Movements are marked by a compelling vision says Tim Keller in Center Church and that is what we are discovering in Birmingham. 2020birmingham is a church-planting movement for the UK’s second largest city. We’ve been building the work for the past 3 years.
So what’s our compelling vision? 20 church-planting churches by 2020. It’s as simple as that and maybe that’s why there is momentum for 2020birmingham. In three years we’ve seen 6 new churches started – 3 new churches, 2 new congregations and 1 replant.
We are not a denomination, we have no staff (apart from a terrific part-time administrator who’s been with us 3 months) and so far we’ve had no money to invest in planters or plants.
What we do have is a team of 8 planters who are committed to the gospel, to the city, to their congregations, to the lost and to each other.
This last Saturday we held our third conference and we were amazed to find we were going to be 100 people from 29 different churches and organisations. I counted just six who came from outside the city to look at what we were doing and three of those used to live in the city and are planning to come back to plant.Tim Keller again A movement says ‘If this is where you want to go, come along with us’ and so at our conference this year we made our theme partnership. Our message was come join us – because we can do far more together than we ever could on our own.
We reminded ourselves why our city needed a church-planting movement. Birmingham is Europe’s youngest city with 37% of the population under 25. That’s a lot of people who are highly secularised, highly diverse, and pretty suspicious about the church.
We celebrated what God had done in planting the six churches and seeing them established and growing.
We were inspired through stories of church planting movements in cities of the world from Al Barth & Martin de Jong.
We were challenged by the need to reach new communities in our cities and the complexity of third culture communities growing up around us. How do we plant highly contextualised churches to reach every community?But most of all we wanted to be generous. We wanted to invite others to join us. We said you don’t need to be a church-planting church to join a church-planting movement – although be careful because that’s just maybe what you’ll become. We said why not become a 2020 Partner Church? Partner churches are established churches in our city willing and available to partner with a new church plant in their area; ready to pray, share wisdom, coach, mentor and train core-team members. The synergy created between plant and partner church ensures that the partner in turn is blessed not least in being motivated to keep an outward focus for themselves too. Who knows how many partner churches may in turn plant for themselves inspired by the example of the new churches they have partnered to create.
We also let the gospel of our God motivate this movement.
A church-planting Bishop from the Church of England shared his experience of planting in London (Rev. Andrew Watson, the Bishop of Aston). He described the powerful synergy only experienced when we choose to work together in planting and he reminded us that the God who is trinity is a God of partnership in his very being. It was something special to be reminded by the Bishop that we are at our most god-like when we are in partnership too.
The apostle Paul told us from Romans 13:12 that we have an on-going obligation to love each other. There is never a time when I can say ‘I have loved you enough.’ The church may have a mission, a mandate, and a motivation that forms a movement but more than anything else it needs the love of Christ pulsing through its veins.
On Saturday 100 people from across the city of Birmingham are gathering together to think, pray and plan to reach our city for Christ. It’s the third time we have done this in the past 3 years. Our conference is called How to win a million.
We represent a variety of evangelicals (Anglican, FIEC, Independent, New Frontiers, etc.) and the reason we keep meeting is that we recognise that it will take many more new churches to reach our city for Christ and that collaboration in planting is the way to best achieve this.
Let me offer you five reasons why our city, and almost certainly yours, needs not just for your church to plant but churches to work together to plant so that we can reach a city more quickly and more effectively for Christ.
1. We need new churches to reach a growing population
The population of England and Wales has grown by 3.7 million people in just the past 10 years. Such a population increase, at 7.1%, represents the greatest increase in a single 10 year period in over one hundred years.
Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe with 37% of the population under the age of 25.
2. We need new churches to replace the many churches that are closing
The total number of churches in the UK fell from 50,231 in 1980 to 47,635 in 2005 a drop of 5.16%, when in the same period the UK population grew from 56.3 Million to 60.2 Million a rise of 6.7%.
3. We need new churches to reach out to our ever more secular cities
A recent study of 64,303 adults in the UK found that of the younger generation: only 38% of the 18-34′s defined themselves as being Christian whilst 53% preferred to describe themselves as having no religion. Whilst the gospel doesn’t change and the message of Christ crucified is our only message we need to find innovative, creative and flexible models of church that best reach a secular culture. New churches have always led the way.
4. We need new churches to reach our religiously diverse cities
In the 2001 census 16.8% of the Birmingham population identified themselves as Muslim. The average for England and Wales is 3.0%. The challenge is obvious and the statistics demonstrate the direction of travel: ever-more diversity! Birmingham had a 30% ethnic minorities population in 2001 and that figure is set to grow.
