We need to do everything we can to ensure that the church does not lose its buildings. As I drive round Doncaster I see former churches everywhere, some are glaziers premises, some are carpet show rooms, some are houses, some are derelict. All of them would be better, as would the area they are in, for a thriving gospel witness in them. And so that leads me to think that we ought to be looking, and planting, so as to ensure the church does not lose buildings.
This is especially the case as it is predominantly in the less affluent and middle class areas where we are losing them. I can think of three places off the top of my head in Doncaster, gospel needy places, where churches either have or look like they are in danger of shutting their doors in the next 10 years. Once that land and those buildings are lost how will we plant into those areas again? How will we get a permanent foothold and presence in those areas?
As a church we've been looking for premises for a while and it's not easy, there is not much around an the prices, where we are, are astronomical. We'd love there to be a derelict church building to run things in and use as a base to serve the community. Yes, there would be draw backs and compromises, but old wooden pews are nothing a quick prayer and a flamethrower couldn't solve. In too many areas churches are struggling and will close and building and land will be lost, and this seems to disproportionately be the case in the more working class and deprived areas. And once lost how will we reach those areas and those people. Location matters more than ever in those sorts of communities because the community and connections are built around neighbourhood not network.
I think all this needs to impact our church planting strategy. How? We ought to be asking where are there buildings we could plant into? Where are the gospel needy areas in our towns and cities where we could run an afternoon service in an existing church building whose congregation meets in a morning? Where are the areas which we cannot reach from our network churches because they are neighbourhood areas which can only be reached with a neighbourhood church? Where are the churches that are on their knees, not in prayer, but in despair and in terms of numbers which we can approach about revitalisation or a replant? What networks can we build so that if the worst happens and a church has to close its doors they approach others who can start a work there so the land and building and gospel witness are not lost?