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Is it possible for a church to become too big for mission?  A couple of years ago at a Waleswide meeting a church leader shared about the challenges of orienting his church towards mission.  He likened it to trying to change the direction of a cruise liner: the number of people on board gave it ample capacity for mission but the size of the structure severely limited its mobility into mission.

If we look at the map of Wales and the huge areas yet to be effectively reached with the Good News of Jesus Christ it becomes clear that if we are to take the challenge seriously we must see a significant and substantial mobilisation of the people of God into these areas.  But how?

Some weeks after that Waleswide meeting I was sat on the banks of the River Towy in Carmarthen.  Down the river came two men fishing in coracles.  These small roundish-shaped boats are lightweight and simple in structure.  They are crewed by one person using a paddle in one hand to steer and propel the boat leaving their other hand free to fish.  Thus a coracle is highly responsive to the need for a change in direction; it is designed to allow the fishermen the mobility to manoeuvre quickly to wherever the fish are.  Coracles will never be seen fishing alone.  There are always two coracles needed to fish.  The fishing net is held between the two boats with each crewman’s free hand.  As I watched, it occurred to me that here was an illustration of what surely could be an effective mission strategy for Wales; a strategy pioneered by Jesus Christ.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to keep the structure simple.  Jesus gave them what was essential to fulfil his mission – authority (Mt 10:1) – and then told them with equal clarity what was not essential (Mt 10:9,10).  The disciples needed to be mobile and quickly able to respond to where the mission opportunities were; search for the house of peace Jesus instructed them, and when you find it stay, but if not move on (Mt 10:11-14).  Then we see that Jesus knew it always needed two (but only two!) to be effective in mission.

If the coracle is a mission-shaped vessel what does this teach us about the shape of missional church?  Could it be that herein lies a key strategy for reaching the yet unreached areas of our nation with the Good News of Jesus Christ?  And if so, what a fantastic encouragement for those churches that feel too small for mission!

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