Thursday, 20 November 2008

Do I want a "full" Church?

An interesting discussion has cropped up on several blogs I read written by Methodist ministers.

I picked it up here, and then here, here and here.

I found the different strands of the discussion interesting, and from outside that denomination it was interesting to see where the conversations led them.

It also left me analysing my own heart and asking myself: do I want a "full" Church building?

Do I want our Church building to be "full" on Sundays?

The answer is a hearty "no", for a wide variety of reasons. This may seem odd, as our Church building is regularly, well, full.
  • A full building is unfriendly for new people. It gives the impression that there is no space for them.
  • A full building makes it hard to welcome new people, as there is little room to mingle
  • A full building is a nightmare to steward. We have something like 360 chairs and at a baptism service in February we had 417 people. It was uncomfortable and gives us a major headache for our fire risk assessment.
  • A full building makes disabled access more difficult, and makes life difficult for people with pushchairs.
In fact, the biggest challenge facing our Church is a lack of room at our main Sunday worship service. For this reason we are seriously considering having more than one main service, and will discuss this at our members meeting later this month. The elders are going down to Catford early next year to pick Steve Tibbert's brain about multiple services.

So do I even want the Church to be bigger? The answer is a wholehearted "yes", I certainly do. Well actually - to define things a bit clearer, I would like more people to be saved. When more people get saved those people often become part of the Church so the Church grows. And we could do with a bit of help reaching out to new people in new areas that more people can be saved. Jesus encourages us to pray for more workers to help us collect the harvest so I am happy to do so!

If that mission to proclaim the gospel means the building is now "full" on Sundays then so be it. That is the cost, not the goal. But it does now give us a bit of a headache.

Some people have said "Buy a bigger building" but we have not heard from God on that score.

Others suggest "plant another Church" but again, we have not heard from God on that score. We heard clearly from God when North Shrewsbury Community Church was launched. We heard clearly from God when Beacon Church Whitchurch was launched. In both cases we sent about 30 people to establish something new and if God calls us to that again we will do it, but not out of convenience, not as a management decision. We will take the hit of sending out a Church plant if God asks us to, and in order to reach a specific town or area of town, but not because of expedience.

Last week we had two baptisms. Both people had come on our Alpha course. Both have joined our Church. The weekend before it was our Alpha Away Day and three people made first time commitments to follow Jesus. Last friday our youth alpha countinued and two teenagers made first time decisions to follow Jesus. That is what we are living for. That is what we are serving for. That is how I want a bigger Church. I don't want to attract more Christians necessarily, unless they are joining us on mission to reach our town. In 2009 we will probably have to make a radical change to our Sunday services to help us continue in our mission to reach out in our town.

Looking at our membership list there are something like 50 out of 250 adult members who have come to faith within our Church. 20% will do but I would like more! I want our Church to be a net contributor to the growth of the body of Christ, not just a better attraction for local Christians.

So when I come to think of it I am glad our services do sometimes feel "full". I certainly do want our Church to grow. If that means more people making the step of repenting of their sin, putting their faith in Jesus and commiting themselves to follow Him with their whole heart.

That is what I am living for, and why I think we need two services, and why I want those two services to be "full" before long.

1 comment:

Methodist Preacher said...

Thanks for the link. Shropshire remains in my prayers.