New communities have entered our cities and reaching them for Christ presents fantastic opportunities!
5. We need new churches that will love and serve our cities rather than retreat from them
In that same study of over 60,000 UK adults
- 79% agreed that religion is a cause of much misery and conflict in the world today
- 72% agreed that religion is used as an excuse for bigotry and intolerance
- 78% agreed that religion should be a private matter
When 4 in 5 people are deeply suspicious of the presence of religion in their society there is much that the church must do to demonstrate a commitment to serve and bless our cities.
The challenges are so great and the need so urgent that it compels us to work together under Christ to make his name known.
Find it difficult to get out of the church bubble? Tim Chester suggests 6 simple ways to build relationships in your community from which you can share Christ.
(HT: Jez Dearing)
Interesting report in the Telegraph today of how corporate sponsors are promising to withdraw all financial support for Stonewall, the Gay-rights organisation, if it continues to promote ”intolerance and intimidation” by the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ award in its annual awards ceremony.
Mark McLane, Managing Director and Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays, said: “I have recently been made aware of the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ category in the awards.
“Let me be absolutely clear that Barclays does not support that award category either financially, or in principle and have informed Stonewall that should they decide to continue with this category we will not support this event in the future.
“To label any individual so subjectively and pejoratively runs contrary to our view on fair treatment, and detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event.”
Christians often use the phrase in the world but not of the world (something drawn from Jesus’ own words in John 17:11 and 16}. It encapsulates that difficult responsibility for Christians to be a visible and yet distinctive presence in the midst of our communities.
Tim Keller in his book Center Church describes something of what this might look like:
We will have an impact for the gospel if we are like those around us yet profoundly unlike them at the same time, all the while remaining very visible and engaged.
1. Christians are to be in the world
Tim Keller writes;
So, first of all, Christians must be like their neighbors in the food they eat and clothes they wear, their dialect, general appearance, work life, recreational and cultural activities, and civic engagement. They participate fully in life with their neighbors. Christians should also be like their neighbors with regard to excellence. That is, Christians should be very good at what others want to be good at. They should be skillful, diligent, resourceful, and disciplined. In short, Christians in a particular community should—at first glance—look reassuringly similar to the other people in the neighborhood. This opens up nonbelievers to any discussion of faith, because they recognize the believers as people who live in and understand their world. It also, eventually, gives them a glimpse of what they could look like if they became believers.
Christians are not to be of the world
Second, Christians must be also unlike their neighbors. In key ways, the early Christians were startlingly different from their neighbors; it should be no different for us today. Christians should be marked by integrity. Believers must be known for being scrupulously honest, transparent, and fair. Followers of Christ should also be marked by generosity. If employers, they should take less personal profit so customers and employees have more pay. As citizens, they should be philanthropic and generous with their time and with the money they donate for the needy. They should consider living below their potential lifestyle level. Believers should also be known for their hospitality, welcoming others into their homes, especially neighbors and people with needs. They should be marked by sympathy and avoid being known as self-serving or even ruthless in business or personal dealings. They should be marked by an unusual willingness to forgive and seek reconciliation, not by a vengeful or spiteful spirit.
In addition to these character qualities, Christians should be marked by clear countercultural values and practices. Believers should practice chastity and live consistently in light of the biblical sexual ethic. Those outside the church know this ethic—no sex outside of marriage—and any inconsistency in this area can destroy a believer’s credibility as a Christian.
That is how Christians are to be in the world and not of the world at one and the same time.
But what if…
Reading Keller on this issue reminded me of a talk I heard a few years ago which highlighted that perhaps the greatest danger is one we hardly ever spot. We spot the danger of Christians being in the world AND of the world (compromise), we are wary of Christians NOT in the world and not of it (retreat) but do we recognise the double-danger of Christians not in the world and YET of the world!
How does that work?
It is possible for Christians and church communities to cut themselves off from the world and retreat into glorious isolationism and yet at the same time exhibit all of the traits of worldliness behind our locked doors. In such a situation the church is unchanged by the gospel and displays all the characteristics of the world. Maybe that means for some being as individualistic in our disregard for the need of others, as materialistic in our attitude to money, as self-obsessed so that the focus of our lives is not the gospel to the lost but our own sense of well-being and comfort.
What a tragedy when Christians are not in the world and yet undoubtedly of the world.
