I’m late to commenting on this, but London’s church involvement is growing.
1. In the 7 years 2005 to 2012 church involvement in London grew from 620,000 to 720,000
2. In that period, 3,000 churches closed and 1,000 started.
3. The strongest growth comes from migration/immigration with Black and Ethnic Church growth, accounting for 50% of that growth.
London’s population has boomed recently growing from 8.3 million to nearly 10 million people. Perhaps that additional 1.7 million people account for where most of this growth is coming from.
4. Nearly 25% of all UK church involvement can be accounted for by Christians in London!
5. 50% of London churches are in outer London (where I live), but only account for 22% of those involved in Church. Many of the churches in outer London are in decline and are not growing
So we have a two track London. The white middle class suburbs where churches are declining (smaller churches are in decline, whilst bigger churches are seeing some growth), and the inner city urban areas, are rapidly growing due to migration/immigration.
We have over 200,000 people in the London Borough of Sutton where I live. If the London average church involvement of 8.8% applied to our area, that would be nearly 18,000! That would be a large number of people to bump into on a Sunday morning driving around Sutton! Anecdotally, we have far less than that number involved in Church.
I have tried to do some demographics for the SW area of London that live in (Sutton). Look up the total number of churches, then estimate from the personal contact we have the size of congregations and make use of annual reports from those churches.
I estimate that we are nearer to 4% of involvement in Church, in terms of church membership as percentage of population. Then we probably have 2% of our population engaged in church participation weekly - 4,000 people - on a good Sunday.
Now the population of Arkansas USA is approximately 3 million people, with and estimate that 53% of people there are involved in church - over 1.5 million people.
The past 18 months has probably seem me face the greatest amount of change in our church plant, since my wife and I planted it.
I’ve had to face many things as our church reached a growth barrier. A great church with so much potential, faced it’s biggest challenge - me.
I realised Autumn of 2012, that what had gotten our church to where it was, and me in my leadership of it, would not get us to where we should and could be next.
Some of the key things I’ve had to face up to and seek to grow in:
My vision for our church, and my role as the leader of it was the most important place to start. I realised I had fallen out of moving forwards with vision into relying on management of what was already in place. The effort to recover vision and passion for growth was a painful and then exhilarating process.
There were and still are a whole range of new skills I needed to learn for leadership, management, strategy and execution. The cycle of realising my incompetence, to undergoing coaching and learning new skills has been challenging and stretching. What had gotten me here wouldn’t get me there.
Then as should always be the case, God needed to work on my character. This new process of growth and learning brought out the best and worst in me. I’ve had to find ways on my own and with input from others to discern what needed to change within me. That has been painful as it usually is, but has been the greatest privilege of all.
4. Counting the Cost
One the things I needed to face up to the most was the cost of change. I knew what needed to be done and attended to in many ways, but found that I wasn’t ready to undertake that. Previous seasons of growth had cost me a great deal, and I have then lost both my parents to suicide. That left me praying that I could avoid the investment in growing that I new would be needed.
Change is prevalent throughout the above. Change in myself, change in my family and marriage, change in my church staff relationships, friendships and ministry relationships. More change that I can remember since planting the church.
In all this God has been good and I have enjoyed a season of being close to him in a way I haven’t experienced for a long time.
Our church is growing in some many wonderful ways, and it stands at the edge of the next major stage in it’s development. In some ways I feel like I did when we planted the church.
There are so many stories, resources, and lessons from those areas above that I am going to turn them into a blog series. I hope they will help other church leaders seeking to grow themselves as they lead their churches.
All that seems to have added fuel, that produces more ‘heat’ with the Scots determined to gain independence. For me, it has made me realise more than ever, that I will be sad if Scotland leaves the UK.
The economic arguments are waging, political spin is on overload, with anger and bigotry turned up to number 10. It seems the referendum on independence will have little to do with reasoned debate and will be mostly about tribal passions.
