I'm enjoying, and being challenged by, Tim Chesters 'Unreached: Growing Churches in Working Class and Deprived Areas'. It's packed with good insights - e.g. on the contrasts between middle and working class culture (e.g. on reliability - middle class meaning = chronologically reliable, turning up on time etc., working class = emotionally reliable, there for you when you need them).
Here's a bit that's got me chewing: bits in brackets are my paraphrases. And it applies in any culture.
"What is church growth? According to the parable of the sower (where 3/4 of the seed is wasted) it's not about numbers, but about the fruit of changed lives...the size of our Sunday congregagtion can all too easily become the focus and measure of how we feel about ourselves. (But) the goal is not numbers, but heart change.
This brings a very different focus to the ministry. We don't need to feel insecure about leading a small church. Jesus has a small 'church' who all ran away when the crunch came! It means we can be bold in challenging unbelief, because we're not worried about people not attending....It means we can and will rely on God...when we aim for heart change, we are forced to realise it is not under our control (and therefore we pray more)
It means we leave a legacy. A church in our areas fell apart when the pastor left. The pastor had been caring, but had not taught the gospel or confronted sin. When he left, there was nothing. I want to leave behind a legacy of changed lives."
All too often we leave a legacy of changed premises (according to the wife of one theological college head 'show me a vicar who has been in post 7 years and I'll show you a building project'. Guilty m'lady) but not changed lives. The former is easier than the latter. We find ourselves encouraging deeper involvement in the church, rather than deeper growth in discipleship.
I want to leave behind a legacy of changed lives, for Jesus. Chester is reminding me why I do all this in the first place, and making me wonder about whether I'm aiming for that legacy, or something else.