Going for Growth

A social media post caught my eye earlier this week from the writer, theologian and pastor, Pete Greig.

He observed some happenings in recent times which had encouraged him after 25 years of 24/7 Prayer, the prayer movement that he has been involved in leading across the globe.

Last Friday in Hackney, East London, hundreds of young people from 3 local churches had stayed up all night to pray and seek God. One of their leaders wrote, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s a remarkable sense of consecrating love setting apart the young, calling them to holiness.’

Last Saturday in Trafalgar Square, thousands gathered to hear the gospel. Many were healed and saved. Evangelist, Daniel Chand, sums it up in one word, ‘historic’.

Last Sunday in St. Aldate’s, Oxford, the church was overflowing. So many young people gave their lives to Christ that they lost count. A leader spoke of how the response to the service broke their system. It felt like, literally, anything could happen and probably would. It was, primarily, young people responding, but also prison leavers and people in recovery.

He went on to write of how, over Easter, many churches reported bumper attendances.

12,000 people were baptised in France, one of the most secular nations on earth.

419 people gave their lives to Christ at a church in Colorado Springs in the United States.

469 gave their lives to Christ at a church in Manchester, and 116 at a church in Norwich.

Beyond programmes, events and successful services, public intellectuals, from Thom Holland to Jordan Peterson, are arguing for faith in God.

Influencers on social media with millions of followers are professing faith, some even getting baptised.

Columns in the Wall Street Journal and the London Times are reporting a return to religion among the young.

25% of Australians are saying they’d accept an invitation to church and 70% that they talk to the God they’re no longer supposed to believe in.

While these are encouraging things to behold, what if there isn’t much sign of them where you are?

Let’s continue to pray. It doesn’t matter how small the spark, if you pour petrol on it you can start a fire. Pray on your own, or pray with others, maybe in a prayer triplet or a life group.

Let’s also be confident in sharing our faith, not in an arrogant overbearing sort of way, but in a relational and invitational sort of way. There are clear signs of a growing spiritual hunger in the land and people are more open than they were to the Lord.

I loved the conversation I heard recently on the Carey Nieuhof leadership podcast between a Christian leader and a global influencer, Scott Galloway (Professor G), a convinced atheist who spoke so warmly about the influence the church had upon him in his earlier life when he felt lost and alone and how people welcomed him.

Our own Diocese is running a series of events from 12-19 May on the topic of growth. There will be special services in Willowfield Parish and St. Saviour’s, Dollingstown. The topics will include evangelism, authentic worship, creating healthy Christian Communities, generosity, connecting with the local community, the Bible, prayer and ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The former bishop of Kilmore, Rt. Reverend Ken Clarke, wrote a powerful little book some years ago called Going for Growth. He looks at some lessons from the life of Peter and it’s good to see how God can use even our failures as a springboard for learning and growth.

In our own context, we have seen considerable numerical decline in recent years. It has been hard to see the death of many deeply committed church members, a fall in attendance at organisations and groups, and it’s easy to blame everyone and everything, from the clergy to mobile phones to Sunday trading and sports.

While we would love to see more people worshipping with us, a hidden reality is that at least as many, if not more people, are worshipping with us online each Sunday than are in the pews.

There are many whose health prevents them from physically joining us, but who speak of this experience at home as being among the  high point of their week as they gather with family members and carers to worship together. There are large numbers of children and parents/carers joining us at events like toddlers and Messy Church.

There are people joining us at small traditional services, like the early Communion, grateful for the peace and the space and saying thankyou for the ministry you offer to the community.

There are new groups springing up like the Cregagh Crafters, Pilates and the Ladies’ Friendship Group, which have a reach greatly beyond our immediate congregation.

We have a small group of extremely engaged and interested people preparing for confirmation, a mixture of adults and teenagers, and they spark off each other in a most stimulating way. We have a deeply committed volunteer base leading everything from Sunday school to Boys’ Brigade and Anchor Boys and giving of their time and talents in serving people.

Let’s not stop praying for and seeking growth in a complex time for the church.

Can you hold in your prayers the family and friends of Betty Curry, whose funeral will take place tomorrow (Wednesday) in Carrowdore Parish Church at 2.30pm.

Much love to everyone,


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