Came across this picture on Facebook several weeks ago and I remembered it last night at our monthly Mission Shaped Ministry course.
At the moment, like many Methodist Circuits across the land, we are looking at our future; does it involve further reshaping within the circuit of Ministerial reorganisation, does it involve amalgamating with a larger circuit (again), does it involve splitting up and disappearing into other areas or does it involve sticking it out and going alone ? Difficult questions, and as Superintendent I have been wrestling with these for several weeks now. Much of my thinking is taken up with trying to find the best way forward. The Methodists amongst my readers might be interested to see the map at the bottom of this article to see how things have changed since 1746. This shows the layout of the Wesleyaan Methodist Circuits at that time; look at the geography they covered.
The above picture is a challenge to me, but hopefully to others as well. The top line reflects my life so far, schools of nice neat desks with every child in the same seat every day, ordered and tidy. We all knew what was expected of us; we learnt facts and figures and any experiments in science were carried out by the teacher with observation by ourselves. In short we sat and they taught.
The next picture reflects the sort of factory my Mother worked in. I never worked in a factory but sometimes visited my Mum`s and the sense of assembly line was so strong. Again everyone sitting in the same place day after day and carrying out the same work each day with no room for creativity.
The picture of Church reflects what many Churches are still like today and its little wonder. I need to say that this isn`t meant to be derogatory because whenever I go back to my home church I always sit in the seat that my Mum used to sit in and it brings me comfort. However many of our young people have been raised in a different sort of school environment with open classrooms, encouragement to discover and research for themselves rather than just absorbing information parrot fashion. With the decline of the manufacturing industry today factory based work has become less, and the rise in white-collar occupations has led to a different way of thinking.
It is a very different culture today and yet many Churches try to continue in the way that they have always done, despite declining numbers, increasing costs over-tired worn-out buildings, and elderly congregations. IT REALLY IS TIME TO THINK DIFFERENTLY.
What I love about the Fresh Expressions movement is that it treats coming to faith as a journey, whereas old style Church thought more in terms of arrival. in other words attendance on Sunday was what counted, “bums on seats” mentality, and often without regard for how that person was going to be discipled into their future. When I became a member of my home church there was an attitude that I had served my learning period and had now arrived at my destination which was to sit in Church on a Sunday for the rest of my life.
HOW DREADFULLY BORING THAT SOUNDS TO ME !!
and I say that as someone who is proud of my home Church, love the people who have faithfully served in that place and who have given me so much love and affection over the years. These are the people who I pray for regularly each week, because of the love I have for them.
But the thoughts of sitting in any Church week by week doing the same things, singing the same songs, listening to the same sermons just sounds like a great advert for hell.No, Jesus took the disciples on a journey of exploration, teaching, adoration and worship. He didn`t say “Come and meet on a Sunday for a five hymn sandwich” but he did say “Follow me”.
“Follow me” speaks of a journey with him where regularly new things are to be discovered, new insights, new ways of doing things. it speaks of a freshness and life. And in order for the Church to get to this point we have to begin to think differently and in order to think differently we must become self-sacrificial people, in the way Jesus was self-sacrificial upon thee cross.
Are we prepared to change and think differently and find Gods shape for his Church today ?
Diagrammatic illustration of the Wesleyan Methodist Circuits listed in 1746, to show area covered. Information for East Anglia, and exact borders, is not to hand at time of drawing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)