Category Archives: Mission

Posts relating to Mission

What makes Christianity unique?

Why should we believe in Christianity when there are so many other competing religions around? Isn’t it just an ethical code like many other faiths? At a question and answer session for the Veritas Forum John Lennox explains why Christianity does not compete with other faiths, because it offers believers something totally different.


Moneyball and Change in the Church

It’s a long time since I last posted anything on my blog! Six weeks ago or so I was reading a blog by another church leader and he recommended seeing a film called Moneyball. In fact he didn’t just recommend it he said: “If you haven’t seen the movie Mo
neyball yet, you need to. Like now. Click out of this window. Close your laptop. Get in the car. And go buy it. Not rent. Buy.”

I haven’t bought it, but I might. But we watched it last week. Interestingly at the same time I was preparing for my sermon last Sunday on how the early church responded to the radical challenges that Christianity brought to the Jews who made up the worshiping community of the church as it started. Based on the book called “The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why” by Phyllis Tickle, I talked about a 500 year cycle of upheaval and change within both the church and wider society. In the clip that I used she ended with these words: “we’re just lucky – we get to live through one!”

Our society has radically changed in the past 50 years or more and the pace of change doesn’t seem to be slowing or diminishing. Children today are being educated for jobs with technologies that haven’t even been invented yet. Work has changed, society has changed, views on morality and ethics have changed and community has radically changed. The church has also changed, but not nearly so radically. Sadly one of the changes has been that the number of people connected with church in the UK has greatly reduced. For many in our society today the church seems an archaic reflection of the past with little or no relevance to their lives today. I don’t agree with them, I believe that the Gospel has every relevance to life in 2013. The Gospel hasn’t changed however the way that it is communicated has to change.

What has that got to do with a film? Moneyball is about baseball – something I know nothing about. BUT the story of the film has everything to do with the state of the church today. The film is about the fascinating mix of men behind a major cultural shift in the game of baseball and how a risky vision, born from necessity, becomes reality, when a ragtag team of cast-offs rejected due to unfounded biases, get the chance to finally prove their potential.

In the game of baseball there is received wisdom as to how you pick and run a team of players. It’s always been done this way and it’s the only way of running a professional team. Two men see a different way to pick and run a team and they risk everything to do just that. They go against the received wisdom, they fight against the way things have always been done. They fail, but they keep going. They force their way on others who don’t agree, willing to take the criticism and the knock-backs. They keep going until the team starts to win, and then carries on winning and achieves an all time record for the number of consecutive wins.

Towards the end of the film the owner of one of the richest baseball teams offers the coach who has risked his career on a new system a once in a lifetime offer. In doing so he says: “The first one through the wall always gets bloody.”

What if we’ve been trying to build church based on the wrong principles for decades, if not centuries? We may not have known the foundations and principles were wrong, but they were all we knew. What if there are new principles, principles that make the Gospel understandable to the majority in our nation who never darken the doors of our church buildings? Maybe, just maybe, we need to seek God for the principles and foundations for making disciples in the 21st Century and allow him to build his church which will probably look different to anything we’ve known before?

“If you haven’t seen the movie Moneyball yet, you need to. Like now. Click out of this window. Close your laptop. Get in the car. And go buy it. Not rent. Buy.”


A Church For Me – Vision Part 4

This is the last post about God reigniting the vision that he gave me before I started at St Paul’s:

A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children

In my first post about Vision I talked about my Personal Vision,
In my second post I asked: So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For The Unchurched?’
In my last post I asked: So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For Children?’

This time I want to ask: Where do I fit in this vision?

After a notice had been up in the entrance to our church building at St Paul’s for a few months I was asked the question by more than one person in our congregation: So where do I fit in this vision?

Good question!

