Tag Archives: church growth

Growing your Church: Inclusivity 

We continue our look at what makes church grow based on research across a wide selection of traditional denominations. Last week we looked at hospitality this week we consider inclusivity.

We are all part of a family, not just church, but the family we grew up in.  We never grew up in isolation. There are always people that cared for us to greater or lesser degrees, and perhaps for many of us family includes our close friends and even our pets!

A good family nurtures us from the point we find ourselves at. It seeks to find ways for us to flourish. Nurture is not just about meeting the basic needs, or even providing an opportunity for flourishing. It is at its best when showing an enduring love and championing of an individual or individuals.Edit
A growing church is inclusive! It may be obvious to some of us, yet it appears to be a lesson we still need to learn. in the way we cater for learning styles, and the different places people are on their walk with the Lord.

Growing churches recognise that the journey towards God and finding and continuing in faith is a long one. People access that pathway in different ways and at different places. Often depending on their age, Life experience, and even their own experience of church and of faith.

Inclusivity does not end with discipleship, it’s about maintaining and developing authentic and deepening relationships, both ecumenically and within the community that surrounds the church.

Paul reminds the Church in Corinth of exactly this point in chapter 12.  There is one body but it has many parts.  All its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ… the eye can’t say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’!… You are the body of Christ each one of you is part of it.

Paul is reminding this church about its nature of connectedness, because of the context it is within and the factions and divisions that have grown-up within it.

For us today as church, for us to flourish we perhaps need to put to one side our own sense of how things should be. Looking instead at how the journey is for other people. Connecting in with their walk with God and their journey.

Truly seeing people as family, means that we no longer see the role as primary in our relationship with the individual, but we see who they are. Like one a member of our own family we seek to find ways to connect with them, to help them flourish and help them to grow with the living God, whether they have been journeying for some time with him, or not sure even how to find him.

My own experience of inclusive church, is one that finds a place for me, where I feel at home, and where I grow and discover the kind of person God is calling me to become. It is also a church that reminds me as a disciple of the wider context it lives in, and invites me to join in.

 

Link to the research Leading Together in Growing Methodist Churches’ webpage can be found here

God They’re Just Not In To You. I tried sorry!

After another service leading people in worship, where I was trying to be relevant, engaging and even inspiring! The thought struck me, thankfully not knocking me off my bicycle as I cycled home.

The thought I pondered, as my wheels turned, was around that old saying concerning discipleship and growing in God, the desire that in the core of our uniqueness there might be “More of God and less of self”.

Sure God uses our abilities, and unique skill sets to serve him. But shouldn’t worship and ministry be less about style and more about experiencing God? Style matters of course and is a gateway, through the door which Jesus stands and knocks at, inviting us to walk deeper with him.

As a preacher and church leader, I am interactive and full of energy, I am the kind of guy that throws himself in, doing whatever it takes to connect with the unchurched generations and encourage the regulars.

I’m not  traditional although my style has become my tradition. I could have easily have just turned out as a more structured formal kind of preacher. I am uncomfortable, with these demarcations as they imply one is better than the other, where in reality I believe God can use both to minister to the faithful and non believer.

The whispered reality in my head for me is that after many years of serving God, being interactive, using video clips in worship, and the like. I find myself wondering what I have added to the kingdom of God in deepened walks and of new disciples. This isn’t a pity party, or self-flagellation, but I’m trying to take an honest look through the lens of time at the impact God has made through me.

My wife and good friends would tell me and rightly remind me, that I cannot possibly know how God has used me. However that reality sometimes is not enough, I look at the fruit of this thing called ministry, specifically in the area of making new disciples, and I find I am lacking. I don’t make the grade, or hit the target, regardless of how many courses I go on, the gold standard of new disciples being made, numbers anymore than a handful in the 13 years of ministry and 24 years as a christian that I know off. Perhaps I am being a little hard on myself! 🙂

Should I therefore give up in trying to make new disciples, or hope that new people might even come to church. Should I just stop reading the Fresh Expressions manual, probably some people wish I would!

The answer is yes I should give up striving to make new disciples, the kind of striving  that says it all down to me, like some kind of superhero trying to save the world and that assumes that God, and social religious environment has no part to play in the making of new disciples.

Instead perhaps I should be striving to become the man of God he wants me to become, using the unique skill set he has given me. I shouldn’t stop striving to be more effective, as one of Gods agents, of change and transformation, regardless of my style or the way I minister.

I shouldn’t beat myself up over the people brought to faith and who didn’t stick at it, but rejoice in those that have and are. Taking an honest look every now and then, asking the question, how affective am I being in the work of Kingdom building? What do I need to read, learn, be mentored in, so that when I stand before Jesus and look into his eyes. He and I will know in a moments glance, I couldn’t have tried any harder, and that the rest is faithfulness to what God has called me and us too regardless of the perceived and present outcome.

One final thought, would we strive the long hours, with and in God, and be content to see no fruit and instead religious obscurity. Thats not an excuse to do nothing. Instead as a result of faithful living, there were know new Christians, I wonder could we be ok with that, laying all our hopes of new christians and over flowing churches, at the feet of the one who says, follow me and I will be with you to the very end of the age.

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