The bless network was founded as a UK charity in 2003. Previous to that date we had operated for several years as Café-net. Gerard and Chrissie Kelly, our founders, were missionaries in France with Jeunesse Pour Christ (Youth for Christ) in the early 1990’s. When they returned to the UK in 1995, they saw a need for an agency that would enable UK-based young adults to experience overseas mission by making the relatively easy journey across the Channel: a short trip to experience an entirely different world. Over several years we took teams to support the work of local churches in Croatia, France, Spain, Germany and Belgium. These trips continued during the four years that the Kelly’s were based in the Netherlands as leaders of Crossroads International Church, Amsterdam.
In 2009 the work of Bless became mainland-based when the Kelly’s moved from Amsterdam to Normandy, taking on the running of Bethanie, an ecumenical christian centre. Trips to other countries continued, but as our engagement with the needs of France deepened, this came more and more to be the focus of our work. The creation of a church-plant in 2012 – now meeting in three locations – provided an opportunity for the young adults we were training to experience missional church at its deepest and most challenging. We continue to work in other countries, and maintain a wide circle of influence, but the creation of transformational churches for France has become our primary footprint.
Creating Bethanie as a centre for Transformational Mission has given us the opportunity to re-think mission from the ground-up, developing strategies that:
– Place the vision of city and culture transformation at the heart of church-plants right from the start, rather than waiting to grow in order to have influence. If it’s not in the root it won’t be in the fruit.
– Grow in the dual-emphasis of inward and outward transformation, taking time for the personal and for the social, and bringing together worship and mission. Transformation starts in the heart and extends to the ends of the earth.
– Seek new ways to be church and do mission in 21st Century Europe – a patchwork of cultures as in need of renewal as any on the face of the earth. God’s plan to draw a people to himself from every tribe and tongue and nation must include the many tribes – old and new – of Europe.
– Help individuals to find their place in God’s mission: working from our certainty that there is such a place – of fruitfulness and fulfilment – for every human being on the planet. We help people to encounter the God of mission and find their place in the mission of God.
– Seek partnership and co-operation with all strands of the Christian church, from the old and established denominations to the newer, largely unregistered house-church groups. We strive for unity in diversity and celebrate diversity in unity.
– Operate from a place of deep encounter with the Holy Spirit, who has been poured out on God’s church precisely to make a renewal of mission and purpose possible – and to transform God’s world. Pentecost is a preview of God’s plan for the planet.