If the Church of England is going to survive and if God has a plan to reach everyone in our communities, then the local parish church is going to have to become missional.
When read in one direction this is a call to mission for the faithful. However, it could be read as a quite condemnatory statement for all of those parishes engaged in mission. Through a lot of the conversations I have had in the last few months I realise that people often operate with a view of the whole church based upon a caricature of some of our worst experiences.
Gavin goes on to make three brilliant suggestions.
Preach the mission
The preaching and communication of the church needs to hold a steady course and be consistent in every area – whether Sunday services, website, weekly newsletter, meetings or conversation.
We will only ever realise our potential to engage with God’s plan if we are consistently reminded of the purpose of the church. We have a clearly defined role – to declare the good news of Jesus resurrection and our restoration to the Kingdom of God and to work towards a better world. We need to keep reminding ourselves of our role in God’s mission so that we keep focus. This isn’t a role God has for our “evangelists”, it is a role for the whole church.
Make the move from groups to teams
If the Church of England is going to survive and if God has a plan to reach everyone in our communities, then the local parish church is going to have to become missionalLook at the existing groups in the church, such as Mothers’ Union, and re-brand them as teams – each with a missional purpose. Start providing training for the team leaders in how to invite people to join in with the mission of God in the world. I want each of these teams to be able to invite people to ‘join in’ with what God is doing and come to know Jesus. Some of these teams may well grow into fresh expressions of church.
The only way we can achieve the task God has set us is if we work together. The Apostle Paul’s vision of the church is that we no longer view ourselves as individuals but as family. That is why he refers to us all as brothers. Adopted brothers had legal rights and responsibilities from and to the family.
To re-brand the church as a team rather than a group (and as Gavin says, those smaller units within the church) it emphasises the outward focussed nature of the church and even the name reminds us that there is a task. We no longer gather together with an inward looking focus and ownership to emphasise an outward looking view. We move from “come and join our group” to “come and be part of the team”. I love that Gavin has used the Mother’s Union as his example. It shows that we can retain a sensitivity to those who have walked this path before us.
Grow leaders of congregations instead of leaders of services
In many parishes, there is a great emphasis on church services. However, if we are to reach our communities then we are going to need to equip, empower and release people to lead new communities of faith. Rather than planting churches that are clones of the parent, we need to seed new congregations.
At the moment I can identify four separate congregations meeting under the banner of Uplyme Church – each holding gatherings at different times. It is my hope that we grow and develop a leader for each of these congregations; not just to deliver services, but to nurture, teach and develop each congregation as a missional community.
And here at the heart of what Gavin says is an emphasis on people. We find that people are equipped and empowered to take control of their own destiny. Through this we will develop a sense of ownership of our place within the mission of the church. We can then develop as missional communities rather than passivity and a missional leader brought in from outside. Surely this would be a much more effective missional model of church.