the Forge is a workplace for shaping and re-shaping, a place for the making of things which would be useful, or enable a journey ... the Old Forge is the location of our office because of its history... it's a better title than old fogey!
The programme – which includes the redistribution of financial resources, training and education, and simplifying the arcane governance of the church – springs from alarm at the steady decline of congregations over recent decades.
“We’re in the last chance saloon,” said Pete Broadbent, bishop of Willesden and one of the architects of Reform and Renewal. “All the demographic evidence shows that, unless we do something in the next five or 10 years, we’re shot. There are those who say this [programme] is alien and who want to dig their heels in, but we’re facing a demographic time bomb.”
please let's not make the mistake of thinking we're immune from exactly the same issues. The time bomb is ticking!
I simply wanted to applaud LICC for highlighting the need for Christians to engage in the world of fashion and creative industries. This interview with Simon Ward, CEO with the British Fashion Council, does just that:
Delighted to be at the Hope Vision Day this week ...
I’ve just heard a presentation of the recent research
conducted by the Barna research group: Perceptions of Jesus, Christians and
evangelism in the UK. The immediate five most striking things (for me) are:
1. People like us!
Most non-Christians (67%) in England know a practicing
Christian. That’s a massive chunk of the population and reminds us we’re not
starting at square one by a long way. More importantly, the impression we’re making has been very positive. 65% said we were ‘friendly’, 51% ‘caring’, 46%
‘good-humoured’, 38% ‘generous’ (that’s quite telling especially) – obviously
some way to go, but this is a very different to the picture the popular press,
even the Christian press, present us with. Also, when you bear in mind only 10%
highlighted ‘hypocritical’, 7% ‘homophobic’, 4% ‘invasive’ it helps clarify we've been fed a fair bit of misleading information.
The likelihood is, therefore, most people you know well
enough will be thinking positively towards you as a follower of Jesus Christ .... the biggest barrier in sharing the gospel is coming down. Use this research is build more confidence in the gospel and your sharing of the good news.
2. We are living in days of great opportunity.
Yes the Church is still shrinking, but the fields ‘are ripe
to harvest’. We often talk about the missing generations, but the number of
practising Christians, as a percentage of the total population is greater for
those between 18 and 34 than between 35 and 54. Is this reflected in our
Baptist Churches? I suspect not, but it is a surprise, a challenge and a
reminder we have a great opportunity. People’s perceptions of ‘church’ appear
to be far less negative than 20 years ago, when it was a bigger barrier for
more people. At the same time, Jesus is good news – even in the perceptions of
those who don't yet follow him. 21% believe he is ‘God in human form who lived
among people in the first century’ – 1 in 5 of your friends and family already
believe Jesus is the Son of God. Just under half (43%) believe Jesus was
resurrected from the dead. Have you been thinking you daren't mention Jesus name for fear people won't have a clue what you're talking about? Think again.
3. Church is not as bad as we think!
Can I say, I’m tried of listening to people’s so-called
mission initiatives, which end up consisting of re-configuring church in a
style, which suits them? I am aware we get a lot of things wrong, but I still
believe the local church is the hope of the world …. and this research reminds
us we’ve not got it all wrong!
28% of Christians found faith as a result of attending a
church service other than a wedding or a funeral. 27% as a result of reading
the Bible for themselves. 36% as a result of a conversation with a Christian.
This is no time for complacency, but maybe a quick celebration – preferably at
your next baptismal service!
4. It’s not true to suggest ‘younger people are not
I'm fed up with hearing the above, so it's good to have some research based evidence to reply with. 31% of 18-34 year olds felt more positive about Jesus after
a conversation about Jesus. 41% of practising Christians attribute their faith
to growing up in a Christian home. Whilst the percentage of the total
population of practising Christians, of 18-34 year olds, remains very small, it
is a marked increase on the 35-64 year old age groups.
How much energy are we putting, collectively as a church
community, towards growing relationships with peopleaged 18-34?
5. Many of our friends and family already believe
God exists … they’ve just not recognised him yet.
If most existing practising Christians credit their friends
for introducing them to Jesus, why don’t we start with ours? It’s clearly
worthless expecting our leaders to do our evangelism for us (only 1% of UK
adults know a Christian leader).What’s
more 42% of non-Christians are glad we’ve taken the trouble to share something
of our faith with them. A whopping 67% know a practising Christian. Just think
about that for a moment – we are already in touch with the majority of the
adult population, through our family, friendship, work and social networks.
Where do we need to open our eyes to see what God might be
doing right under our nose?
There’s a lot in the research, which I think will be hugely
encouraging. Don't get me wrong, there’s no room for complacency, the church is
still shrinking in the UK, but there are some really positive indicators the
harvest is ripening. The survey
results are available at www.talkingjesus.org and include an animation, which churches can show to
congregations. I’m really hoping every one of our churches will have a look,
but then spend some time reflecting and asking where they might need to adjust
If you want to download some useful helping resources, such
A 2 minute video animation.
The A5 booklet outlining the summary of the research.
PowerPoint & PDF presentations, plus other things, go
Our own Juliet Kilpin is
doing a fantastic job, not simply in bringing the unfolding situation to our
Baptist family, but in providing some challenging, but possible responses. As
she says, if 6 people on average from every Baptist Church offered hospitality,
we could house 10000 people.
She’s set up a facebook
page now to help communications: 'Take Refuge' via
I’ve been on sabbatical, plus two holidays, as well as
beginning my five year period as a BWA rep on behalf of BUGB. So basically out
of my normal, non-normal routine for four months. Whilst in South Africa for
the BWA Congress, Maggie and I took the opportunity of visiting Kruger on
Safari. One of those ‘once in a lifetime experiences’ I’d like to make a habit
Whilst we were away the news broke about Cecil the lion. We
were oblivious to begin with, not having wireless, but there’s since been a
massive reaction. Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about try
We had a wonderful time in Kruger. I won’t go on about that,
so one photo for now, but I forgot to ask her name!
The debate following Cecil’s demise has been largely
emotional it seems, but I hope it will serve a useful purpose in highlighting
why concern for threatened species needs to become more firmly on the agendas
of governments, international bodies and especially Christians more generally. Here’s one
more thoughtful response linking some of the issues:
I prayed with a guy this week who was asking some deep
questions about where he was going in his life. Once upon a time, I used to get
a little frustrated with people always asking for prayer around where they were
coming from, or where they were headed … I used to think we (I was probably
more frustrated with myself, feeling guilty God’s purpose for my life was not
written in the clouds ahead of me!) No longer. Now I believe this is exactly
where God meets us. We can only ever start from where we are, so it’s a waste
of time and energy trying to start from anywhere else.
It’s this sense of listening to God and going with that I’m
trying to encourage both with planting DNA Groups, which are designed to
encourage us all to reflect on how and where we are following Jesus (the “D”
stands for Discipleship), engaging with other people ( the “N” stands for
eNgagement) and how we’re doing with our integrity (the “A” stands for
It’s also threaded through our pattern on Twitter where
Monday-Friday a daily tweet will highlight each step on the discipleship cycle:
Monday’s Tweet will relate to #listening.
Tuesday’s Tweet will relate to #looking.
Wednesday’s Tweet will relate to #living.
Thursday’s Tweet will relate to #learning.
Friday’s Tweet will relate to #leading.
If you want to start getting into this rhythm I think
signing up to @WeAreSeventyTwo will encourage you.
Some of you who pop in here will be aware of Seventy-Two, but for others this is the name we're giving to some aspects of the missional partnership existing across four of our Baptist Regional Associations, but we welcome all!