How do you talk about a new thing that you think God is doing? A clergy friend recently got in touch when he heard about some of the things happening at CCW4. He was obviously interested in what was happening, but probably also very frustrated by the context he was in. He had been working just as hard, probably harder, for a lot longer. And yet the church he was serving, to his eyes, still seemed to be much the same.
In other news a friend has recently planted a new church by the sea. This is received a lot of publicity, and social media coverage. Hundreds of people have been through the church in the first three weeks.
At CCW4, to be honest, we are still not sure exactly what God is going to do. All the prophetic signs seem to be that God is doing a new thing and he is encouraging us to continue and take new ground. The first weekend of going multisite was hugely encouraging. We coincided with back to church Sunday, and thanks to our outreach team and the youth flyering and local community members spreading the news, we had a good number of people on both our sites as we started a second service in the same time slot. God seems to be providing finances. Many of our staff and unpaid leaders and volunteers have put a huge effort into the last few weeks of church life. There will be plenty of challenges ahead as well. But it feels like we have broken new ground, and new avenues for the kingdom are opening up.
How do we assess these periods of stepping forward versus the more steady continuation of ministry that many churches are called to? How do we assess our own roles as ministers? If our identity is caught up in our work and performance, either scenario has the potential to cause us to go under in the long term. We can work harder and harder on less and less spiritual depth to try and sustain results. We can choose only to be deployed to places where it looks like there may be quick results and easy success in ministry – the student town, the well resourced church, the church that looks ready for a quick turnaround job.
But Jesus encouraged us to boast only that our names are written in the book of life. The new Testament letters are strikingly light on details of ministry successes. We don’t hear great stories of conversions, healings or statistics on church growth. Rather they tend to be encouraging us to keep going in adversity, and often an encouragement to celebrate how our weaknesses can be God’s strength. Whatever God does in Chiswick, I hope we will always talk about it in such a way that all glory goes to him, and that acknowledges all of the servant hearted and sacrificial ministry that has given us the current platform to expand and grow one. I hope that Nicola and I will always be willing to go to places and churches others might ignore, and serve regardless of whether we can see quick fruit or not. Huge thank you to all my ministerial colleagues out for your faithfulness and prayers today. As I saw one church planter in New York tweet to a newly arrived church planter from a different church stream #allinthistogether