As you may be aware we are in the process of reworking the vision and direction of our Evening Service at the moment, and we would value your prayers. As part of that we would be interested in your responses to a couple of questions…

If our goal is making and maturing disciples, are we right in thinking that we tend to put much more emphasis on maturing than making? Is that important?

How appropriate is it for a church to focus its energy and attention on reaching a particular section of our community (eg in our case young, professional, educated)?

8 thoughts on “Vision

  1. making vs maturing? I think I agree with jeremy in that the two needen’t and shouldn’t be separated. but I guess the question is how. hasn’t every church wondered this?! perhaps first off we should take a look at the third part of the statement….Jesus Christ! Maybe it’s too obvious to say, and people are taking it as read, but really? Often we look and focus on the style and the approach but in many ways it’s not important, whereas knowing Jesus is. So we as christians want to know him better, and we want people who don’t know him to know him (and then to continue to get to know him). the plethora of church types and congregations convinces me there’s no ‘right’ way to do this, but I have a couple of thoughts:

    what do we mean by ‘church’? maybe another no-brainer, but just to put in print I see it as people (of god), living in community (as opposed to a commune). ie it’s about relationships. about reaching out, about loving one another, and god.

    extend this, then, and another question pops in my head. what is community here in London? it’s different to wolten-le-marsh in somersoot county (i’m guessing). often people are not involved in the places they live, but their ‘community’ stretches all over the capital with networks of individuals involved in the same industry, leisure pursuits etc etc. in this sense of community, where do we fit in? I guess by the fact that we’re also part of these networks, being christ to all sorts of varied people as we go about our lives.

    but then…is it really the case, always? what about those estates? maybe they don’t have a great sense of community, but if they’re near us, should’t we be involved? we may live in various locations, and be part of widedly different networks, but the fact is the building we use for whatever we do together is in a physical place, with real people living around it. and I think ‘we’ need to be involved in that place somehow.

    obviously this post is all over the place but I think it reflects the enormity of the question. it’s not one thing we should be focusing on, but the whole.

    if anyone undoerstood any/al of that, let me know.

  2. I think we should focus on evangelism more. The problem I see is how to do this effectively. The example of the recent alpha course demonstrates one of a number of things

    1)People at Church don’t feel comfortable inviting people to church stuff.
    2)People can not be bothered to try and are quite comfortable in their own lives. The word Alpha may automatically mean people “turn off” in terms of thinking about their friends and family.
    3)Non Christians find Church boring and would rather do something a bit more interesting. They may also find the concept of going to church taboo.
    4)The non Chrisitian friends we have really don’t give a monkies about Christianity and don’t feel it has anything to offer to them.

    Personally I think it is a mixture of all these. Therefore in ministry I think we need to focus not only on training people in evangelism but also in encouraging people to talk to non Christians about God. In practical terms I think we need to make Church more accessible and also figure out how we can demonstrate what God and Christianity has to offer people.

    In terms of maturing Christians I think we could run some bible teaching training. Personally, I feel we lack a wide diversity in the age of our church and hence we miss out on the wisdom in teaching, encouragement and admonishment that comes from age. Not many churches who would say they need some older people!

    I think it’s good to constantly try to improve but I reckon we could be at risk of overkill in terms of trying to think about how we could change stuff all the time



  3. The opening address of John Sentamu as archbishop of york might be helpful in thinking about this question of making and maturing discipleship. Here is a section of what he said and the full text can be found on in the news section

    “WHO IS JESUS AND WHAT DOES HE MEAN FOR THOSE WHO PUT THEIR TRUST IN HIM? That, for me, is the critical question of our time.

    Victor Hugo said that, “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world: and that is, an idea whose time has come”. Corporate-discipleship: fraternal-belonging was Jesus’ big idea, and plan for the renewal of society; a catalyst and engine for building God’s Kingdom.

