A moment of great change is upon us, and I’m not talking about the new build. Although the prospect of a new building is indeed a great thing to celebrate, it is, in one sense, nothing to do with the church. Let me explain why. As we should all be aware, the church is the people, and we don’t want to do anything to reinforce the false idea that the church is made of timber, stone, metal and concrete. In reality, the church is made of flesh and blood brought fully alive by the Spirit of God. So, if it’s not the new building I’m, talking about, what’s this great change in the life of the church?
I passionately believe that what we are undergoing as a church body is not a relocation, but a restart. In the waiting time between Old Town Street and Warren Grove we have the rare opportunity to ask ourselves a range of searching questions about who were are and who we are truly called to be. Few churches ever get the chance to take stock like this, stripped of a home of their own for a season, before the blessing and temptation of having ‘their own’ building returns. We must use this time wisely and get ready for what’s next.
Before we open our doors on the ‘first Sunday’ in the new building, we need to have in place a scalable process for meeting, engaging, befriending, connecting and discipling a potentially large number of new people, lest we all suddenly find ourselves with more new friends than we know what to do with. Usually, when any form of revival comes, the influx of newcomers is not the limiting factor. In the recent Reading revival (which started in the Spring of 2016), the capacity of the local churches to handle a significant influx of new people over a relatively short period of time was stretched to breaking point:
So, how do we achieve this necessary increase in our people-handling capacity? In the Industrial Revolution, the division of labour was found to greatly increase productivity, as every £20 note reminds us. Yet this discovery was nothing new. The same principle was identified 1,600 years earlier. Ephesians 4:11-13 (ESV) states this: “And he (Christ) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”. Any church that fails to embrace the biblical pattern of Ephesians 4 will likely suffer three things. Firstly, their church leaders will burn out. Secondly, they will fail to make disciples. Thirdly, the church will never get to the mission field, by which I mean, first and foremost, the one on our doorstep.
We’ve been clearly led by the Lord to reconsider this passage, and much more besides, and we’ll be telling something of this inspiring prophetic story over the coming weeks and months. This great change in the life of the church centres on us fully embracing our corporate leadership structure by dispensing with any remaining notion of a paid leader who is able to fulfil all five ministries. We must similarly admit that, up to this point, we’ve probably not been fulfilling all five ministries in the life of the church, so some areas have been rather neglected, perhaps.
To increase our ‘people capacity’ we first need a simultaneous multiplication of senior leadership and an Ephesians 4-style differentiation of those leaders. Following this, the whole church can be more readily mobilised as each leader gathers around them a team of similarly gifted people whom they can begin to ‘equip’ for ‘the work of ministry’. Alongside this focus on senior leadership, we’re beginning to work out a long-term sustainable ministry plan that factors in the likely staffing costs to run the church and the new centre, along with realistic estimates of income the centre might generate to cover these costs, at least in part.
Our new building will certainly be built on firm foundations. In the same way, if we don’t build the church from a new, firm foundation, we will inevitably build on what has gone before and the structure that emerges will unintentionally place too much emphasis on one paid leader. Let’s think team. Let’s think disciple-making. Let’s mobilise this church for mission and get ready to see the Kingdom come in Dawlish as it is in heaven.
As follow-up to this blog, here’s the link to a relevant video shown at the recent church weekend away:
Also, here’s the link to the Ephesians 4 fivefold ministry online test where you can begin to assess where God may be leading you to serve: http://www.fivefoldsurvey.com/surveys/new?locale=en
There are 80 redundant questions, so try not to over-think your answers. Be brutally honest about yourself and try to avoid answering ‘sometimes’ for too many of the questions. The more polarised you answers are (i.e. try to say rarely or often as much as you can) the more starkly your true gifting will emerge. Any questions, please do come back to me.
God bless you all,