What Growing Church is really about (January 2018)

I have never met anyone who cares about the church, who does not want it to grow.  But there is no point in growing a church by simply increasing the number of people who come here to worship, without it involving people coming with a real Christian faith that would make a difference to their lives, and to the lives of those around them.  Real church growth involves a growth in faith, as well as a growth in numbers.

Jesus did not have time for people who make a show about belonging to a religion, without backing that up with a living faith.  Our role as a church is to help people’s faith grow.  This is about helping the seed that is planted grow into a healthy plant, with roots and leaves.  The word the Church uses for this is evangelism.  Now, I am very aware that the ‘E’ word has a bad press, and as soon as one uses it, some people are instantly turned off, and assume it’s nothing to do with them.  But if any Christian is interested in growing in faith, for themselves or for others, then evangelism is for them.  That really does not have to just be for ‘evangelicals’: I know many Anglo-Catholics who take Evangelism very seriously.

What can evangelism look like at Holy Trinity Blacon?  The first step before helping anybody to grow in their faith, is to have meaningful contact with them. This happens here through friendships, through attending an activity at our Outreach project, such as the Meeting Place café, or Gardening project, or Playtots.  Or it could be through contacts made when we conduct baptisms, or funerals, for families.    Or it could simply be that conversation on the bus with somebody who knows we belong to the church.  

Some people ask me, when are all those people we make contact with going to start coming to church?  My answer to such a question is, ‘When you encourage them to!’ Our initial contact only helps people grow in their faith if it leads to some way of nurturing the person’s understanding of the Christian faith.  That means, showing them what it means to be a Christian through our behaviour, or through what we say to them. 

I am referring not to what I say in the pulpit, I mean what every member of the church says in every conversation, whether they think they are talking about church or not.  By showing people the positives of being a Christian, by talking about the free gift of God’s love we know for ourselves, that will then encourage people to ask more about what we believe, and how we know God’s love in our lives.  That then naturally leads to a conversation about what we believe.  It does not have to be in fancy terms or even need to be complicated. The first and most important thing, then, is for every Christian to be ready at all times to answer people’s questions about what we believe, should we be asked.  If we do that, then I believe we are truly fulfilling our heavenly Father’s will.

Tina Upton

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