In January 2012 Chudleigh Baptist Church undertook a ‘healthcheck’. The process was broadly based on the Seven signs of a Healthy Church and included a web-based survey, an opportunity for comments to be submitted and informal evenings of worship/prayer. As part of the healthcheck, the Leadership Team worked with the church to develop actions in certain areas which were drawn directly from those issues and concerns arising from the survey and comments.
In 2013 the Leadership reviewed these actions and the direction of the church. After prayerful consideration, including an Away Day in the spring the Leadership presented the article below to the church in June which includes a plan for the next 12 months. The Leadership welcome comments on it and please do contact any of them should you wish to talk further about it.
The new leadership team met for an away day on Saturday 18 May at the Baptist Chapel in Lustleigh. We spent time in worship, prayer and discussion. Here we summarise in a fairly raw form our main thoughts about where the church is and where we sense God might be leading us. In coming weeks and months we will look to put some flesh on these bones, but in the meantime we strongly welcome any feedback – positive, not so positive or just questions! Drop one of us a line or speak to one of us to tell us what you think.
Where are we?
We think the church has a number of important strengths. It has a sense of family – there are lots of families with young children but we are also a community of young and old, with people from diverse backgrounds. This is enriching. People care for and are ‘real’ with each other. They are committed to the church. Church is informal and welcoming, particularly for children and young people. There is strong teaching. We have no building, which encourages community links – there is nowhere to hide.
At the same time, we are aware that the church has weaknesses. There is a sense, often, that we lack direction. Prayer is not central to our life together. Our worship can be somewhat monochrome. We rarely face tough theological issues. We are in danger of being parochial and inward-looking. Our life as followers of Jesus can be ‘Sunday-centric’. Some housegroups are struggling. The children and youth work always needs more support. We are slow to enable people to grow and exercise their gifts. We could be better at discipling men.
Where could we be heading?
We have various opportunities. Here are a few. We could invest more time and effort in reaching out to the local community: we already work in the local school and support events such as ‘We love Chudleigh’ and ‘Chudfest’, but we should probably look wider. We could spend more time thinking about ‘hot’ issues – aspects of current affairs or modern culture that demand thoughtful Christian engagement. We could experiment with more creative forms of worship. We could encourage people to pursue individual passions, perhaps supported by some form of mentoring. We could be more open to change. We could support families more.
Meanwhile, we face several threats: the evil one is always seeking to frustrate the works of the God whose name is Love. Again, here are some examples. It would be easy not to change and instead to stay comfortable, but we would risk becoming an irrelevance in modern society. Our finances are likely to be an ongoing concern. Different agendas, apathy and a lack of ownership would make it difficult to move ahead. David’s retirement is only two years away, which could be unsettling and will require some careful planning ahead.
Where would we like to be going?
So, what are our hopes for the church? Broadly speaking there are three. First, we want to reinvigorate our life together as a community of Jesus followers. This includes greater variety in worship, developing thriving small groups and strengthening our prayer life. Second, we want to invest more energy in activity ‘outside the walls’ – to become more involved in our local community and to engage more with contemporary issues facing society and the wider world. Third, we want church to equip us all better for our everyday discipleship – wherever we are, whatever we are doing, 24/7.
If we are to do these, several things follow. We must encourage people to develop and exercise their God-given gifts. We must pray more – collectively, in small groups, in pairs: prayer should be the heartbeat of our church. We must spend time together, and not just on Sundays: social interaction should be core to our life together. We must be more accountable to one another as we seek to follow the One who calls us. We must work together with other followers of Jesus and other churches. We must foster a natural spirituality.
How will we know if we are getting there?
If we were to follow through on these ideas, what would Chudleigh Baptist Church be doing differently in one year’s time? Here are five signs (there are probably others).
First, we would be involved with others in running a corporate project aimed at serving people in our community who are in need.
Second, we would be holding a regular discussion group for believers and non-believers alike in which we engage openly and honestly with tough issues.
Third, our worship together would include a wider variety of styles and expressions, mixing the traditional, contemporary and ‘alternative’.
Fourth, there would be several active and diverse small groups that emerge naturally and that are low on control but high on accountability.
Lastly, our life together and in particular our Sunday services would have a stronger practical focus on helping us to live for Jesus every day.
After a pastoral vacancy of two years, we were delighted to welcome our new minister, Eleanor Moffatt, at a special all-age service of induction on 10th September. We look forward to waiting on God together and discerning his leading for us in the coming months.