I think there are two directions this question can come from. The first is saying, I’m not unchurched and I’m not a child so is there anything here for me? How will you meet what I need and want if I don’t fit into these categories? My answer is simple, as you seek to become fully part of a church community with a focus on mission to the unchurched and children you will find all that you need (although you may not find all you want). As Christians we learn and grow far more as we witness than we do as we study. If your desire is to grow as a disciple of Jesus then you will have ‘making disciples’ as the highest priority in your life. We don’t learn in order to witness, we witness in order to learn.

The Christian faith has at it’s heart the incarnation, the willingness of Jesus to give everything for those he loves. I like the Message translation of John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” The character of God is that of giving and generosity. Jesus ‘moved into the neighbourhood’ so that he could become one of us and ultimately live within us. He calls us to have the same character of giving and generosity, for us to become truly one with others so that they too can become disciples of Jesus. The question is not what’s in it for me, rather it is what can I give so that others can experience what I’ve experienced.

The second direction that the question “Where do I fit in this vision” can come from is saying “What can I do to help?” For the answer to that I would suggest starting to look at your family, friends, neighbours & colleagues and asking yourself “How can I share the love of Jesus with them?” This can make many different forms, from handing our free strawberries at a Summer Fayre, to inviting a friend to come with you to Back to Church Sunday, to offering to go to their home and go through the Alpha Course with them. It may mean supporting the Under 2s and Under 5s ministry during term time, or offering to help with our Sunday School on Sunday mornings, or perhaps helping with the Light Party in October.

I started this series of posts by saying that God has confirmed to me a personal vision that I believed was directly related to the church he would call me to lead. I hope that by sharing thoughts about my personal vision I have encouraged and challenged you to think about your own vision.



A Church For Children – Vision Part 3

This is the third post about God reigniting the vision that he gave me before I started at St Paul’s:

A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children

In my first post about Vision I talked about my Personal Vision,
In my last post I asked: So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For The Unchurched?’

This time I want to ask the question: So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For Children?’

According to analysis of church attendance statistics in 2010 the average age of churchgoers was 61 (against the average adult age in the population of 48), and on average half of all churchgoers are pensioners. In the UK there are approximately 12.5 Million children under the age of 16 of these approximately 218,600 will usually be in a  church service on a Sunday. That equates to less than 2% of children in the UK!

Why do we need to be ‘A Church For Children?’ Put simply – if we aren’t the church will cease to exist in the next generations!

So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For Children?’ It means that children and young people have as much right to be part of who we are, how we worship and what we do as adults have. It means that the resources we give to working with children are the very best, both in terms of people and in terms of finances. It means that children have as much right to be fully part of our Sunday corporate worship as adults have even if their expression of worship is different.

At St Paul’s I believe we have come along way in becoming a Church for Children. We introduced the areas at the back of the building for toddlers which have been well used. I very, very rarely hear reports of children being ‘tut-tutted’ for the noise they make (although I am always saddened when I do hear such comments). There is a simple answer if the noise of children at the back of our building disturbs you – there is always room on the front row! A lot is invested in our relationship with Sarisbury Junior and Infant Schools and that investment will reap long term benefits that we may never see personally. Our Carol services have been revitalised as we have welcomed the choir from Sarisbury Junior School and in recent years we have had to hold multiple children’s services on Christmas Eve to fit everyone in.

More recently the growth of our work with young families in our Under 5s and Under 2s groups has been fantastic. Led by Clare and Brenda we regularly have contact with over 30 families with good relationships and friendships being built. I am convinced that one of the side effects of this is the increase in the requests for infant baptism that we have seen in the past 12 months. Out of this the Tea Service started in December 2010 and has grown and matured in the last 18 months, so much so that others have come to see how we do it. Once again this has been led by Clare, Phil and their Small Group who have mission to young families at the foundation of their group.

This is good news, however we are still only reaching a small percentage of the children and young families in Sarisbury Green. We have very few families with school aged children who regularly attend our Sunday Services, I wonder why? Is the content wrong? Is the music style wrong? Is the time wrong? I wonder if this last one is perhaps one of the most important questions. I’ve seen some of our families leave because sport happens on a Sunday morning, or because children are with mum and dad on alternate weekends and Sunday morning is just the wrong time. Perhaps to be truly a Church for Children we need to experiment with moving our Family Services to 4pm on a Sunday with a bring-and-share tea and see if more families come?

