Ben Taylor of Newforms talks to Transformation Thurrock
This coming Saturday 16 March, a Newforms Taster Day is taking place in Corringham (see poster below). Facilitating the day will be Ben Taylor of MissionBritian.
Transformation Thurrock talked to Ben to find out a little more about his story, what MissionBritian is all about, and what's in store for those attending the Newforms Taster Day.
TT: Ben, please tell us but about your background.
BT: I grew up in Somerset in a 'christian family' and moved to study at Birmingham University when I was 18. The Summer before I went to University I had one of those life changing evenings where I felt that I needed to devote my life fully to God. I think I was a 'Christian' before that night but there was little evidence in my life to prove it! So my days at University were exciting and full of stories about Jesus at work. I felt that I was at the University to spread the message of Jesus however I could amongst my fellow students. I then left Birmingham to help establish a ministry based at a Church in Chester. I spent two years up there working with churches and youth leaders across the UK. The Church I was based at in Chester was very different in style and flavour from what I had grown up with and I learnt some valuable lessons about the Holy Spirit and this thing called "Five-Fold" ministry. Having an evangelical (with bretheren roots) upbringing I really began to explore the working and ministry of the Holy Spirit but with a healthy dose of cynicism (!)
I then met my wife in Australia and we spent 4 years living over there. We both had health problems whilst living in Australia so were unable to work or be involved in "church life". This time of illness was a time of breaking and God rooting things out of me! I had long hours in bed where I reflected on my time working with churches back in the UK and came to the conclusion that I had become caught up in a christian bubble. I realised that I had become so busy doing things for Jesus that I really didn't know him anymore. So we learnt some valuable lessons about prayer and 'coming back to Jesus' during our time in Australia. After 4 years we sensed the Lord leading us back to the UK so we moved back with our eldest son and with Catherine expecting our second child.
When we returned to the UK we got heavily involved with the church that I had grown up with. We began to 'instigate' prayer, encourage people and grew a housegroup in our home. My health had improved significantly and I was doing some part time work in the town where we were living. However God was re-igniting a passion in us for prayer and serving Him. I made the decision to quit my job and give myself to prayer. It was an interesting time at first not having a wage or being employed - but we sensed God's leading to give time to prayer. This began the journey which we now find ourself on...
TT: What led to you thinking differently about ways of doing church?
BT: When I quit my job and we began giving ourselves to prayer we felt God was giving a simple challenge to us - "will we give ourselves to prayer and honour the Holy Spirit?" He began to provide for us miraculously and I began to reconnect with churches and people that I had known before our time in Australia. It became apparent to me that across the UK people were generally still prophesying and talking about the same things.
The impending revival and transformation had not been showered down from on high and I began asking the question "why?" God also opened up some opportunities for me to travel overseas (India and China) where I saw how church and mission looked differently from here in the UK. Not only did what they do in these countries appear much more fruitful and effective but they also seemed to have a spirituality and faith that seemed non-existent back in the UK. So we began asking the question "Why?".
Why is church like it is? Why are people not coming to church? Why are our lives nothing like the lives of the disciples in the Bible? When you begin to ask Jesus that question from a genuine heart then He begins to answer your questions. For us we began to feel an almost unbearable burden for people who were "outside the church" - people who didn't turn up at the church service for 10:30am on a Sunday morning. It was an incredibly hard time where what God seemed to be moving our hearts towards seemed at conflict with everything we knew as "church" God continued to give us this "missionary zeal" (as I know call it!) to the point where we knew He was calling us to begin doing something differently. We hadn't at that point read anything about simple church or missional church but it felt like we were holding an acorn that needed planting.
Within this tiny acorn was the vision and DNA needed to grow something that could grow and spread in an organic way that seemed to fit with what we saw in the scriptures. So we were sent out from our "local Church" (with some misunderstanding from people!) to do something different. We knew that what we were being called to do was based on disciple making and that it looked much more like a spreading movement rather than one big group that gathered/operated in the way that most Churches did
TT: Where do Mission Britain and Newforms come in?
BT: As we followed Jesus on this new path we began to connect with others who were also exploring doing church and mission differently. I read some books (You See Bones I See An Army by Floyd McClung was particularly inspiring in those early days) and began to look around the UK for others who might be doing similar things. I began to realise that some people were exploring the questions "What is Church" and some were meeting informalling with other believers in homes. However there seemed to be a missional dynamic missing from this conversation. We had got into this "thing" by asking the question "What's it going to take to see the Kingdom of God spreading across Somerset/South West?" So for us there was nothing appealing about a few believers meeting together for meals and fellowship yet there being no desperate focus on mission.
