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Hypermarket or corner store?

 Many years ago it seemed to me that churches were heading the way of supermarkets! Either large "hypermarkets": stock everything, well staffed, bright but impersonal, or corner shops: local, convenient, potentially connecting personally but limited offering. The struggle is the middle size, not quite one thing but not quite the other. Maybe it feels uncomfortable to speak of churches in such consumer, market driven terms. But for the UK church that is in many ways the reality. These 2 articles, from quite different "tribes", articulate some of the issues this raises:  
Recent posts

The Memory of Faith

 It is common to think of the UK as "post-Christendom", or even post-Christian. Census and surveys paint a picture of church decline. Faithfully following Jesus, yet alone seeing those from outside the church come to faith can be tough. Daniel Strange describes it this way: "The good news of Jesus is deeply implausible  in our culture at the moment...the cultural air they have breathed all their lives has shaped them to assume Christianity is irrelevant, untrue and intolerant" ("Plugged In", p32). Yet the memory of faith lingers, in music, in culture, and beyond in ways that keep popping up. I was recently at a secular event where the crowd participation moment was to get those gathered to join in singing "Come and go with me to my Father's house". It was quite something to hear the room belting out the words of there being joy in the Father's house forever! Did anyone even notice the good news they were singing? This weekend was Glastonb

Opportunity or Threat?

 It's amazing to still be hearing some church and ministry leaders talk as if online is a threat to church as we used to know it! The reality is that church as we used to know it, pre-Covid has gone. Online was not just something we did for the pandemic, but is here to stay. Yes there is a danger that it creates consumers and spectators, but then many of our models of church were doing that anyway. Part of the issue, I think, is the rush to equate online with streaming what happens in the building. The rhetoric then becomes around those who can't or won't  return (and I have heard it said with an slight air of superiority, are too "fearful"). But digital engagement can be so much more, an opportunity to connect in new ways, to communicate beyond our boundaries. As Brady Shearer and others have said, Social Media is not about advertising ministry, it is  ministry. So what if we stopped talking in terms of threat and started thinking in terms of opportunity. What if


 Almost a year ago I wrote a post called "Counting". A year on and nearly all legal restrictions around the pandemic have gone in the UK (not that Covid-19 has gone away though!). With most churches now gathering in their buildings, or other physical spaces, the issue of counting and numbers continues to appear in different ways, I have heard many churches urging people to "come back" (not sure "back" language is helpful, but that's another issue). While this may be a right and proper encouragement and biblical emphasis on the "gathered-ness" of church,  I wonder if that is always the case? Are we willing to face changing attendance patterns, not as simply lack of commitment, or being driven by fear (as I have sometimes heard implied), but as a creative opportunity for discipleship? What if we really did start thinking in terms of engagement rather than simply attendance? What does it really mean for programmes and priorities to make disciple


One of the things many have missed over the last 16 months or so in church life has been congregational, corporate singing. Initially it was because we were not able to gather, but now many churches are gathering "in person", but singing is still off the agenda, due to the way the coronavirus spreads. As a musician and someone who has led sung worship for more years than I would like to confess, I too miss the sound and feeling of a congregation passionately praising God in song. I think Eugene Peterson put it well: "Because God, and therefore the worship of God cannot be reduced to the rational, song has always been the basic act of worship. Music is not added to words to make them more pleasing; it is integral to the way words are being used as openings to the transcendent, as windows to the mystery, as joining in the dance of the Trinity" Some congregations are singing outside, others I'm sure are swerving the guidelines in different ways. But it does concern

Streaming might not be the answer

 As churches continue to wrestle with life as we (in the UK at least) move forward, looking beyond the Covid-19 pandemic, much of the narrative I hear still seems to be focused on returning to patterns not unlike life before March 2020. There is still much use of "going back" language, and for many leaders a desire to return to full rooms, or the nearest equivalent as soon as we can. Maybe because that feels like a form of validation, maybe because it is what we know. Linked to that is the rush to move in to streaming, acknowledging that not everyone will return, at least immediately, "in person". But I'm not sure streaming is the answer. To do it well is costly, both in terms of tech and equipment and people resources. I have seen too many poor quality streamed services! Plus it fails to recognise that what works for an online audience may not be the same as what works for those in the room. The danger is that those in the room end up watching what is effective


 It used to be so simple: a good turnout to the Sunday service felt like things were going in the right direction. You could count how many people were there. A fuller turn out made the singing louder. This felt like "success". Of course we always said it was about more than "bums on pews", it's more than Sundays. But now we're back in England in "lockdown" and that reality kicks in again. What do we count now? Zoom log-ins? YouTube views? How do we now measure ministry "success"? And what impact does this new season have on leaders sense of self-idenity and worth? Maybe that is why some are keen to get back to their meetings and buildings... This from Brady Shearer raises some good persepctives: And "Beyond Vanity Metrics" from Carey Nieuwhof