We’ve got it wrong.\r\n\r\nIt’s not the clergy who are on the frontline, but Ordinary Church Members.\r\n\r\nIt’s the Ordinary Church Member who has to go out into the marketplace and be the light of the world.\r\n\r\nIt’s the Ordinary Church Member who has to be at home with difficult decisions about money, complicated spouses and unreasonable children.\r\n\r\nThe clergy staff have the support of fellow clergy, Bishops, other staff members built into their job description. The Ordinary Church Member doesn’t have that support. More often than not they are the only Christian where they work or live, they rarely meet their church leaders and pastors for anything other than a cursory hello, and they rely on brief and inadequate weekend encounters with other Christians at church to receive their encouragement.\r\n\r\nIt’s a misconception to say that the church staff are on the frontline because (for example) they go into a primary school once a month. Generally they are well respected and well accepted in other institutions. They are given a platform, with even a measure of government support in the curriculum.\r\n\r\nNo, like most other large organisations it’s those lower down the chain who are on the frontline, face to face with the public, often with little support, little encouragement, nowhere to turn.\r\n\r\nSo if that’s true, what sort of leaders should we be?\r\n\r\nAnd what sort of churches should our churches be?
The storms of October 1987 brought devastation to a third of the trees in Kew Gardens. Around 700 trees were uprooted, many of them old (100 – 200 years) and fully mature (100ft).\r\n\r\nSome said that a hundred years of history had been lost.\r\n\r\nOthers noted that for a hundred years too few trees had been planted.\r\n\r\nWhen the staff came to investigate further they found that many of the trees had inadequate root systems. Some very tall trees had root systems that had spread great distances outwards but only one meter downwards.\r\n\r\nAn audit also showed that the pre-storm gardens had gaps in its inventory, that whole species from many countries were missing.\r\n\r\nSo Kew Gardens looked great, but it took a greater storm to develop a planting regime that ensured the garden’s vibrancy and to instigate improved ways to nurture trees.\r\n\r\nI know churches that need this.
Most church outreach activities are not catalysts for growth. We think they are.\r\n\r\nWhen we create ‘messy church’ for example, we are hoping that by providing a new kind of church service to accommodate families we will create the essential catalyst for church growth through families.\r\n\r\nIt will not.\r\n\r\nWe have created something good, to be sure, and it has great opportunity to grow, but in itself it is not a catalyst for growth. In fact, in a church with limited resources, especially limited numbers of competent leaders, many new initiatives will become regular events that use up valuable resources.\r\n\r\nThe catalyst for church growth is the gospel empowered by the Spirit. It is the Spirit who brings life, not the church, and certainly not a new format.\r\n\r\nIn fact, the model for growth is not the first church, but it is first the resurrection.
There’s Outreach Galore in our churches.\r\n\r\nTiddlers. Toddlers.\r\n\r\nYoung people. Old people.\r\n\r\nMen’s Breakfasts. Mothers Union.\r\n\r\nCoffee Mornings. Concert Evenings.\r\n\r\nAnd then there are occasional offices. Weddings. Baptisms. Funerals.\r\n\r\nAnd yet.\r\n\r\nThe church isn’t growing. Generally.\r\n\r\nAnd why?\r\n\r\nBecause it’s not outreach that grows the church, but the gospel of the resurrection told with the power of the resurrection.\r\n\r\nAnd somehow\r\n\r\n… we forgot to mention the gospel when the opportunity arose.