What do you think?



A Church for the Unchurched – Vision Part 2

In my last post I shared that God is reigniting the vision that he gave me before I started at St Paul’s:

A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children

Read the previous post

So what does it mean to be ‘A Church For The Unchurched?’

One of the passages in the Bible that I keep returning to is Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples (and through them of each and every Christian) in Matt 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” These are some of the very last words of Jesus to his followers and so they are really, really important. He could have said anything. He could have said go and pray for four hours a day, or go and fast twice a week, or go and feed the poor. Praying, fasting and giving to the needs of the poor are all vital and important, but Jesus didn’t say any of those as his last words. He said, go and make disciples. NOTE: he said go and make disciples not go and build the church, he also told us to go to ALL nations, that is to every man, woman and child, not just to the people who are already in the church.

The life and ministry of Jesus was an example of just this. In fact Jesus got quite a reputation for who he spent his time with. In Matthew 9:11-13 we read: When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Archbishop William Temple said, “The Church is the only organisation that exists for the benefit of its non-members”. Think about that statement, it has a lot to say. The church does not exist for my benefit, it does not exist to provide what I want, when I want it and in the style I prefer. We live in a consumer society, but the church is not a consumer organisation, if anything the church should be profoundly counter cultural in this.

In 2004 the Church of England published a report entitled ‘Mission Shaped Church’ and one of the statements that was at the heart of that book was: “It’s not the church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world.”

For decades, if not centuries, the church of God has understood that it had a mission in the world, that is, mission was one of the reasons for the existence of the church amongst many others. That isn’t want Matt 29:19 says, rather it is the God of mission who has a church in the world, that is, mission is at the very heart and foundation of the existence of the church, it is not one of the reasons for it’s existence amongst many others, it is THE reason for the existence of the church.

Let me return to the question I asked at the start: what does it mean to be ‘A Church For The Unchurched?’

It means that we examine all that we are and do against how it serves God’s mission of making disciples of all nations. Let me take one, possibly controversial, area of the life of many churches and ask what it might mean if we were truly a ‘church for the unchurched.’ At a recent meeting of the PCC our Archdeacon remarked that he was surprised how many churches in the Diocese had communion as their main service almost every Sunday. That wasn’t his experience in other Dioceses that he has been in and the question he raised was should we reduce the number of communion services at St Paul’s to maybe twice monthly and at Whiteley to once monthly. He was clear that this wasn’t because of the lack of priests to celebrate communion, but rather in a mission minded church was it appropriate to have so many communion services?

Why might he suggest this? The reasoning behind this question is that communion can be a barrier for the unchurched. Every Sunday when I administer communion I know how many people receive the bread and wine, how many people I pray a blessing over and how many people are in the building. And every week that are a number who don’t come up for communion or a blessing. Why? I would suggest that it is because communion is a meal for Christians and they don’t feel included. Instead of welcoming and including them communion becomes a barrier.

In a previous church community that I was part of the question of the regularity of communion was raised. The suggestion made was the we should ask the members of the church community how often they felt we should celebrate communion, my strong suspicion was that if we did so the answer would be ‘as often as possible.’ If the church is a ‘church for the unchurched’ perhaps the best people to ask aren’t those who are already part of the church community but those who are on the outside. I wonder what they would say?



Personal Vision

In Myers Briggs terms I am an Introverted Intuitive, that means that personal vision is really important to me. So I like the KJV translation of Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It is vision that gets me up in the morning, energises and recharges me.

“You see things as they are and ask ‘Why’? But I dream things that never were, and ask ‘Why Not’?” George Bernard Shaw


“Unless you see it before you see it, you will never see it”

Reflecting back on the past months before my sabbatical it wasn’t the workload or the plethora of Christmas services that I found the most draining and that led me to a point of exhaustion at the end of 2011, but a lack of vision. As a result one of my prayers over the past few months has been for God to reignite and restore my vision of what he is calling me to be and to do.

