Our churches are growing, yes?

Change or decay?
Condemned to attendance decline? Really?
Is this true? Is it historically inevitable? The tip of the Christendom iceberg is melting.

However, as Bob says this I'm thinking, bring it on - what a challenge. We can curb this and we are curbing this.
He describes how there is debate as regards when the Church started to die? Was it the rise of the enlightenment, Darwinism, individualism? Post-modernism and multi-culturalism?
The world became governed by rational principles and there is a sense that we are in charge of our own destiny because we can create wealth for ourselves? I understand this because I think that the hardest people to evangelise are those who think that they have got it all wrapped up and have created lots of wealth and security for themselves. I have a lot of friends like this.

The reversals of morality – ironically the church is now suspected as having a defunct morality.

This is due to the rise of peodophilia etc This is so scary to me, this idea that people out there actually think this about the institution which I love and which is supposed to be proclaiming Christ crucified and being transformed into his likeness. I think that what the world needs to understand is that it isn't that the Church has a defunct morality, it is that often we are the only place of shelter that welcomes people with a defunct morality and encourages them to change. I recently attended child protection training and it became evident that the church can often act unintentionally as a harbour for people who would not find acceptance elsewhere, who are actually full of some really despicable intentions and use the idea that they are Christian to cover their hungers, if you're with me. The thing is this is the struggle we face. In order to demonstrate God's love to broken people, we must also exercise God's forgiveness and trust that Christ through his grace can transform people. Perhaps the Church is going to suffer on the inside for taking this risk. We are also less niave now surely. We do not leave an adult unattended in a room with a child etc there is accountability, we are almost 'ofsteding' ourselves, if you like.

There is also the thought that the Church can not handle sexuality issues or really engage with our modern world. I think that sometimes we have to be brave and say 'yes', scripture determines our views on how we see God's plan for humanity. He made us man and woman and he gave us a mandate to fill his planet with other human beings. How really can we proclaim anything else as the God-plan? We can, however, leave the judgment to God and be as inclusive as Jesus who did not turn his back on anyone.
Statiticians believe that the Church will die out. Financial experts believe that the church can no longer afford to keep its clergy and buildings.
Fresh expressions thinking tells us that we can not sustain traditional church.
Denominations have very different track records. Baptist church growth is occurring but Methodism is in decline. So it can not therefore be a general malaise. What is it about the internalities of churches and dioceses? Churches in London attendance is up by 40% but Chelmsford is in decline. So what is happening? What are these successful churches doing?

I would imagine John Richardson would have something to say about Chelmsford decline. I have some suspicions as to why this might be the case. I wonder what he would say. i'll give that one some time to work its way through the blogosphere.

Mission action planning happens in London
We should also be aware that it is all very fluid in London – you can grow fast because there are so many new people flooding into the capital. Under David Hope mission, action and planning started to happen. Job descriptions were also reworked. The job description under David Hope was to grow the church and there were not the same political currents going on as there had been previously.
Em, interesting. I think that the London scene has really changed. Previously there was a lot of political wrangling perhaps. I am not informed enough to make a comment about this.

There are growing streams within the Church of England and post-modernity has a lot to offer us. There is a search for spirituality. So it's about how churches perform in a fast changing and challenging society. We have been slow to change. It is easier to change ourselves than the world around us. We need to adapt! There is no reason why the church can not grow in the future. It's God's job to grow the church (one plants, another waters but it is God who makes it grow...) 'On this rock I will build my church.'

The following sentence really impacted me today:
It is easier to change ourselves than the world around us.

We have to adapt. if we love people and want to reach them with the love of God. If we want to demonstrate the love of this continually creating God, then we need to be continually creative. In that way, aren't we more obviously reflecting his image? I feel that this almost gives me a kind of permission to be experimental, pioneering. Possessed fully by the truth but expressing that truth in ways that make sense to the culture I am living in NOW!(Hooray!)

And God is still giving us the people but are we failing to integrate them?
There is a strand within evangelism that is not very happy with change. There is contention over change. In a survey, churches that changed their service style patterns since 2002, of those churches 39 churches making changes grew by 10 % but 33 churches who dodn't shrunk by 3%.
A new prayer book or hymn book – these do not affect church growth positively. 1000 Anglican churches were asked to list all the changes that they had made and it would seem that the following things make for church growth:
Planting new congregations (Fresh Exp movement etc, dividing morning congregations into 2 etc)
Making worship less formal and more relaxed
Better provision for children and young people (Family Services, Sunday Schools, Youth provision).
in all growing chuches and in all cultures where there is joy and laughter there is church growth.
The recruitment of children's and youth workers.
Imrpovements in welcome and integration, hospitality
Better quality, more varied, contemporary music – wide cultural variety of service types – having one sub-culture is absolutely unAnglican because we are wanting to reach everybody.
More lay involvement in leadership – it needs to be spread, lots of people having responsibilities, delegation.
Small groups and pastoral care
People do not come as often as they did, they now come perhaps once every three weeks, so do we know why and what are we going to do about it? We need to get the balance right because with a lack of pastoral care those who are not coming because they are ill might feel as though they are not cared about. It could be that they are busy?
We alienate congragations by keeping our worshippers so busy that there is no time for them to encounter the Living God. Fantastic - more Holy Spirit power flowing!
By having no youth provision so that children feel that they must leave at 11
By sticking to a rigid formula each week.
We must not create a monthly plan where people become monthly worshippers because only one service suits them because they are only enjoying the one token service which is seeking to suit them. These churches are trying to be all things to all people.

So there we have it. Just a few responses to some of today's teaching. It's really thrilling to start balancing the academic with the more practical.

Thanks for reading and I'm sure Bob Jackson would appreciate it too. He works for Lichfield diocese if you are interested in his research into church growth and decline.

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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions