Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Are our traditional modes of ministry sustainable?

Britain is littered with church buildings, they are everywhere.  Some may no longer be churches, they may be carpet shops or a mosques, or simply be boarded up or vacant.  It was driving past some of those that got me thinking; if that is what is happening to the buildings what does it tell us about the church?  What does it tell us about ministry in the UK?  What challenges does it indicate for us in terms of changing our thinking about ministry?
Britain has a great tradition and history of faithful bible teaching, we live daily with the legacy of that and its influences on our society and we ought to praise God for it but it must not make us blind or complacent.  There are big changes which have and are taking place in Britain which tradition might blind us to, and if we carry on with our traditional modes of ministry we will be in serious trouble.

One minister one church one location?
Traditionally many churches have had a minister - call it what you want; pastor, vicar, Father,....  But we are at a tipping point in terms of people entering the ministry.  There are hundreds of churches across the UK looking for a minister, many of whom have been looking for some years.  There are simply not enough ministers to go around, or enough being trained to meet the need.  The traditional model of ministry is failing our churches, or rather it is failing some of our churches - the church is dividing into those who have and those who do not.  And there is a geographical bias to this - it seems to be harder to get a pastor the further north you are. 

How are we as churches and as ministers going to react to this?  How can we help one another?  In many other parts of the world pastors pastor more than one church with lay leaders co-leading the churches in a much more active way than they do in the UK. Could this work in the UK? It is not empire building it is kingdom focused.

Is planting churches a good thing?
As someone who has planted a church I feel this is a question I can ask; is church planting helping or hindering?  Should we give as much time and effort to re-potting as we do to freshly planting?  There is a desperate need for churches in communities where the Bible is not taught but is starting something afresh always the best way to do it?  Would those resources be better served encouraging church renewal?  It may be harder but would it serve the kingdom better?

Who are we training and where are we training them for?
Yes we want to be training up young leaders and the increasing proliferation of training course is a real encouragement to see BUT most of the young men and women being trained are found in university town/city churches and they stay in their university town/city churches as young professionals and enter ministry in their university town/city churches.  Again haves and have nots.  It means that we are growing larger university town/city based churches whilst many other churches out of university city/towns are short of young leaders.  Our traditional model of training leaders is perhaps not as kingdom focused as we think it is or as it needs to be.  How can we remedy this?  How can we encourage each other to think about the unthinkable of giving people away?

The Kingdom and gospel of God is too precious for us not to examine our preconceptions and there are so many, these three suggestions just scratch the surface.  As ministers is my model of ministry sustainable?  Is it for us as churches?  Is it for us as a church and for us as a nation?

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