None of my questions about the church will ever be allowed to lead me to a place of despair about the church. It is, after all, not my church or our church, but it is the church that belongs to Jesus Christ. It's his to build not mine to protect.
I think that raises my first question: Do we take enough risks?
The straight answer is probably not. Church, for many people, seems to be the place of least change in a rapidly changing world. It's the only place where you can go that will be the same next week, next month, next year. And yet the ministry of Jesus was always on the unsafe edge. Why then, is the church he planted, afraid of the edge?
I'm not suggesting we take risks for the sake of it, but something needs to change, I can feel it in my bones. I know that here at Cotton End we have two great opportunities to become a risk taking church, three if you count another one that's lurking in the background. Personally I can't see any way forward without taking these risks. Things simply will not happen if we wait for it to be safe to proceed.
The risks, of course, need to be set in the context of faith, but not always the measure of faith we have. Our faith may be too small. I think Bill Hybels was the first person I heard use the term "Spirit inspired risk", and that is just what we need, a little Spirit inspired adventure.
If we are not willing to take these kinds of risks, then I think we are set on a course of competing with every other church for a shrinking proportion of the population that find church comfortable and acceptable, and whom the church finds comfortable and acceptable too.
If 75% of the population are open to expressing some kind of belief in God and if only 5% of the population come to church to find that expression of faith, then what might church look like for the 70% that are missing? What might an effective church be for these 42 million people?
And don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that we in any way adjust our core beliefs to match the beliefs of the wider population, but our strategy surely must change in some way to become the church that truly impacts people's lives.