In a conversation with some other church leaders over lunch the other day someone used a phrase along the lines of: ".. we've seen things like servant evangelism, a.n.other form of evangelism [I can't remember the other types of evangelism that got mentioned] come and go."
I guess it was hearing SE mentioned that made the phrase stick in my mind. Couple that with our decision this week to adopt a strategy document I, along with other leaders at church, have been working on this year and it got me thinking about programmes and cultures.
The biggest challenge we face is changing the culture of church more so than changing the programme. When you treat something, anything, as a programme, you can keep changing the programme, you can keep blaming the programme. But that is not the root of the problem. The problem seems to lie in the culture. I suspect that at some level you can make any programme work if you get the culture right in the first place.
I remember Clive Calver back in the 80's (at least I think it was), posing the question, "Have we become universalists?" because it looked that way when you considered the priority we gave to mission at that time.
Now we are certainly not universalist, but the reason we are doing so poorly in mission (and a recent survey of evangelicals in the UK shows that we are in decline albeit at a lesser rate than non-evangelicals) is not a programme problem but a cultural one. We invest most of our time and money and effort in maintaining the happiness of the churched community. But isn't the church here primarily for those who don't belong to it yet? I'm of the opinion that since I know Jesus Christ as leader and forgiver I'm destined to spend eternity with him and have, therefore, an eternity to work out some of my unresolved issues and problems. My friends and family members who are not part of God's great family don't have that opportunity.
At Cotton End we're looking to shift the balance significantly and I'm excited about that. I'd have to say that I think we've come a long way anyway and what we've decided to move towards is another step along a road that God has been leading us for some time. But unless we shift the culture too, unless we all take responsibility for and engage in reconnecting our friends and neighbours with the God who misses them and loves them, nothing much will change and worse still nothing much will have been achieved.
We're in a good place. We've got loads of potential and bags of passion, but we are not unaware of the challenge ahead.