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The Editorial

Leaving a big church?

These days church planting and revitalisation are, rightly, on the agenda for us.

John Benton, Editor

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There are areas of the country without a Bible-believing, witnessing church and many small congregations are struggling. 25 years ago our congregation was invited to get involved in seeking to set a dying church in the town back on its feet. It was in a bad way and it took much encouragement to motivate our folk to take up the challenge. But four brave families along with some others took the plunge and launched out, trusting in God.

In God’s goodness it worked. After a few years and humble beginnings, it was able to come out from being under our wing and to stand independent. It has not been plain sailing and still isn’t, but it has seen some years of blessing.

What about the children?

Recently I was preaching there at the anniversary of the relaunch and a man from one of the original pioneering families said something which caused my heart to rejoice.

He explained that, when he and his wife and the other couples had left to take on the task of jump-starting the dying church, one of the issues that worried them most was how it might affect their children. There has been a vibrant Sunday school, mid-week children’s work and annual Holiday Bible Club in our own church for many years and prayerful Sunday school teachers have seen perhaps the majority of the youngsters come to faith and go on with Christ in past years. But at the small church they would have to start from scratch with the children. Also revitalising the church would involve their parents in many extra hours of service. Some private family time would inevitably have to be sacrificed. Would the children begrudge that and become bitter? They were anxious.

But just before the anniversary service Paul said to me: ‘You know I’ve been thinking back and I’ve realised something wonderful. All the children who came with us those years ago have become Christians and are living for the Lord!’ God honoured the faith of those pioneering families. As we sang ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ at the anniversary, the hymn seemed to take on an extra dimension of meaning.

The risk-averse society

Twenty-first century secular Britain has become the risk-averse society. We are worried about the journeys we take, the food we eat and the air we breathe. We are continually being told to assess what might go wrong with any venture and to take precautions, which often become such a stifling wet blanket that we cancel it. It is not that there is no wisdom in being aware of dangers, but for many people dangers are the only things they see. Sometimes that rubs off on Christians too. So, we keep safe and we want our church to be a ‘safety first’ community, only looking after ourselves. And that dulls our sensitivity, zeal and compassion.

The incident during the exile in Babylon in which Ezekiel’s wife dies and the prophet to the exiles is not allowed to mourn (Ezekiel 24.15-27), is thought provoking. Why did God command that? The death of his precious wife was clearly a parable of the destruction of God’s precious city of Jerusalem. Was the prophet’s lack of mourning a reflection of the fact that God’s people in Babylon, looking after themselves, couldn’t really care about God’s ‘wife’, Jerusalem? And do we see churches closing and chapels up for sale on Escape to the Country and not mourn? Is it too risky to do something to help?