The rational part of me, looks at the arguments and wishes Scotland well. If Scotland wants to be really independent, to leave, then I hope it goes and thrives. But I don’t support setting up a new currency zone with the pound, Scotland needs to take it’s share of UK debt, then it needs to apply to the EU and make it’s own way in the world.
The non rational part can all to easily, like most of the debate, default into rhetoric and resentment. But at heart I realise something else.
My grandparents were Scottish - just saying that probably makes me sound like David Cameron claiming Scottish ancestry. I took my honeymoon in Scotland, named my son after his Scottish forebears (Cameron). Some of my best friends are Scottish. Some of the best roads in the world to ride a motorbike on, are in Scotland.
In all that my desire for Scotland not to leave the union is far from rational. I don’t want Scotland to leave, I love Scotland and want it to continue as part of the UK.
Scotland, stay with us.
Last Sunday I gave a talk about why my Church has Sunday worship meetings and why they are vital to Christian life and discipleship and evangelism.
I am convinced that meeting together for corporate worship is one of the most pivotal things for Christians to understand and engage with if they are ever to have a vibrant life of faith outside church, and a faith that impacts the community around them.
Churchless faith is a myth. Or rather it might be the experience some choose to embrace (they enjoy it) as individuals but is not one that leads to the transformation of communities by Christians, and people becoming new christians.
Gathered worship sits at heart of being the body of Christ - like all the other gatherings that sit at the heart of our other lifestyle commitments and social arrangements.
You can hear my talk here. I am going to make a short series laying out some of my experiences and research on worship that underpin that the next few weeks.
As I prepare that, I’ve noticed the online flurry of conversations Don Miller’s posts about not attending church has led to.
My immediate thoughts on that conversation where how reducing church to attendance of a Sunday service is the problem. Those whose understanding of church as sundays service, either just turn up and attend, or end up not attending at all. In other words those attending and those choosing not to attend are two sides of the same coin.
Or to put it another way, those who reduce church to just attending a Sunday service are often the people who talk about stopping attending because church should more than a Sunday serivce. A circular logic and experience.
Our understanding of Church has to be more than attendance. But not gathering to avoid the boredom of attending, does very little to advance any understanding of church and being church.
One of the greatest things I get to do is leading the Leadership and Global Perspectives D.Min for George Fox Seminary.
Here are some photos from last September when all my students came to London. Next September we are in Cape Town.
This is the photo-album for the Leadership and Emerging Culture (LEC) Doctor of Ministry (DMin) track with an emphasis in Leadership and Global Perspectives led by Dr. Jason Clark at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Oregon, USA.
- Location: London, UK
- George Fox Evangelical Seminary
- Leadership and Global Perspectives Doctor of Ministry Program
- Lead mentor: Dr. Jason Clark
- 1314 school year
- Sept. 24 - Oct. 2, 2013
- LGP3-4 Cohorts
- tag: dminlgp
I find myself regularly repeating a phrase I heard from my friend Jim Henderson - We must stop comparing our best with their worst.
Garrick Roegner one of my students reading Bebbington, pointed me to this article by Laura Turner, the daughter of american historian Mark Noll. (BTW you can read all my students blogging about their reading at http://dminlgp.com).
In her article, 'The Gift of Being Evangelical', Laura Turner tells the story of her being brought up Evangelical and what a gift it has been to her.
As I read it, I thought how it so wonderfully embodied that phrase - We must stop comparing our best with their worst.
I love my Church and my church movement. There I said it. Again.
I just got back from an amazing week, last week, with my tribe - our annual national leaders conference. My church had a huge film night party Saturday night and then had a commissioning service this morning for a new church plant.
More than ever I realise how much I love my church, and my wider church family and the church itself more broadly. And more than ever I feel how that sentiment is at odds with our ‘cynical age that tends to celebrate anti-institutional suspicion’ (see the recent Comment Magazine).
I have reposted below something I wrote a few years ago, about that juxtaposition of cynicism about church and loving church. I find myself convinced of what I wrote then more than ever now, with my recent experiences.
I sometimes wonder if at present that kind of statement (I love my church) puts you up there with the ‘crazies’. Kind of like saying Margaret Thatcher was a warm gentle person, or that Tony Blair’s faith helped his political policy making.
