Firstly, a very big welcome to the new look magazine for Hope and Emmanuel Churches! Secondly, a very big thank you to Claire and Rebecca for making this their own. I trust that you will enjoy this month’s read very much.
This year I am fortunate to have been accepted onto the Arrow Leadership Programme. Arrow is a 19-month course run by the Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS), that provides training in call and character, evangelism (sharing the good news of Jesus) and leadership for those in full-time Christian Ministry aged 25-40.
Some research carried out by CPAS suggests that clergy’s energy and productivity (though I suspect it can be true of many lines of work) by the age of 40 can begin to dip. Arrow aims to help its participants put in place strategies to keep the momentum going whilst maintaining a good work-life balance – giving time to your work, to yourself and to your family. Over the next 19 months I will be mentored, meet in a regular small group with three other participants, meet with a psychologist, be ‘reviewed’ by a team of five that includes both my mission area leader Martin Batchelor and my wife (!), and then on four occasions all 24 participants will get together for prayer, training and support. In addition I’m expected to give three hours a week towards further study. I am looking forward to it! Please keep me in your prayers.
I wrote last month in this column about the Leading Your Church Into Growth (LyCiG) course. An inspirational course that seeks to equip the church with tools to stay healthy and keep growing. LyCiG is full of new and creative ideas to help churches turn the tide on decline, start growing and keep growing by becoming an outward looking church over and above an inward looking church.
One of the most important challenges that the church is currently facing – and has been facing for a long time now – is how can we be relevant in the 21st century? One thing that I get excited about – Is looking at what the wider church has always done but that doesn’t seem to be working any longer and then turn it upside down in order to make our local church more RELEVANT for today.
In many ways this is what The Church In Wales ‘2020 Vision’ is all about. There are some clergy who’ve been crying out prophetically for a number of years, even generations, for the church to become more relevant. How exciting it is to be a Christian minister today because when it comes to having a go – this is exactly what the Church In Wales 2020 Vision is encouraging us to do.
Shortly after I wrote last month’s Rector Writes I read this. They are the words of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster in the Roman Catholic Church, 1976-99, writing in the Forward of Henri Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (1989):
Those involved in Christian leadership in the Church… are liable to be tempted, as our Lord was, ‘to be relevant’, to achieve great things for God, rather than to respond first to a love which Jesus has first given to us; ‘to be spectacular’ rather than humble… ‘to be powerful’ than just to be, loving, serving, and at great personal cost.
Wham. Of course this is right. But I confess that when I read this for the first time it was like someone had yelled at me and slammed the door in my face. Then it became so quiet in the room that I could hear a pin drop. I was sat down at the time, but had I been standing I suspect that I would now be sitting down. It was a healthy reminder that my first call as a Christian leader is not to be ‘relevant’.
The first chapter of Henri Nouwen’s book is called “From Relevance to Prayer”. He then writes about “The Temptation: To Be Relevant” before asking the reader the same Question that Jesus, shortly before he ascended back into heaven, asked his follower Peter – “Do You Love Me?”
For the Church to grow today, I believe that the church must become more relevant to its 21st century society and to do this we must be more outward looking than inward looking. But as Christians we must not make being relevant our only goal. Our first goal, our primary goal, and ultimately our only goal is to love, and to help
others to love, our Lord Jesus Christ. To do this we must be ‘upward looking’.
In Christ, Adam