I think we are at a stage nationally where we will have to close church buildings, move congregations and focus resources. I know to some that sounds callous but we are getting to the point where our current model of ministry won’t work- we simply don’t have the money or ministers and to carry on as we are will be impossible within the next ten years. It is no good to have a mentality of maintenance for decline; it is time we took the bull by the horns cut the ministers, projects, or church buildings that are a dead weight around our necks and resourced innovative new initiatives, church plants, and flagship congregations.
It is time we sought visionary leaders rather than the church management- our ministers are not called to serve churches they are called to serve God and ordination recognises this call. It is this fact that makes ministry a vocation rather than a job! It is time we learnt to release and support ministers for mission rather than insisting they do ministry- ‘the way it has always been done’. We should recognise that missiology drives ecclesiology not the other way around i.e. the church is the motor for mission not the destination of mission.
I am a believer in ecumenism, but not ecumenical partnership driven by falling numbers and closing congregations. It has to be a mission orientated ecumenism; it is my belief that this is far more about organic, grass roots projects than organisational union. The most successful ecumenical initiatives have not been formed institutionally, but they have developed through cooperation for mission. In every case, they involve people giving up the desire to insist people come to our church and start thinking about our church (Catholics, Protestants, and Pentecostals) going to them.
The west, in the twenty-first century, has to be one of the most challenging times in which to be in Christian ministry. I know it has been said before that the church is in decline and young man there is no guarantee that you will be in ministry in twenty years time etc. etc. It is my belief that this is now true unless ministers are released to mission led ministry and unless ministers have the ability to meet the demands of mission led ministry then they may not be in ministry in twenty years time. I know there will be those who accuse me of negativity, of despair, of pedalling self-fulfilling prophecies but believe me that is not my intention. I am just convinced that the church will live on and the fact that God is still calling people in the ministry of the URC is proof that the church will live on but whether it will be called the United Reformed Church or have the same structures of the URC is in doubt.
I want to finish this with a final plea to ministers and to churches please be mission minded, serve without expecting reward, love those who seem unlovely, and seek the Kingdom above all.