Yesterday a crowd of people gathered together to talk think and pray about church planting. The Vital Signs Day conference was hosted by 2020 Birmingham (who want to see 20 new churches planted in the Birmingham area by 2020). Here are some of my highlights from the day.
The keynote speaker was Ray Evans from Grace Community Church in Bedford. In the morning, he talked about the importance of Acts 6 to growing healthy churches. He identified three barriers to growth
Internal corruption and opposition
His focus was on the third. As you grow, things become more complicated, growth means change and when there’s change, we lose something. Change includes grieving for what we lost. Often what we know we should want is for the church to grow but in fact what we really want is comfort and to be looked after.
It’s vital for church leaders to have the nickname “Barnabas.” We need to be encouragers.
In his second talk, he talked about Acts 16 and reminded us that for churches to start and grow takes the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s about bringing the dead to life. Ray referred to “God only moments.” He looked at the first 3 converts in Philippi -a slave, a woman, a Gentile – people who might be seen to be beneath or outside of the power of religion. Evangelism includes
“Come and See” – most people want to be invited. Don’t underestimate the power of inviting people to a church service or event. Even if they say no, they appreciate being asked. The phrase “friendship evangelism” is unhelpful if we think in terms of really close friends -invite acquaintances. The average journey into faith in the UK takes 10 years.
“Care and Serve” -slaves don’t come and see because they don’t get invited. They don’t have friends. In our society that means the prostitutes, homeless, those just out of prison etc. Look for opportunities to care and serve that will lead to word opportunities.
“Go and tell” =Christians need to be equipped to use their opportunities to tell the good news. We should not assume that “the church does it for us.”
Highlights from the Q&A sessions included
Al Barth from Redeemer CitytoCity “Vision produces leaders who produce ministries which produce resources.” “Churches in urban areas may have more in common with other urban churches from other traditions than with their own denominations. That’s why networks like 2020 are so important.”
Ray Evans again on encouraging people to desire Gospel growth. “Don’t talk numbers, talk people. Who do you wish you were passing the communion cup to on a Sunday who isn’t there? Let’s pray for them.”
Other great encouragements included hearing about all the different church plants in our area where God is at work and people are hearing and responding to the Gospel.