Article 5 of 9 on the Diocesan Mission
Article 6 is Diocesan Mission Policy 3: Ministry
Last October our Synod accepted a fourfold policy in order to put our Diocesan Mission into effect. Last week I outlined the first of these policies on prayer.
This week we look at the second policy of the mission: –
2. To enable parish churches to expand numerically, equip and nurture their members, and become the mother-churches of as many fellowships and congregations as possible; and also to take further initiatives to create fellowships by penetrating structures of society beyond the reach of the parish church with the gospel.
This policy is the obvious outworking of the mission’s aim to see everybody having the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. The means and the consequence of this aim will be an increase in church membership.
It is important to notice how that increase in membership is being planned. It has to do with parish churches and other “fellowships and congregations”. It also involves expanding numerically and adding new fellowships.
The policy concerning Parish churches hopes to see churches expand numerically while equipping and nurturing their members. It is not numerically growth at all costs or without considering the quality of Christian life of the members. It is always important for churches to “equip and nurture their members”.
However, the policy is aiming to expand numerically the parish churches. This is not only to expand the number of members in the existing churches but also to expand the number of churches. So, the hope is that the parish churches will become “mother churches”. That is the policy is to enable parish churches to reproduce themselves – multiplying the number of congregations. Instead of the parish church having three services on Sunday it is planned that within a parish there may be five, ten or fifteen congregations.
The policy differentiates “parishes” from “churches”, “congregations”, and “fellowships”. A parish is an area, a town or a suburb. There may or may not be an increase in the number of parishes, but we are looking forward to an increase in the number of gatherings of Christians in the parishes. These gatherings may be called churches or congregations or fellowships. It is these gatherings that need to increase.
In the second half of the policy statement there is expressed a hope to go beyond the Parish structure. For there are many people for whom the networks of relationships are more important than the area they live in. So the parish system will not reach such people as easily as a network approach may. So the plan is to create fellowships and structures in addition to the parish churches in order to reach other people with the gospel.
The easiest networks to think of are the ethnic minority groups of our society. It is often easier to reach people in and through their ethnic groups than to reach them by the geography of where they live. But there are many networks – especially around the centre of the city. For example, some Christians are trying to set up a lunchtime ministry amongst the legal community, and others are trying to start a Friday afternoon high school ministry, while others have established a ministry amongst journalists.
Here at the Cathedral, we need to look at increasing our congregations. At the moment we have five main Sunday congregations, and several midweek. Most of these are “Cathedral” congregations meeting here in our buildings, some elsewhere. Other congregations that meet in our buildings are not really Cathedral congregations, but Christians using our facilities. Our aim is to increase the number of Cathedral congregations.
We are also excellently placed, in the centre of our city, to develop network ministries in the different sections of the population. New initiatives in network evangelism must be placed firmly on our agenda if we are to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.