The Church needs to create community and mature adult Christian disciples. Yet both aims can feel as elusive as the Holy Grail, says Simon Reed, author of Creating Community.
20,000 Churches Will Close
Challenged by the prediction that up to 20,000 small to medium-sized churches would close in the following ten years, Simon thought on how to prevent his Ealing church from becoming one of them.
For this Anglican priest, the equation between spiritual growth and increasing church numbers was clear; but how to turn it into a practical plan? A church-health survey tool from Germany provided the key.
Characteristics of A Strong Church
Using extensive research, the model showed that growth in numbers was linked to eight church characteristics: empowering leadership, gift-orientated ministry, passionate spirituality, functional structures, inspiring worship services, holistic small groups, need orientated evangelism and loving relationships.
Using this approach, Simon quickly realised that his church’s biggest weakness was passionate spirituality. Members did not feel close to God; they lacked confidence in their faith. How could this be resolved?
Many churches turn to the successful churches in the US for growth models; but these felt inadequate - a common language hides a deep cultural differences. Perhaps, proposed Simeon, the answer lay not across the Atlantic, but across the centuries; specifically with the Celtic church of the first millennium.
Celtic Secrets of Community and Discipleship
Here was a community that held together strands of Christian faith which many present day churches have separated, weakening the vibrancy of the faith.
These communities were built on three core strands:
• The Way of Life - practices that vary according to a community member’s the level of commitment.
• The Rhythm of Prayer - regular patterns of worship, prayer and Bible reading that enable connection with God.
• Soul Friendship - everyone in the community had someone to accompany them on their spiritual journey.
"...Connection with God and One Another"
Bringing these elements into 21st century church has proved challenging. Now, looking back, Simon writes: ‘The result of practicing these three things over the last ten years is to be part of a people who have a deepening connection with God and one another, and who are connecting God more and more with every part of their lives.’
Discover how Simon’s experience can show you the way to find the Holy Grail of community and mature discipleship for your church in his book, Creating Community - Ancient Ways for Modern Churches.
Article written by Kevin Ball, Marketing Coordinator for Bible Reading Fellowship.
May 19th, 2013 - Posted & Written by The Editor