore the Gospel in fresh ways empowering those for whom traditional approaches have been less effective.

 

The Vision for CCiC

 

“To grow a new generation of people who are confident and excited about having spiritual conversations based on experiences of life, living and encountering God”.

 

The CCiC Model


We start from a desire to meet something of the incarnationally divine in everybody, and to open new spaces of “curiosity and respect” in groups of people that enables them to explore life, living and their experience of God.  Building on a narrative theology of story, scripture and the stories we all bring of our experience, we seek to stimulate and multiply spaces for such conversation in as many places as we possibly can and to rediscover the delight and enthusiasm for faith exploration. Founded on the belief that “everyone has relevant observations to make about the nature of God and ultimate things”[3] the project seeks to enliven and promote good conversations that allow those observations to be nurtured and grown.

 

The CCiC project is training a cohort of facilitators from across the District to be champions and advocates for this approach steeped in a commitment to enabling good conversations and we hope to sustain a dispersed community of advocates. The first cohort of 20 facilitators have been through two residential weekends and we have an enthusiastic cohort growing and championing the project.

 

We are now establishing a programme of workshops in as many Circuits as we can to build a network of people gathered around conversation opportunities supported by the facilitators. The model is to build an infectious wave of new experience that affirms people in the growth of their own spirituality.

 

Growing a conversation space of curiosity and respect

 

Where do such conversations take place?

  • Everyday encounters – in our meetings and exchanges and our community life.

  • Intentional encounters – in groups drawn together to explore the questions of life.

 

Why do such opportunities for spiritual conversations create a new approach to evangelism?

  • They root us in our own experience of life, living and encountering God and allow questions of meaning and experience to be enriched by engaging with the experience and spirituality of others.

  • They help us stay focused on the questions and learn from them rather than insist to others and ourselves that we have all the answers.

  • They encourage us to “listen for the heartbeat of God” in our world and “let God be God”.

  • They allow the Gospel of Jesus to be a dynamic narrative story of change in a space of curiosity and respect.

 

Grounding conversations

The project seeks encounters of conversation that are grounded in intentional virtues as we explore;

  • Words that matter – “Words are one of the primary ways to reach across the mystery of each other”.

  • Learning to listen - Listening with the purpose of understanding rather than listening with the purpose of replying.

  • Exploring beautiful questions - Questions that open new understanding rather than creating circular argument.

  • Modelling spiritual humility – not about making us small but encouraging others to be big!

  • Adventurous civility – creating new possibilities for living forward while being different and holding disagreement.

  • Hospitality – which creates inviting trustworthy space. When in doubt, practice hospitality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does the CCiC project hope to achieve?

  • A new and tangible culture of enthusiastic gossipers about life, living and encountering God in their lives.

  • Evidence that the approach has enabled and engaged significant numbers of people in new opportunities for spiritual conversation.

  • Sustaining a connected community of CCiC advocates and facilitators in focused a community of practice.

  • Generate new learning from the experience of the settings as to how the Gospel has brought transformative change through the narrative.

  • Generating and articulating ethical approaches to evangelism appropriate to the diversity of 21st Century experience.

  • A Praxis model of exploration, reflection, learning and new growth that is reviewed regularly.

  • Enthusiasm, energy and a new season of positive storytelling across the District.

For further information please contact;

 

Jo Simpson (District Evangelism Enabler)   

                   

evangelism@pemd.org.uk      

 

Tel: 07951 230521

 

[1] Mission Shaped Introduction course.

[2] www.theshorelineconsultancy.co.uk

 

[3] Krispa Tippett – Speaking of Faith.

Background to CCiC

07494673391

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