‘Strengthen and equip churches for the gospel’ was the purpose for church leaders from across the region to come together recently. The subtext was a ‘bold new vision’. ‘Bold’ because the challenges we face in our own churches (and then beyond, as we plant and re-plant) require a bold response. ‘New’ as many of us need to seriously consider major initiatives. And we most definitely need a clearer ‘vision’ to inspire us and to rally around.
It was encouraging to have over 40 church leaders present – and more wanted to be there – ready to discuss how we can collaborate more closely in our areas with the support of Partnership, Counties and Church Growth Trust.
Large and small churches, urban and rural, with different backgrounds and different styles were all represented in the room. We were encouraged to think that we all have something to give; and having listened to some examples of churches working together with assistance from the agencies, we got into area groups to answer three main questions:
What are the issues? What do we need? What can we give?
Here are just a few of the responses:
- How do we find the time to work together when we are already stretched in our local church?
- There is a leadership vacuum; we need to develop a pipeline to equip new leaders
- We are looking for a movement that is Spirit-filled, dynamic and flexible
- Developing deeper strategic relationships requires a mindset change beyond simply thinking about coffee and fellowship
- We think we could collaborate to support/replant a church in our area
These questions, concerns and comments also regularly surface in my conversations with local church leaders.
Undoubtedly a significant number of churches want to be part of a stronger network, including independent churches from other backgrounds who would like to be part of something that works with them to make disciples who make disciples. For that to happen it requires a commitment from both local church leaders and organisations that seek to serve them.
Let’s pray we can increasingly be a network of churches that really does strengthen and equip churches for the gospel, not just in the South West but across our country.
Andrew Conlan – Partnership Regional Coordinator (South West)