Reflecting back on the past months before my sabbatical it wasn’t the workload or the plethora of Christmas services that I found the most draining and that led me to a point of exhaustion at the end of 2011, but a lack of vision. As a result one of my prayers over the past few months has been for God to reignite and restore my vision of what he is calling me to be and to do.

What has happened isn’t a new vision but a reaffirmation of an old vision. God has taken me back nine years to just before I came to St Paul’s. In those weeks before my interview God gave me a personal vision that I believed was also to be a vision for the church he would call me to lead.

It is summed up as this:

A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children

That statement is simple and yet immensely profound. It is a statement that I have found myself returning to again and again in the past weeks. What does it mean to be ‘A Church For The Unchurched and A Church For Children?’ I’ll be unpacking that in my next few posts.

What has God called you to be and to do? You might like to share with others by commenting, I’d certainly be interested in hearing, and if you have no idea how about asking God and then listening to what he has to say?



Exciting Times Ahead

At a meeting of Portsmouth Diocese Bishop’s Council last Tuesday a bold and important decision was made to recognise the needs of one of our church communities and to appoint a Church Army Evangelist rather than a traditional parish priest.

Falling partly within the parish of Sarisbury Green and partly within the parish of Titchfiled the new development of Whiteley is a distinct community that is different to the surrounding areas.At present Whiteley has over 6,000 residents with an average age of approx 36 (79% of the population is under 44). It also has a substantial business park with offices of Zurich, NATS and ITV Meridian. As part of the South East Development plan a further 3,000 homes are planned along with two primary schools and a secondary school.

A Church Army Evangelist is someone whose primary gifts are in evangelism, church planting and establishing strong foundations in new church communities. Often they work in difficult and deprived areas but they also work in areas of new housing development like Whiteley. The Church Army Evangelist will be appointed for a period of five years and would have ‘one foot’ within the existing church community supporting, training and encouraging them in mission and the ‘other foot’ in the local community finding and establishing new ways of connecting with that community and possibly establishing new expressions of church there. As the average age in Whiteley is about 36 they will predominately be working with families with young children and with young professionals.

This all sounds great – but there is a catch! Although a Church Army Evangelist is a licenced minister within the Church of England they are not ordained Priests. So they cannot celebrate communion or conduct weddings & they cannot legally be the ‘priest’ or ‘curate’ in Charge of Whiteley.

Therefore to make this happen Whiteley Church needs the support of someone from another parish. As the Deanery Plan has always linked Whiteley with Sarisbury it was natural for me to be approached to support Whiteley in this way.

So the plan is this:

  1. A Church Army Evangelist would be appointed and licensed to Whiteley Church in a full time capacity for five years
  2. I would be licensed as the ‘priest’ or ‘curate’ in charge of Whiteley
  3. The Church Army Evangelist would also be licensed to St Paul’s with the remit of supporting our ministry in this church alongside their ministry in Whiteley.

This is an exciting and bold decision from our Bishop. I believe that for too long our churches have been led by Pastor/Teachers and we desperately need new leadership from the other three parts of the fivefold ministry Paul talks about in Ephesians – Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists.

I look forward to getting to know the community in Whiteley (both the church and wider community) and seeing what God has in store. I also look forward to working with and learning from someone with evangelistic gifts and skills and seeing how they approach ministry and can help St Paul’s with our mission in Sarisbury Green.

Exciting times ahead.


Startling academic research shows widespread Church growth in Britain

Startling academic research shows widespread Church growth in BritainAfter many years of depressing headlines this article from the Church of England Newspaper is Good News…

By David Goodhew  Cranmer Hall, Durham June 7

Sit down, breathe deeply – I have some shocking news to give you. The church in Britain is growing. Yes, I know this sounds mad. The TV and the newspapers routinely depict churches as half-empty and populated by geriatrics. Not a few church leaders and congregation members walk around like Fraser from Dad’s Army, declaring ‘You’re all Doomed !!’ But there is something else going on.