Through some connections locally I met a guy from Nottingham called Peter Farmer. The things they were doing in Nottingham sounded like the things we were trying to do in Somerset so I was interested and wanted to talk more. However God was still dealing with pride and insecurities in me so our first few meetings were interesting! Iron sharpens iron though and I knew that I found a like minded brother who was thinking missionally! Peter and Marsha and the team in Nottingham had developed the "Pioneer Process" which is a set of habits and practices based on Jesus' teaching from Matthew 10. We had come to the realisation that we didn't know what we were doing and needed to work and learn from others. So we began to explore what the "Pioneer Process" might look like here in the West Country!
This "Pioneer Process" begins in prayer and involves how to form simple/missional communities with people who want to know more about Jesus and how to find "People of Peace".We now work very closely with Peter and his wife Marsha and are helping to build MissionBritain and Newforms along with the rest of the team! We resonated strongly with the vision of MissionBritain which is to see disciples, simple/missional churches, leaders and networks multiplying across the regions of the UK and Ireland. Whilst there is much talk about mission and movements here in the UK it isn't really happening!
Through the work of MissionBritain we are helping to spread the vision for mission and multiplication and establishing places where people can visit and be trained in pioneer mission and begin multiplying disciples, simple/missional churches and leaders. We feel that MissionBritain is similar to a modern day salvation army where bold pioneers are sent out to preach the Gospel and spread the Kingdom amongst the lost and the least of society. Newforms Resources is a training and resource company that offers training, gatherings and materials to help church planting movements, churches in transition and simple/organic/missional communities. So through Newforms we are training people who want to be missional. This year we've already trained Baptists, Anglicans, Independant Networks of Simple Churches and most other denominations.
God is speaking to His Church about this missional/movements DNA and through Newforms we are passing on some of the tools and principles that are bearing fruit here in the UK. Whether they are churches who are wanting to transition, pioneers who are starting new communities amongst "unreached" people or groups of believers who are meeting informally as simple/organic/missional communities
TT: What are the purposes and aims of Mission Britain and Newforms?
BT: The aim of MissionBritain is to see the UK and Ireland turned upside down by the Kingdom of God. This will only happen if there is a significant shift in us (the workers) and the way we make disciples and plant churches (the work) So through MissionBritain we are developing teams and local pioneers who will begin multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and networks across their region of the UK. We need an army (Prophets, Preachers, Planters and Trainers) of ordinary people who will do this work across every area of the UK and Ireland so travel to connect and train anyone who is hungry and willing to do this work!
The aim of Newforms Resources is to provide training, gatherings and resources for church planting movements, churches in transition and simple/organic/missional communities. We do this through the Newforms National Gathering which will be happening in Nottingham in November and through various training packages that are tailored to the needs of those churches/organisations we work with. Through Newforms Resources we are providing tools and training for people who want to multiply disciples, churches, leaders and networks. See our website for more information
TT: Next Saturday you're facilitating a Newforms Taster Day in Thurrock. What will happen and what will be the benefits? Who is it for - just people who do simple church?
BT: I'm really looking forward to being in Thurrock and spending time with people who share a heart to see movements of disciples and simple/organic/missional communities spreading across Essex and beyond! These Newforms Taster days are ideal for people asking questions about Church, mission or disciple-making. It is not a practical training day but more a time to ask questions and consider the "Big Picture"It doesn't matter what tradition, denomination or flavour of Church or organisation you're part of - if you're thinking about or exploring new forms of Church, mission or disciple-making then this day will be perfect for you. There'll be a mix of story-sharing and group work which will help everyone there to get a bigger picture about what God is doing in the UK through simple/organic/missional communities. The day will also help people think through the next steps and how this kind of work might (or might not!) fit with existing fellowships and things that they are involved in. For many people across the UK and Europe, Newforms Tasters have offered an invaluable first step into more simple/missional ways of doing things.
TT: In May there's going to be 3 days of Newforms training. How will this help local believers and the church?
BT: Newforms Taster Days are for people exploring or interested in a more simple/organic/missional way of doing things. Newforms Level 1 Trainings are for people who want to actually do it. These trainings take place over a weekend and provide people with the practical tools and skills needed to begin making disciples that make disciples and to form simple/missional communities. These trainings provide people with tools and skills that have been fruitful in a UK context. So if you want to form simple/missional communities that can multiply or to disciple people who don't know anything about Jesus or Church then this weekend will be perfect for you.
TT: Thank you Ben.
BT: Thanks TT :)
This is a taster of the Newforms Level 1 Training due to take place at the same venue from Friday 17 to Sunday 19 May. More details to follow.
Watch Ben here: http://benandcatherine.org/heres-the-church-heres-the-steeple
See also www.missionbritain.com and http://www.newformsresources.com/
Tim Harrold talking to Ben Taylor, 11/03/2013