How to grow
What makes one church increase in numbers while so many others are shrinking? It’s a matter of spiritual muscle, says Ashley Evans
My experience of church seems to be different to others’. I have grown up in the Church, and been a minister in three places, and yet I have never been part of a congregation that was not growing – both numerically and in its relationship with God. Yet, I realise that in Britain the decline of the Church is the only thing most people know. Nationally, we have no experience of a growing Church; we don’t know what it feels like or looks like.
I’m not claiming to see congregations of thousands, but I have seen steadily increasing numbers of people, both young and old, families and individuals come to join the family of God. And yet I know that my experience is unusual.
Why? Have I caught something of the essence of what a church feels like or smells like when it’s growing?
I do not believe church is all about the numbers. But it is about numbers of people hearing the lifesaving Good News that Jesus came to redeem us. I believe that the Cross is central to all that we are and the Resurrection is the conquering of death. That is what our message needs to be if we are to see people coming to faith. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1: “Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
So, what is it that our churches offer? Do we preach Christ crucified and risen? Do we fulfil Christ’s commission by truly nurturing and discipling new Christians, teaching them to obey?..
Ashley Evans is minister at Bolton Villas Church in Bradford and evangelist for the United Reformed Church Yorkshire synod
This is an extract from the October 2015 edition of Reform.