EC Group 2011

Hi, I’m Mick Bradley. I’m the founding member of this little experiment called The Motley Evangelists Guild. In this inaugural post, I want to take some time to share about how this new blog came to be and lay the foundation for what I hope it may become.

This blog is sponsored by an ecumenical group called Evangelism Connections. The advisory board of Evangelism Connections consists of a diverse group of evangelism/church growth/missional staff persons of various Christian denominations who gather in intentional community across denominational lines to share ideas, resources, practices, and support for evangelism & mission-related ministry, with a particular focus on how to engage the practice of evangelism in a 21st-Century setting.

EC Advisors 2011

Evangelism Connections Advisors 2011 — L to R Standing: Bill Tenny-Brittan (National Evangelistic Assn.); R. Wayne Calhoun (Disciples); Kwasi Kena (UMC); Charlene Snith (UCC); Mick Bradley; Jonathan Shively (Brethren); Eric Hoey (PCUSA) – L to R kneeling: Tim Archibald (PCC); Bruce Laverman (RCA); David Loleng (PCUSA)

The current partner denominations involved with Evangelism Connections are: the AME Zion Church,  the American Baptist Church, The Church of the Brethren, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), The Episcopal Church, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.

I’ve been serving this group since 2005 as Web Designer & Manager, and in the past couple years as Social Media Manager as well. I’m also sort of the unofficial mascot for postmodern postdenominational non-ordained Christians around the EC table.

ORIGIN STORY

Recently at our advisory board meeting in Nashville, a series of discussions around the group’s ongoing relevance emerged that led the group to seriously explore a fresh take on its mission. Nothing big, no momentous paradigm shift, but I’d say it’s fair to call it an “adjustment” to help bring Evangelism Connections along the path of the paradigm that is already shifting whether we admit it or not.

There are two main aspects to this adjustment-in-focus:

First, Evangelism Connections intends to make its ongoing mission less about “promoting evangelism” and more about “equipping evangelists”. It’s a slight change, but I think an important one.  It sort of takes us from “Evangelism is an important Christian concept that we need to keep people mindful of” to “Let’s help people of all stripes at all levels of our churches become more effective Evangelists in this time and place.”

Second, flowing out of the first, is to use our Website & social media to become more widely conversational, interactive, and communal than we have been.

That’s where the Motley Evangelist Guild comes in.

We decided that one really good way to engage in this is via a regularly-updated blog focused on with evangelism and missional issues. This is a step forward from our previous practice of  pointing out resources, posting one new feature article per month and sharing a weekly reflection from the lectionary. It is a commitment to building connections and community via interaction.

But who would write the blog? The denominational staff members who make up the EC advisory board could not be expected to do it – at least not regularly, as they are all already buried under excessive workloads and responsibilities born from shrinking church budgets. So, the idea was floated that we should reach out to some “names” in the church and parachurch organizations who are known for publicly engaging with evangelistic ideas. But the idea of the amount of money that would likely be needed to pay such “names” for their commitment to regular blogging was a bit of a roadblock.

Then I sort of mumbled, “I know a few people who I think of as “names” within the postmodern /emerging conversation, and I could possibly ask some of them. I think it would be fair to pay them, too – but it will probably be less outlay than what you’d need to entice one of the ‘big evangelism gurus’. And for that matter, I don’t have a theological title and I’m not a “name” but I’d be happy to commit to making the blog work and filling in as writer whenever we have holes in the schedule.”

At which point someone around the table said, “I think it would be fine if you just ARE the blogger, Mick. You do it, get the thing rolling, put your stamp on it but make it something that can expand to having others do occasional guest-blog posts, and then at our September meeting we’ll see where things stand and decide if we want to shift to something else or keep going with this.”

And nobody looked sickened or upset at that idea. Several people even nodded and smiled.

After a bit more discussion the group decided that I should not worry about blogging in the “voice” of Evangelism Connections but that I should freely and confidently blog in my own voice, about my own ideas, thoughts, and wranglings with this thing called “evangelism”, and how it relates to me and other people in my age cohort and various social circles.

I was asked to set up the blog so that it would be a clear part of Evangelism Connections but also have its own presence under the EC umbrella. I would need no editorial gatekeeper, because it would be okay to write my authentic thoughts & ideas under the premise that I’d be encouraging conversation and dialogue rather than spouting dogmatic screeds and proclaimations.

So it has come to pass. I am commissioned to set up, maintain, promote, and write twice-weekly content for a blog conversation about being & becoming evangelists in this postmodern world.

WHY THE NAME?

There are several ideas flowing around the choice of “The Motley Evangelists Guild” as the blog’s title:

  • I’ve always been a fan of holy tricksters & wise fools. I think Jesus was – among many other things – the quintessential wise-fool, and calls us to be the same.
  • I want this blog to be a safe place for conversation and dialog that freely flows from a diverse variety of people from across the denominational and interfaith spectrum, and embraces the varied perspectives that people will bring to this conversation with a spirit of community and mutual respect that puts us all on equal footing as seekers, questioners, and ‘theologians’ engaged in cooperative dance and not competitive debate.
  • Since “Motley” means both the multi-colored outfit of a fool or jester AND a diverse group of people, and also because it is a rather scruffy word that balances and mellows the “E” word which comes after, I find it to be an excellent expression of what we’re up to here.
  • I made “Evangelists” plural because even though I’m the guy doing the blogging for the time being, this is not about me – it’s about us – you, me, that other person – whoever wants to jump in and share. If this thing doesn’t spark conversation and help build communities of diverse people engaged in taking grace, faith, and sharing the gospel sincerely in a 21st-Century context, if it’s mostly just me spouting my screeds, then it fails.
  • To reinforce the communal emphasis, I felt a word to express this as a group in conversation was in order. After playing with several words like “Society”,  ”Association” & “Network”, I went with “Guild”. It has a good fit.

So, there’s the origin story and the title pitch, all rolled into one. Now, we’ll wrap up with the ongoing plan:

Regular posting of blog content is slated for Tuesday & Thursday mornings each week. Other things I discover that I think are relevant to the conversation will come at other times, and I’ll be Tweeting and Facebooking under the stamp of The Motley Evangelists as well.

But I can’t do this alone. I ask you to help me make this work. Comment, link, share, & do all that cool social media button-pushing we’re into these days, and by all means, if you REALLY wanna jump in, contact me and we’ll talk about guest-blogging and maybe even growing the Guild not just figuratively but literally.

Let’s talk, let’s dance, let’s share our voices and ideas. Let’s be – and become – Motley Evangelists.

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