I posed the congregation a question today, in response to Jesus’ assertion that ‘the harvest is plentiful’—picture-language for people ready to receive him and his message calling people to live under the sovereignty of a good God in the often-troubled world.
I asked, by way of anonymous poll:
how many people do we expect to see come to faith in the next six months?
To clarify, by ‘how many people’ I mean within our own context, not across the world. And by ‘come to faith’ I mean something along the lines of someone being able to say, ‘I wouldn't have described myself as a person of faith, and certainly not as a follower of Jesus, only six months ago; but I think that I would now.’
The largest response was those who abstained. There may well be several reasons for this, including my ineptitude in conducting the poll. But it may also suggest a degree of illiteracy in talking about faith, that would fit with long-term congregational decline [across the Church of England and other traditional denominations].
The second largest group was those who responded ‘zero’. This is, I think, an honest assessment of where we find ourselves, with aging and shrinking congregations. As one person said to me after the service, you have given us food for thought as to what will become of [this local church congregation] as the present members die? And as I said at the time, I think God can work with honesty.
Of those who responded with other numbers, the most common were 2 or 3. Several people wrote down a number (including one person who wrote 0) with an added not to the effect of hoping and praying for more. This seems to me to reflect both realism and faith that wants to know more of God at work in and through our lives. This gives us a baseline to work from.
It was a snapshot poll. There were a number of committed people absent today. My intention is to continue to build up our data, alongside working to create ways in which we can work together to open up more ‘God conversations’ in the community. But the conversation has to begin somewhere. I’m looking forward to where it might take us...