Towards a Strategy—Church Revitalisation
By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles
Towards a Strategy (ii)
In recent years, the Church of England has become more intentional and committed to church planting. ‘Bishop’s Mission Orders’ provide legislation for new church plants or ‘fresh expressions’ of church; in 2015 London diocese appointed a ‘church planting bishop’ with the vision to plant 100 new worshipping communities in London. Increasing populations, new housing developments and population shifts provide good reasons for the necessity of new churches; furthermore, church planting is one of the most effective ways of reaching communities with the gospel. There are plenty of opportunities for creative and strategic church planting within the Church of England at present.
However, alongside church planting, there is an even greater need for church revitalisation.
As I noted earlier, every person in England lives in a Church of England parish. The infrastructure, though crumbling in parts, is still in place for the Church of England to reach the whole nation with the gospel. What is needed even more than the planting of new churches is the revitalisation of existing churches.
I agree wholeheartedly with the words of Harry Reeder writing about Church Revitalisation:
“if a particular church is dying, the conventional wisdom in some circles is that it should be closed down…but I suggest that in most cases a ministry of church revitalisation is closer to the heart of our Lord…I think that when a pastor, a supporting church, or a denomination comes alongside a church in need of revitalisation, this action reflects the heart of God….the ministry of starting new churches is a rewarding one, but I suggest that the ministry of revitalising existing churches is sometimes even more rewarding…not only does the ministry of church revitalisation reflect the heart of God and of Paul, but when it is carried out according to the Word of God, it is also a practical and effective way to meet the current needs of the body of Christ”77
There are two vital ingredients necessary for this great work – the proclamation of the gospel and personnel.
All over the country there are Church of England congregations that gather week by week but they do not hear the gospel being clearly preached and they do not hear the Word of God being faithfully expounded. This is a tragedy.
“How are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preached the good news!” (Rom 10:14-15)
But surely congregations have heard of him (the Lord Jesus)? Yes and no. Yes, in that of course they have heard of Jesus, through the liturgy, the songs and hymns that are sung, the reading of the Bible and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper; but no, in the sense that if the biblical gospel is not clearly and faithfully proclaimed then the ‘Jesus’ that they have been told of is not the ‘Jesus’ of Scripture and history.
Paul writing to the Corinthians rebukes them, “If someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted you put up with it readily” 2 Corinthians 11:4. In other words, it is possible to hear a message about ‘Jesus’ and to be taught a ‘gospel’ other than the true apostolic gospel about the true Jesus and his true finished work.
Excerpted with permission from Gospel-Driven Anglicanism by the Revd Dr Mark Pickles, page 109-110, 2017.