“Encounter with God and the bursting out of the new creation occurs not in some special spiritual time or zone but through and amidst the vicissitudes, conflicts and contingency of our everyday life,”
The BBC (radio 4) recently featured a programme called The Spark which declared “the end of greed”. It’s a provocative theme and it flows from the argument that the last few decades have been dominated by a form of destructive individualism. The core argument is that our true nature as human beings is to co-operate, to work for common interest and to function in community. In other words, the idea that we can survive best as self-interested individuals is fundamentally flawed. We are in fact social beings that require relationship.
These are the core convictions that underpin the gospel message itself. In this new space, churches have an amazing contribution to make. That contribution is demonstrated in an amazing piece of research on the role of churches in bringing good things to London – see later on in this newsletter. What is true of London is of course true for the whole of the nation.
This is how the researchers introduce their report, “The Megachurches and Social Engagement in London project team has spent the last three years investigating the nature of social engagement among London’s very largest churches (those with over 2,000 regular attenders).
The data gathered shows us that the variety of activities these churches engage in is simply staggering, including work with children and young people, the elderly, the homeless, refugees, families, couples and young singles, people with physical and mental health needs, and the widowed and bereaved, as well as community development and educational projects and social campaigning, for example against human trafficking or in favour of local and community needs. These interventions positively impact the life of our capital city and its citizens, and it is clear that it is not only the faith communities themselves that benefit. Whilst, naturally, the megachurches on their own do not have all the answers to London’s practical social needs, it is also evident that they have a part to play in galvanising civic engagement and working for real change in the communities they seek to serve.
The Invisible Church
Steve Aisthorpe came back to the UK in 2007 after 12 years overseas. He found himself wrestling with the contradiction between the concept of the local church congregation being God’s primary agent for the gospel and what he was seeing on the ground as hundreds of thousands of people no longer turned up. He was able to talk to and survey a substantial number of those who were no longer attending ‘church’ and published his findings.
He busted a lot of myths and stereotypes and concluded with some thoughts on the way ahead. Is the Church in transition, on a journey? Moving from institutional to organic? Moving from roles, activities, structures, set ways of doing things to being shaped by the people, their gifts, visions and relationships? A rise in ‘alternative faith-based community’. There is relief and hope here. Relief that the decline in church-goers does not equate to a corresponding decline in Christianity and hope because Christian fellowship is being expressed in fresh ways. There is also pain; the grief of those attached to particular institutions, the emotional struggles of those disengaging, the failure to recognise each other as authentic parts of the Christian family.
Recently, the CMS published an article by Steve which gives an update on his latest research:
What good are London’s mega churches?
The following article was written by Dr Andrew Davies for the Theos Think Tank
Dr Andrew Davies is Director of the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion University of Birmingham
Talking HOPE Introducing The Wellbeing Journey
News Update 18 Sept 2020
Time for harvest
Months of prolonged isolation during the Covid-19 lockdown have put a strain on mental health and wellbeing. To help local churches support their communities, HOPE Together and Kingsgate Church are producing a new video series to be released in January 2021. The Wellbeing Journey will enable churches to lead communities on this journey to physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing as they offer this practical resource. A book ‘God’s Plan for Your Wellbeing’ by Dave Smith (Waverley Abbey Resources) accompanies the video series. Promotional resources, sermon ideas and invitations will be available for a Christmas launch highlighting Jesus ‘the Prince of Wholeness’ as The Message version translates Isaiah 9:6. To hear more about The Wellbeing Journey, join us on Facebook Live @hopetogether on Monday 21st September for Talking HOPE.
Till next week… Martin Robinson