The Church of England has announced it is providing £2.6 million to help revitalise church life in Newcastle. That’s right £2.6 million pound. That’s enough to pay for the salaries and building hire of 13 church plants over a 5 year period. Think of the difference this investment could make if the C of E were to partner with Oak Hill Theological College and Acts 29 to get 13 church leaders onto some of the neediest estates in the North East of England.
Except that’s not the proposal. Rather, the aim is to copy Birmingham and create another ” Resource Church.” The Resource Church is projected to have 400 people attending within 5 years. Now, I don’t know how you project those kinds of things. It tends to be the Lord who brings people into his church and whilst we would love to see 400 new converts in Newcastle within 5 years, that’s not the norm. Remember, they don’t say they hope, pray or dream for 400 but project. In my experience, when powerful people with resources have signed large cheques, if they project that something will happen, they thy make sure it does. So how will it happen? We need to be honest and recognise that the figure is most likely dependent on existing Christians coming from other churches. In other words, this will not be so much a resource church as a resourced church. I have written here about why I disagree with the Resource Church approach.
Then look again at the article, who do they hope to attract to the church? Prostitutes immigrants, the unemployed? No, students, office workers and their families. This is a church aimed at the privileged. It is an initiative couched in management speak with its five year plans and its projections.
This has been announced at the very time that people like Stephen Kneale, Mez McConnell, Graham Miller and Duncan Forbes have been calling the church nationally to repent from strategies focused on what Duncan has called The Prejudice Gospel (see here ). We spent the 20th Century thinking that by targeting the well off and well connected that this would lead to a trickle down effect of evangelism and ensure our churches would be stocked with leaders for the future. We are seeing the consequences now as many parts of the country are gospel free and there is still a shortage of courageous godly leaders.
It is time to ask the questions.
1. Will we learn from past mistake?
2. Will we repent from past wrongs?
Learning and repenting is not about hand wringing, grand gestures and fine words. It’s about changed hearts leading to a different way of doing things.
Whilst I wish that the Resource model did not exist, I still pray that where the churches are planted that they will be healthy and fruitful. Hopefully this will include in time a willingness to work with and learn from other churches in their cities