Get ready for the next season
What do you do when an explosion of church planting and growth grinds to a halt?
At the MultiplyX 2021 church planting conference, hosted in June by the Gregory Centre in England, this question and many more were explored by inspiring speakers breaking new ground in hugely different settings, in different ways, with different people.
One speaker let the listeners in behind closed doors for an honest conversation on this question of decline. At the Bishop of Islington’s invitation, Pastor Agu Irukwu, Senior Leader of Jesus House for All Nations Church in London shared with humility and courage some recent challenges that could help us all across the church.
For Pastor Agu, who leads a national denomination and pastors a church of 3,000, a flatline in growth wasn’t the end, but a new beginning.
As he plunged into prayer, Pastor Agu contemplated why the phenomenal growth of planting approximately 860 churches within the Redeemed Christian Church of God network in the UK from 1994 – 2014 had dwindled. Why wasn’t the church growing? Was it something that wasn’t happening? Why weren’t they having the same impact?
In the midst of this soul-searching, Pastor Agu felt God draw him to Isaiah 43:18-19:
‘Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’
Pastor Agu felt that God was wanting to do an unprecedented thing that will look different and maybe even a bit unorthodox in challenging the structures and methods of the last twenty years. It would require a renewing of outdated structures and processes as the way they chose, trained, equipped and sent people out was no longer working. They needed to go back to the drawing board and so Pastor Agu laid down some of his national responsibilities to focus on this challenge.
Within the process of re-thinking church planting and growth, Pastor Agu has been diving deeper, asking questions about five areas:
- Diversity of Expression – In realising that the 800+ churches his network has planted are predominantly like their communities, he is now considering how they can influence and plant churches in groups that are unlike their own.
- Engaging a Younger Generation – Pastor Agu realised that while in earlier days the youth was very on board with church planting, they have lost the connection with the younger generation with regard to church planting and mission.
- Maximising the Use of Technology – The pandemic has given us a glimpse at how technology can really expand the reach of the church. The church is now looking at the next five years and beyond to think ahead of the curve in terms of how they can harness the power and connectivity of the internet, social media and other forms of technology.
- The Heart of Prayer – At the height of previous church planting, prayer was at the heart of his church’s strategy. Prayer teams walked the area where they would be planting a church, persevering for months in prayer. He is now asking, ‘How do we get prayer back to the heart of church planting?’
- The Holy Spirit – Consulting what he called “the number one book on church planting”, the Acts of the Apostles, he felt that submission and yieldedness to the Holy Spirit are key. Not only did this lead to the formation of the church, but a radical multiplication, which quite literally spread the good news across the globe. The question for them now is: ‘How do we create room for the Holy Spirit to drive all our efforts and strategies in church planting?’
Pastor Agu is now working intentionally with his leadership team to reshape their strategy and processes to address these key questions. Bishop Ric, in expressing his thanks, affirmed the courage and humility of senior leaders being prepared to review some of the very fundamentals of their practices, saying, ‘You are rethinking everything, you are taking time out to pray, you are determined to grapple with what’s not working and reset. I agree with those five things: reaching those different to us, going younger, using technology, persevering in prayer, and making room for the Spirit.’
What might it look like for us to return to the fundamentals and courageously allow God to show us what is working and what is not? What new things could Jesus do with the powerful combination of humility, prayer and expectation for the Holy Spirit?
If you would like to watch Pastor Agu’s talk or see any of the other sessions, you can access the full conference on CCX Media.
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