Ed Drew has some helpful advice on making the most of the opportunity this Halloween
(HT: Richard Perkins)
If you see any book by Philip Graham Ryken for sale I urge you to buy it. I’ve always been so blessed by every book of his I’ve ever read. City on a Hill (Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century) is no exception. He is biblical, engaging, has a deep appreciation of what we need to learn and hold onto from our Reformed past, and understands the times in which we live.
I’ll be saying more about Ryken’s key insights for church leaders when I review the book. For now, here is an extract from a young Jonathan Edwards quoted by Ryken on his chapter ‘thinking and acting biblically’.
I have been before God, and have given myself, all that I am and have, to God; so that I am not, in any respect, my own. I can challenge no right in this understanding, this will, these affections, which are in me. Neither have I any right to this body, or any of its members: no right to this tongue, these hands, these feet; no right to these senses, these eyes, these ears, this smell, or this taste. I have given myself clear away, and have not retained any thing, as my own… I have been this morning to him, and told him, that I gave myself wholly to him. I have given every power to him…I have this morning told him, that I did take him for my whole portion and felicity, looking on nothing else, as any part of my happiness.. and that I would adhere to the faith and obedience of the Gospel, however hazardous and difficult, the confession and practice of it may be… This, I have done; and I pray God, for the sake of Christ, to look upon it as a self-dedication, and to receive me now, as entirely his own, and to deal with me, in all respects, as such, whether he afflicts me, or prospers me, or whatever he pleases to do with me, who am his. Now, henceforth, I am not to act, in any respect, as my own.
How can you learn the foundational truths of your Christian faith so that you really know what and why you believe?
For centuries Christians learned these truths through catechisms such as Genevan, Heidleburg or Westminster.
The new city catechism is ‘a joint adult and children’s catechism consisting of 52 questions and answers adapted by Timothy Keller and Sam Shammas from the Reformation catechisms’. 52 Q and A’s with video and memory verses this looks to be a great new resource for families to learn the Christian basics together.
In an earlier post I looked at what the Bible has to say about men and leadership.
The key to leadership is letting your definition of leadership be set by the one man who can truly teach us what it means to lead. For Jesus, leadership was three things 1) God-dependent, 2) servant-hearted, 3) leadership of others.
To learn to lead you must therefore first be willing to be led by Jesus. So below are the final three points from my City Church men’s breakfast talk;
Where in your leadership are you seeking to lead others? As we lead our Christian family and other Christians for whom we have responsibility, the need is to show them Jesus and lead them to him.
CJ Mahaney in his book Humility asks ‘What are your ambitions for your children?’
Are any of your ambitions for your child more important to you than their cultivation of humility and servanthood –the basis for true greatness as biblically defined? Are you more interested in temporal recognition for your child than you are in his eternal reward? Ultimately, that’s what parenting is mostly about – it’s about preparing our children for the final day.
If you are ambitious for your child’s godliness, what will that mean for you as a leader?
As we lead others at work we seek to lead in a way that commends the gospel. Servant leadership is quite a contrast with lordship-leadership, which seeks to use others for selfish reasons. Servant-leaders are able to get the best from employees or colleagues under their lead by taking a genuine interest and serving their needs. As we lead in this way, so we commend Christ to all around us.
Q. Is your priority for others their eternal salvation?
6. To be a leader you have to know whom God has called you to lead
Godly leadership involves making right priorities. God calls on us to lead those we are called to lead. There is a God-given hierarchy to our responsibilities.
That means that to lead in the wrong way is a failure to lead. Jesus knew this for himself when tempted by others, including his own disciples, to pursue a healing ministry. In Mark 1:32-39, Jesus goes to a place to be with his Father and on return renews his commitment to move on from a town where he was wanted and needed, to preach the gospel elsewhere because he understood that God had commissioned him to preach – a ministry that in time would lead to his rejection.
We are to lead our wives and children ahead of our work colleagues, for example.
Q. How might leadership in one part of your life be an excuse for failing to lead in a more important part?
7. To be a leader is to lead through your God-given personality & God-given gifts
There is diversity in the body of Christ. God has not given you the same gifts as others in the church and he has given you a unique personality. We lead through our God-given strengths and have to work on our weaknesses.
Some of us are initiative-takers, others more passive. Some fear confrontation, others are too confrontational, etc. There is no one type that you have to aspire to. Introverts can lead and often do lead better than extroverts. The key is a better knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses so that you are better equipped to lead well.
Q. What has God made you good at and how does that help you lead, what weaknesses do others see that you need to work on?
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