I am wondering … is God trying to tell me something?
A couple of months ago I read a book called Darkest England and the way back in by Gary Bishop. The book celebrates all that William Booth (the founder of the Salvation Army) did in releasing people from the grip of poverty and leading them to new life in Christ. Booth’s vision encapsulated in his book Darkest England and the way out was achieved with great success. Bishop, contending that we (Christians) now need to go back into those areas in order to effectively reach a whole new generation trapped in poverty, tells his own story of moving with his family to a very deprived part of Manchester to start loving and serving the people there in the name of Christ. Out of this meeting of needs a Christian community began.
Then I finished another book about a church in a very different context – St Andrew’s parish Church, Chorleywood. Not content with their 600 strong membership, they felt called by God to group themselves into smaller communities of no more than 50 adults that would share a vision to be church together and meet a particular need out in their community. Three out of four Sundays a month these smaller groups would meet out in the communities they were trying to serve – community halls, scout huts, coffee shops and the rest – and then meet all together only once a month for envisionment, re-encouraging and the baptisms of all those who were coming to Christ out in the communities. Their passion was to offer the love of Jesus through serving their community. In 5 years they grew by an additional 1,000 members.
Then it was the church weekend and Danny & Vera spoke so powerfully of the way they just loved people, sought in every way possible to meet their needs whilst sharing openly the difference that Jesus can make in a person’s life. They have seen great growth in a moat difficult part of the world and now have 15 staff that each head up ministries that meet a particular need whilst sharing the love of Jesus.
My experience is that typically a church might have a group that focuses on meeting community needs (and so expressing the love of God in practical ways) and then another group, usually different people, focusing on telling the community about Jesus (and so express the love of God through witnessing and faith sharing). In all the above examples of growing churches these two were inseparable, and always found together. It’s a challenge for us all.