I’ve written before that it currently seems much more ‘authentic’ to leave/criticise/doubt/be bored with church. Any confession of a high view of church, and love of church immediately paints you as an institutionalized reactionary conservative, blind to the problems of church.
I’m not talking about the idea of church, were we can all affirm the imagining of a better church. I’m talking about the church as it has existed and will continue to to in history.
The church messed up by you and me.
There is a naive sentimentalism about church, that is dangerous and leaves the church unable to change, with it’s fingers in it’s ears to any critique. But there is also a bilious cynicism about church, that finds it’s ongoing expression in a pathological idealised post-church narrative. And lots of stuff in between.
My location on the emerging church discussion, doesn’t come from being bored with church (I didn’t grow up in church), a dislike of worship aesthetics (there is much I don’t like), or the loss of faith in a post-modern world (I’ve nearly lost mine a few times).
It comes from a love of the church.
Church saved me. It introduced Jesus to me. It challenged me to hand my life, my basis for living and being over to Jesus, and to explore that with other Christians.
It brought healing to my life, through loving relationships, the presence of Jesus, examples of what it meant to live as a human being and as a father and husband (without alcohol and violence), with a new family of wonderful relationships.
It encouraged me to learn and grow and find out God’s plans for my life, and to try to locate that in the scheme of eternity and God’s kingdom.
It got in my face about the need to attend to my character, and take the pain of my past to Jesus.
And yes it has bored me, frustrated me, and been hopelessly out of step with my world so many times. And more than that it has regularly hurt me, abused me, tried my faith, and caused to me to doubt and question.
And yet I love and believe in it even more than ever.
So here are some of my thoughts as to why I liked it so much. If you are going to respond in the comments please make sure a) you read the article and b) actually refer to it before making claims about it :-)
Any form of Christianity that wants Jesus, radically pursuing him is in danger of something due to that pursuit. The mediums and experiences of our culture in pursuing Jesus can become something we love more than the Jesus that got us into our modes of expression in the first place.
In other words we can love the culture of our Cathedral architecture and choral music, more than the Jesus that birthed those contextual engagements in following Jesus. We can love the size of our mega church, numbers of people, programs and resources, more than the Jesus we pursued in the first place that led to those radical cultural expressions.
And a warning from the author, owning his own generation and context. The things he values and enjoys about his cultural expressions of Christianity - the thing he loves the most, that he and his friends think is amazing about the ways they are radically expressing their faith in a changing culture can get become something to love instead of the Jesus that gave rise to those expressions in the first place.
He doesn’t criticise the desire to be radical, or the modes within his own church life that he engages with- he affirms them clearly, but wants to stand back and make sure he and his peers don’t fall fowl of a problem that can affect us all; preferring our modes of worship, and culture of faith instead of the ongoing real costs of following Jesus.
In short, don’t mistake the ways we like following Jesus, for following Jesus. He took aim at his own faith and context, honestly and openly, instead of criticizing others.
Now that is ‘brilliant’.
Stanley Hauerwas: Being a Christian Should Scare the Hell Out of Us
I got to attend the Jamie Smith event hosted by Theos at Westminster Central Hall, London.
Jamie was superb as ever, great material and wonderful interaction with people over questions and conversations.
His first session was a great summary of his recent work - how we are formed and shape through what we love not more than what we think with our heads.
The second session was some new material from him on understanding the secular - equally brilliant.
What are the practices of a missional people? - my editorial for Journal of Missional Practice vol. 3
I was asked to be the guest editor for the third Volume of the Journal of Missional Practice. That volume is now online and is free to view here.
My editorial review of the Journal is here. I provide an overview of this volume of the journal, and critique of the key articles in it. The keynote article is by Alan Roxburgh.
Take it for a spin and let me know what you think.
My #Verse2014 and hope for this new year: Galatians 2:20 http://jason.so/gal2-20 what’s yours?
Imagine the nativity if Facebook existed 2,000 years ago