The second chapter written by Steve Hollinghurst is titled, 'When is Messy Church not church?' which together with the first chapter by Claire Dalpra discerning when it is church, wrestle with an interesting challenge. Messy Church can be a fresh expression of church, OR an outreach OR even a new expression of worship for an existing church community. Having established that all can exist appropriately in different contexts, Hollinghurst makes a valid point which anyone involved in missonal projects may do well to heed.
He writes, 'When fresh expressions of Church start with worship [as opposed to starting with living and spending time in the culture, building community and discerning what worship may look like in that culture], it is likely that the worship will be what Christians think is an appropriate expression in that culture, when, as yet, they know far too little to be sure that is true.'
This warning is not solely aimed at those engaging in Messy Church, but to any who are thinking of starting a missional 'something' to reach an area or group. We are perhaps in danger of projecting our own styles and expressions onto projects which, if given more time, may have develop their own characteristics and flavours that reflect the culture of the group being reached in the first place.
He goes on to remind us though of the impact that being in a worshiping and believing community can have. Being plunged into an innately Christian culture of worship can in itself be a missional experience. Somewhere a balance needs to be struck to allow different groups of people, or geographical areas to find an expression of worship that is their own, and not prescribed by a pre-existing church, but at the same time, be given a chance to experience an authentic worshiping community, something that will only be achieved if already practising Christians, hence with a pre-existing style create for them to experience.
An interesting dichotomy. Well worth a read.