    His idea, which has lasted over the centuries, was simply this: a mixed community of sinners called to be saints, a divine society where the risen Christ in the midst of it is grace and truth, and the Holy Spirit is at work within it. An inclusive and generous friendship, where each person is affirmed as of infinite worth, dignity and influence. A community of love, overflowing in gratitude and wholehearted surrender, because it participates in the life of God.

    This corporate-discipleship, we call the Church, worships God and infects the world with righteousness.

    That is what Archbishop Michael Ramsey was getting at in his Missions in the Universities of Cambridge, Dublin and Oxford in 1960. He was speaking of the stupendous missionary century that saw the wonderful spread of Christian faith in Africa and Asia, by missionaries from these islands, and compared it to the spiritual decay in England. He longed for the day in England when the Church would learn the faith afresh from Christians of Africa and Asia.

    He ended his address by saying, “I should love to think of a black Archbishop of York [applause] holding a mission here, and telling a future generation of the scandal and the glory of the Church”.

    Well here I am, and you have already acknowledged that fact!

    My immediate response to that prophetic vision is simply a prayer that God will grant me an ever-increasing measure of discernment, so that like the Apostle Paul, I may fight for the truth of the gospel of salvation by grace alone, but also like him, make concessions to cultural scruples (the Anglican Communion, in my case).

    As Martin Luther said: St Paul was strong in faith, soft and more flexible in love… and ready to yield into everything.” May God give me faith and love in equal measure.

    The Church: its scandal and glory.

    Well, the late Canon David Watson, who was Vicar of St Michael-le-Belfry – the church next door to this Minster, said twenty-four years ago, “Christians in the West, have largely neglected what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. The vast majority of Western Christians are church-members, pew-fillers, hymn-singers, sermon-tasters, Bible-readers, even born-again believers or Spirit-filled Charismatics – and we have got some those here this morning – but aren’t true disciples of Jesus Christ.

    If we were willing to learn the meaning of real discipleship and actually to become disciples, the Church in the West would be transformed, and the resultant impact on society would be staggering.”

    This is no idle claim. It happened in the first century when a tiny handful of timid disciples began, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the greatest spiritual revolution the world has ever known. Even the mighty Roman Empire yielded, within three centuries, to the power of the Good News of God in Christ.

    It’s a scandal of the Church in England that in the past decades it has tried everything except to stick to Jesus’ plan for the world: Corporate -discipleship: fraternal-belonging.

    We’ve had our reports, our commissions, conferences, seminars, missions, synodical reviews, liturgical reforms – the lot. But little attention has been given to the question, “Who is Jesus and what does he mean for those who put their trust in him?” Let us begin to answer that question by paying particular attention to the meaning of corporate-discipleship.

    Che Guevara once said, “If our revolution isn’t aimed at changing people then I’m not interested.” The trouble with virtually all forms of revolution and modernising strategies is that they change everything – except the human heart.

    And until that is changed corporately, nothing is significantly different in the long run.

    A frog once begged a genie to turn it into a princess. The genie clicked his fingers and a gorgeous princess emerged. Later, having gone for a meal at the genie’s restaurant, the princess found nothing on the menu that she liked.

    She asked the genie whether she could order her favourite dish. “Yes, of course,” the genie said. The princess turned excitedly to the waiter and said, “A large plate of flies!”

    The scandal of the church is that the Christ-event is no longer life-changing, it has become life-enhancing. We’ve lost the power and joy that makes real disciples, and we’ve become consumers of religion and not disciples of Jesus Christ. You see, the call to corporate discipleship is a call to God’s promised glory. For Christ did for us that which we couldn’t do for ourselves.

    God’s acceptance of us just as we are, enables us to overcome our alienation and to experience the joy and the fulfilment of personal communion with God.

    Through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there came into the world a new power that transforms human character and human communities; and liberates us from anxiety, fear, meaninglessness, transience, evil, ignorance, guilt and shame. Created humanity, in need of salvation, must realise that the culture and institutions they create are also in need of redemption, not simply of modernising.