An international team of leading researchers, based at Cranmer Hall, Durham, have just published a study entitled Church Growth in Britain from 1980 to the Present. Here are just a few of the extraordinary statistics that have been unearthed:

  • There are 500,000 Christians in black majority churches in Britain. Sixty years ago there were hardly any
  • At least 5,000 new churches have been started in Britain since 1980 – and this is an undercount. The true figure is probably higher
  • There are one million Christians in Britain from black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities
  • The adult membership of the Anglican Diocese of London has risen by over 70 per cent since 1990.

Research Endorsed by Bishops and Leading Academics

This research has been endorsed by a range of senior academics and church leaders – from Justin Welby, the new Bishop of Durham, to Archbishop Vincent Nicholls, head of the Roman Catholic Church. Professor David Bebbington, the leading historian of evangelicalism comments: “This is excellent research. It is commonly supposed that the Christian church in Britain is moribund, but the essays in this volume all demonstrate, from different angles, that in the recent past there are signs of vitality and growth.

“Nor is the vigour confined to new churches, for mainstream bodies have also participated in the upward trend here depicted with scholarly care.”

Durham Bishop Justin Welby responded to the research in this way: “Church decline is neither inevitable in prospect nor accurate in retrospect. This book reviews the reality of what is happening in Christian religious practice in the UK. As such it comes at a crucial time, when the Church of England appears to be gathering the will to change, and when an accurate and reasoned understanding of what is really happening, and has done so since 1980, is essential.

How can these things be ?

‘How can these things be ?’ you may be saying. ‘Isn’t there lots of church decline going on?’ The media tell me of thousands of churches closing. Many church leaders bemoan shrinking congregations.

The reason for the tension between this research and the picture often painted is twofold. Firstly, media, academia and many church leaders routinely ignore church growth. The growth of new churches and ethnic minority churchgoing has been happening for years – but it flies beneath the radar of most academics, most of the media and not a few in the Anglican Church.

Secondly, evidence of church growth and decline needs to be looked at together. The contemporary British church is both declining and growing. Where you look affects what you find. The real picture for the last 30 years looks something like this:

  • Roughly the same number of churches have closed as have opened
  • Some denominations have seen serious decline – notably the ‘mainline’ denominations – Anglican, Methodist, URC, Catholic
  • Some churches have seen major growth; especially churches rooted in ethnic minority communities and newer denominations
  • Some parts of the mainline churches are seeing growth – Anglican growth centres on the Diocese of London (the one Anglican diocese which has consistently grown over the last 20 years) and new Anglican churches/fresh expressions.

Six Lessons for the Church of England

  • Firstly, there is hope. We are bombarded by media (and not a few church leaders and members) who assume that society is inexorably getting more secular, that there is nothing much we can do. A glance at nations such as China, where there has been massive church growth despite very difficult conditions, ought to inoculate us from such fatalism. And the evidence from Britain shows there is large-scale, long-lasting church growth happening in Britain. Despair is both wrong theologically and flies in the face of the evidence.
  • Secondly, church growth often involves people from ethnic minorities. And it is striking that the churches that most effectively harness such people come from outside the mainstream churches. The Church of England may have a black archbishop, but black Christians are much more frequently found outside, rather than inside the Church of England. How can the CofE change to release the gifts of non-white Anglicans ? Perhaps we need to import some leaders and humbly learn from those parts of the wider Anglican Communion that have seen serious church growth ?
  • Thirdly, church planting is the most effective single strategy for growing the church. Every diocese needs a church planting strategy.
  • Fourth, church growth happens most often along the ‘trade routes’ of Britain – places where there is population growth, immigration and economic dynamism. Thus, towns along the East Coast mainline – like London, York and Edinburgh – are more likely to see growth than elsewhere. This doesn’t mean church growth only happens along trade routes, only that it is more likely there. It is easier to grow churches in Kensington than Cumbria. We need growing churches everywhere. But leaders in areas suffering population loss and economic decline shouldn’t beat themselves up when they find the ground resistant to growth. Conversely, we need to identify the ‘trade-routes’ as seedbeds for church growth, just as St Paul worked along the trade-routes of the Mediterranean to reach the ancient world.
  • Fifthly, the Diocese of London is the centre of Anglican church growth. This is not comfortable news for other dioceses – and no cause for pride in London. Nonetheless, the wider Anglican family needs to ask why London has bucked the trend and others have not. In particular, it is striking that it was under Archbishop David Hope that London changed from decline to growth – what is it about what he did that we all can learn from ?
  • Sixth, we need a theology of church growth. We need to articulate plainly why growing the church is what God wants – and let go of the fatalism that wider Western culture has insinuated into the hearts of both individual Christians, congregations and church structures.

