My bishop has asked the churches he has oversight of to address three questions, one of which is “How can we grow numerically?” He has also given a clue to where they might look, that this question is one of leadership.
I have no doubt that we need to look at the form and content of our corporate worship services; to ask whether they might be more accessible; to ensure that they acknowledge a range of personalities (the diversity with which God has created us), and spiritualities (the diversity with which God has shared insights into his nature among his people) – while also recognising that no one local church can or should attempt to reflect these diversities too fully. I have no doubt that we must continually negotiate the balance between upholding tradition (the antidote to the arrogance which thinks we supersede what has gone before) and letting-go of tradition (the antidote to the arrogance which thinks we have already arrived at perfection); and in this way live in the creative tension of imbalance within necessary parameters, by which life can give birth to life. But these things in themselves will not result in numerical growth.
We need to raise up leaders, equip people to invite others to follow them. We need to make disciples, who can make disciples, who can make disciples. We need to teach people to do the things Jesus did – ushering-in the kingdom of God, breaking-out against the kingdom of the usurper-prince of this world – for the reasons Jesus did those things – to set the sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven free to take up their vocation to be kings and queens of this world under the King of the Universe, to his eternal glory, in which we get to share.
How do we do that? It will help to have simple tools, and for me the best simple tools I know are those found in “Building A Discipling Culture” (which is newly available in eBook formats). But in part how we do that will depend on our own role, on whether we are an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher. So for me personally, it begins with confronting our assumptions as to what it means to be Christian, and painting an alternative future to be stepped-into...