    God’s Good News isn’t for the chosen few: it is for everyone, whether they hear it or whether they don’t; and I shall regard it as the first priority of my ministry, as a ‘Watchman for the North’, to take a lead by preaching, by public address and by informal discussion, in sharing this Good News of God with the people of England.

    For me, the vital issue facing the Church in England and the nation, is the loss of this country’s long tradition of Christian wisdom which brought to birth the English nation: the loss of wonder and amazement that Jesus Christ has authority over every aspect of our lives and our nation.

    There is nothing more needed by humanity today than the recovery of a sense of ‘beyond-ness’ in the whole of life to revive the spring of wonder and adoration.

    So the call is to live and be good news to everyone. It would be fantastic if people not only said of Jesus Christ, “What sort of man is this?” but said of us, his followers, “What sort of people are they? Their gracious actions, and the language on their lips is of God’s goodness and love. Let us get to know them. There is something extraordinarily normal and wonderful about them.”

  4. islingtonians? barnsbury folk maybe. the percentage of poor and under-privelaged in islington outways the rocket that regard we aint meeting the needs of the parish being as though we are in stabbing distance of two dirty great estates. as to the age thing is kind of nice to be counted as a twenty something again but if you only have one age, like one colour or class you will lack waight and perspective. simon.

  5. They is no doubting COTC is unique. I have the huge privilege of travelling all over the country going to various different churches, and one thing I always notice is the complete lack of people in the congregation of people in they 20’s. Before I moved to London I was in a church in Manchester of over 400 people. Sadly I was one of three guys in the whole church that was in my 20’s.

    Every church is crying out for young, gifted people, in they 20’s, and early 30’s and we have a whole congregation of them. Therefore, what COTC should be about, in my opinion, is helping us reach this community. We shouldn’t apologise about this, but see this as serving the wider church body as we focus on reaching this age group that sadly the wider church is failing.

    I do believe we must learn to reach out together, and love our mates together, as we do this I believe our outreach will be more effective. One of my friends that has been around church, and talked about Christianity a lot, but never finally accepted, I know has been hugely impacted by the love, support and encouragement he has felt every time he has come to COTC. If this can be built upon, and we show a commitment to each other mates that perhaps things might change.

    The emphasis of church has to be both making, and maturing disciples. Let us not neglect one for the other.

    Lets dare to believe God wants us to be apart of something that might reach our generation. Last week we were looking at Joshua and perhaps this is our Promise Land that God has called us to claim!!!

    This is my rant; feel free to shoot me down.

  6. okay. so. yes. i do think it is a fair observation that in cotc we currently give more attention / effort to activities aimed at those already professing to be christians. also, if i have understood him correctly, i agree with jeremy in that, i think it is possible to grow in faith and mature as a christian while engaged primarily in activities aimed at including people who would usually find themselves outside the church community for various reasons. in fact, might i suggest, that it is only when we are fulfilling our calling to be a blessing and a light to the communities in which we are found that we could hope to grow and mature healthily as disciples of Jesus…

    which begs the other question, to whom are we sent? in our generation we are privileged to be part of so many different types of networks and communities, and i think that’s what makes this one such a hard question. in a way i think lets just identify a few of these together, pray, listen to God and just go for it. give each other the freedom to take risks and make mistakes…

  7. Is there a line that you cross between making and maturing? It might not be necessary to separate those two.
    If we mean evangelism, there’s always more we can do to encourage people to be more proactive, or to be living differently. If we’re talking about making services more seeker friendly, that’s a whole other debate. Personally I think the evangelistic power of a church lies in its Monday to Friday diaspora, not in the Sunday gathering.

    As for reaching different sections of society, I suppose if we’re God’s missionary community to Islington, we’re going to have services full of Islingtonians. If our same congregation met in Brixton, we’d have a problem!
    I guess the important thing is whether we welcome those that are different, and whether there are sections of Islington that we’re not reaching.

    Those both read like slightly flippant comments on serious questions. Sorry. Let’s get more people on the blog…

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