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May 2014

July 23, 2014

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

Easter was a great joy as we shared in remembering the death and resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. For all who have a personal relationship with Jesus there is no better place to be on Good Friday than worshipping at the foot of the cross and on Easter Day at the empty tomb with our brothers and sisters in Christ. To be part of this was truly wonderful and to remember that this Easter more people worshipped than ever before because the church is growing across the world at 1.56% per annum which means that there 25 million new Christians each year, comprising 2.5 million conversions and 22.5 million babies born to Christian parents. In the year 2000 there were 1,999 million Christians worldwide, by 2025 there will be 2,616 million of us. This is exciting and encouraging news. Sadly the figures in the UK in general and the URC in particular do not follow this trend. We have fallen into a malaise that sees decline as inevitable and that we are powerless to reverse the trend. This is utter rubbish, is not consistent with the Bible or the words of Jesus who called us to go and make disciples.

Of course the UK and URC trend will only change if we do something about it. That is why the URC is investing time and money into the appointment of Evangelist and why we have the Synod Evangelist working with us. There are some useful characteristics of growing churches to consider. Typically a growing church will be evangelical in ethos with a Pentecostal outlook, be community orientated, have lively band led music, vibrant biblically based sermons, worship services lasting ninety minutes or more and making use of modern technology, a system of house groups and well attended prayer meetings and Bible Studies. There will be little concern for democracy and a great emphasis on discerning the will of God, the majority of the membership will tithe, the members will regularly bring friends and neighbours to worship and there will often be significant re-ordering of the buildings. Whilst mainstream churches continue to decline in the UK the Pentecostal, Independent Evangelical, Seventh Day Adventist, New Church Movements and African & Caribbean churches continue to grow. Of course there are some Baptist, Methodist, URC, Anglican and Catholic churches that buck the trend and grow but they will be characterised by the factors listed above.

Research shows that all churches that turn from decline to growth, except in areas of significant population growth, do so by wholeheartedly embracing change and that always leads to some members leaving who cannot embrace change. Conversely churches whose primary concern is not to lose people through pushing change end up losing even more because new people do not come in and join them. There is no doubt about it, exploring evangelism will challenge our assumptions and thinking, will be uncomfortable as we wrestle with change, will require us to lay aside all our preconceptions and presumptions about church. We will have to have the courage and confidence to try new things, to risk failure, to learn new practices and to lay an ever greater emphasis on prayer, Bible study, worship, discerning the will of God, individually and corporately, and putting him first in our lives. Not to do this will inevitably lead to the extinguishing of the Beacon, to do this may fan the flames of the Beacon into new life. The choice is ours.

Ian

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