Hope for the Church

Church Growth in Britain offers hope to local churches. It echoes and reinforces the work pioneered by Bob Jackson a decade ago. The ‘secularisation thesis’, which assumes western countries are inexorably getting more secular, is simply not true. Moreover, church leaders and members need rescuing from the despair that this thesis encourages. We have developed in many parts of the Anglican Church a kind of ‘eschatology of despair’ that feeds into an ecclesiology of decline. When we think English churches are doomed to shrink, we behave accordingly – and then they do shrink. But the evidence shows that substantial church growth can and is happening in contemporary Britain.

This is a bracing, but hugely exciting challenge for the Church of England. We can stop moping round like Private Fraser. Instead of an eschatology of despair, we should grasp an eschatology of hope, which leads into a theology of church growth. Jesus remains such as magnetic as he was 2,000 years ago. The Holy Spirit is just as widely at work – if we have eyes to see him. Research into church growth in contemporary Britain shows that when people step out in faith God uses that faith to grow churches and bless communities.

To find out more:

Church Growth in Britain from 1980 to the Present, has just been published by Ashgate and is available from bookshops and online booksellers. It will be formally launched at Church House, Westminster on Tuesday 19 June, 5-6.30 pm. This is followed by a conference at Cranmer Hall, Durham, ‘Church Growth in the North’, on 2 July. For more information, contact Esther Kisby, via

Church Attendance & Belief in God

At our service yesterday morning I shared some of the details of a report that I read recently from The Church Army. For me, as a church leader, it makes challenging reading.

If you want to read the report yourself you can read a summary of it entitled: How does church attendance relate to beliefs and values? Or you can read the report itself on pages 7-10 of their publication Tomorrow’s Evangelism, it is entitled: Lies, dammed lies, and statistics: what do statistics really tell us?

The most challenging aspect for me, and what I preached on this morning, is the question of the uniqueness of the Christian faith. What I find deeply challenging in the Church Army article is how the understanding of this question relates to frequency of church involvement.

This really started me thinking. I had a conversation with someone at the end of the service who suggested that there were maybe less than 10 people in our church community who are there at every Sunday service! I don’t think it is quite that bad, but our of an Electoral Roll of 92 I could think of less than 15 people who are involved every Sunday morning! That in itself worries me. However I know St Paul’s is not alone in that the regularity of attendance at public worship is now less than I think it has ever been before, and that includes those who would consider themselves part of the core of church membership.

Sunday has changed and there are many reasons people don’t worship every week, indeed the term ‘regularly’ is often understood these days as being once a fortnight, or even once a month. Those reasons include Sunday sports and leisure, families who are geographically distant, the breakdown of family life for many, and a plethora of other attractions now on Sundays that compete for our attention and participation. As a church leader for instance I know that on a hot sunny Sunday in spring attendance at church services will be reduced, sometimes significantly!

I find this hard as I was brought up with the understanding that worship and God came first, above and before anything and everything else. If I could physically get out of bed on a Sunday morning I went to worship. As our children grew up this was the norm for our family which meant saying no to sports and other activities. As they are now grown up both our children know that we are not available on a Sunday morning, not just because I’m a vicar, but because worship and God simply come first.

Even more worrying is the correlation that the Church Army highlight of frequency of church involvement with belief in the Uniqueness of Christianity. In the report they correlate frequency of church involvement with the answers to the following question:

These are statements one sometimes hears. Please choose the statement that best describes your view?
1 – There is only one true religion
2 – There is only one true religion, but other religions do contain some basic truths as well
3 – There is not one true religion, but all great world religions contain some basic truths
4 – None of the great religions have any truths to offer

Approx 60% of those who are involved in churches on a weekly basis answered either that ‘there is only one true religion’ or that ‘there is only one true religion, but other religions do contain some basic truths as well’ leaving nearly 40% to answer ‘there is not one true religion, but all great world religions contain some basic truths’ – this 40% statistic is worrying to me, however it is the next set of statistics that is even more worrying. For those who are involved less than weekly (a significant proportion of those involved now in many churches) nearly 60% say that ‘there is not one true religion, but all great world religions contain some basic truths.’ The article suggests that those who attend less than weekly should perhaps be viewed as ‘partly-churched’ or as ‘church-fringe.’

This raises lots, and lots of questions. What, for instance, does it say about monthly or bi-monthly services for families like our Tea Service or Messy Church (or monthly 8am Traditional Communion services)? What difference in our understanding of our church communities would it make if we only counted those who were involved on at least a weekly basis? How do we understand discipleship, are we preaching and teaching a form on ‘Christianity lite’?

If you want to listen to my sermon from this morning on the question: Is there only one true religion, or are there many paths to God? you can find it here.

Mission & Missionaries at Bethel


This morning has been a real privilege. I went to the first Service at Bethel and thoroughly enjoyed the worship, one of the main high points of my time here, so much so that I stayed for the worship at the second service as well.

But I was really taken aback by what came next. It started with corporate prayer for the Bethel Ministry School students who are now out on mission. 1,200 students are visiting 57 nations over the coming week to 10 days! Kris Vallaton has just returned from Mozambique and shared the testimony of a boy aged about 5 who was both deaf and dumb and was totally healed!

Bill Johnson then spoke about the absolutely vital importance of mission and the way that the early church stayed in Jerusalem until they were scattered through persecution. The Good News is so great that we mustn’t keep it to ourselves we must share it with others, locally, regionally, nationally and with the nations.

“You can either impact the world or you can have the best party on the Titanic.” Bill Johnson

Each of us was given a booklet detailing the missions and missionaries that Bethel supports. there are seven missionaries who are majorly supported by Bethel (one of whom is in Scotland!), with a total monthly support from Bethel of approximately $10,000. There are another 15 missionaries who are indirectly supported in significant ways by members of Bethel Church and a further 28 missions or missionaries who receive regular support of $100 a month.

We heard the testimony and wisdom of a couple, Mike & Lynne Chandler, who have served as missionaries for 26 years and now serve Bethel and their missionaries as their Missions pastors. They spoke about the changes in missions work from a lifelong calling to a particular place to a calling to mission in a way that raises, trains and empowers local indigenous leaders and then knows how to get out of the way to allow them to lead. Long term missionary commitment going hand I hand with short term missions trips.

We then heard from one of their missionaries who has been supported by Bethel for 30 years. Tracy Evans is in Mozambique with a vision to see the poverty, disease and death that country has experienced reversed. They are reaching thousands of people with holistic community development including a feeding program that daily provides medical care and milk for 900 orphan infants and HIV+/handicapped children.

What so struck me was here is a church that is abundant and extravagant in their support for sharing the Good News both locally and across the world. It is a community of people who are both sent and send others. The intentional pursuit of God’s presence, healing and the miraculous are important parts of the life and ministry of Bethel, but so are feeding the hungry and caring for the needy, both in Redding and across the world.