We're doomed if we just 'try harder' (Graham Horsley)

Monday, 5 October, 2015

Graham Horsley claims that if we just do the same thing over and over again, we're doomed.

Einstein may not have defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results but, whoever first said it, it's a great quote.

If that's insanity, most of my ministry has been insane! For 35 years, I've enthusiastically followed the latest ideas for ministry, evangelism and church growth. However, none of them have gone deep enough to examine, much less challenge, deep-rooted ideas about what church is - and how it relates to the world at large.

Hope has been stirred, and guilt deepened, by those extraordinary individuals who make a 'success' of working in the more traditional ways of doing church.

For Methodists, September is the time of year when new ministers (and chairs of District) arrive; often to highly unrealistic expectations. Cue the comment, 'Of course our new minister can singlehandedly reverse 150 years of decline in the Methodist Church - no pressure!' Underlining those idealistic expectations is an often implicit - and not thought through - belief that Church, as we have always known it, is basically sound and that all we need to do is try harder. Unfortunately, the world around us has changed so radically that if we rely on the 'try harder' approach, we're doomed.

Many of my generation were challenged as young adults by American writer and futurist Alvin Toffler. His book, Future Shock - published in 1970 - painted a picture of a world where the rate of change was continually accelerating. I suspect that even Toffler himself might be surprised by the accuracy of those predictions.

The Church has not coped well with these massive changes happening around us. Too much of our restructuring hasn't challenged our basic assumptions about church, ministry and mission. Changing policies doesn't change our culture - and that's what we need. Much of today's Church in England meets the spiritual needs of a small and shrinking group.

Our challenge is to re-invent the structures of circuit and church and re-imagine the relationship between ordained and lay leadership.

At our Methodist District level, we need to think not only about buildings but also how:

  • we engage in mission
  • we do evangelism beyond those buildings in order to further the work of God. Why? Because the majority of the population will never come to us, however welcoming and 'good' are our churches.

We then must go to where the people are; understand their spiritual longings and accompany them on their spiritual journeys rather than invite them to join ours. If we do this, we may re-imagine church and re-engage with a culture that's lost its moral compass.

Also, if we embark on this risky and faith-filled approach to mission, we should not be surprised that some of the values and principles from the very beginnings of the Methodist movement will help us. How do we leave the safety of our buildings and culture and hold fast to these abiding values and principles? Let me briefly outline four aspects of this which seem to be of pressing importance for us today:

Prevenient grace

Prevenient grace (or preceding grace): the idea that God's divine grace exists before and without reference to anything humans may have done.

God is already at work in an unchurched culture in ways that will continually surprise us. The hippy Christians in the Californian Jesus Movement had a saying, 'If Jesus seems far away - who moved?' Their assumption was that we had moved from Jesus by our sinful actions. However, the Jesus of the gospels spent most of his time outside the religious institutions, sharing life with ordinary, vulnerable, marginalised, desperate, broken people. Perhaps today, it's Jesus who has moved away from us to encounter a needy world and is longing for us to go with him.

Holiness

How do we preach holiness to a world that's largely abandoned the notion of sin? Most of the traditional evangelistic approaches of the Church begin by reminding people that they are sinners and offering them Jesus' help in breaking free from sinfulness to new life. Unfortunately if we start there, most people don't ever hear the second part of the argument. They've already become angry and rejected the notion that they are sinners. Holiness is a vital and powerful part of our Methodist tradition. How can we communicate this effectively in the 21st Century? Can we start with unmet aspirations, a sense of loss or lack, a feeling of brokenness and vulnerability?

Transformation

Taking inspiration from Romans 12.2, we should not conform to the expectations of a District policy group or Church Council but instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How can we approach every business agenda with the expectation that we are transforming church culture rather than maintaining it? How can we think strategically and plan wisely and still remain open to the Holy Spirit breathing new life, direction and vision into our corporate lives?

Jeremiah 29

This has been a text which has recurred over and over again in the last five years. Verse 13, in particular, stands out for me:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

John Wesley's 'warmed heart' was an experience that came out of a desperate longing for a deeper experience of God. At the beginning of a new period of ministry, it is easy to become too busy to seek God with all our hearts but it's vital - both individually and corporately - that we take time to do that. Over the years I have found that I can only do this when I'm part of a small group which holds me accountable for my spiritual wellbeing. How do you do it? How will you do it?

About the author: 

Graham Horsley is Methodist Connexional Fresh Expressions Missioner.

Comments

Excellent,
We need to allow or even encourage more chaos in our churches and church structures. We need to find ways of embracing that which God is bringing into existence outside what canon law or standing order allows. Law is made to respond to situations, but God will not be boxed in by our law,
We need to encourage those called by God to minister outside church structures.

I feel like we should be working ecumenical to seek out those who want to worship but are scared off by the bewildering number of christian denominations available.

Thanks Graham - a good article although I wonder if, in a couple of areas, there is a need to go a little further, or the church may forever be playing catch up?
When you say that 'Our challenge is to re-invent the structures of circuit and church and re-imagine the relationship between ordained and lay leadership.' maybe even the use of the words 'circuit' and 'ordained' indicate a lack of appreciation of just how quickly things are accelerating away from the 'traditional' churches in many cases. Could we simply say that we need to reinvent how we do church & ministry - no assumption that circuits or for that matter 'ordained' ministry will or will need to exist at all as we currently know them? May there also be valid questions to be asked about the way the church understands leadership? Maybe that is what you mean by 're-invent & re-imagine , and I am just a bit slow on the uptake ;-)

‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; and in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’ saith Antonio Gramsci or if you prefer something a little less neo-communist, 'What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.' Ecc.1:9.
The new cannot be born as the old wishes to maintain that which it has received as good. The church particularly scores highly on the immovability scale and 'Fresh Expressions' is just the kind of gimmicky tokenism marketing that permits it to convince itself that it is seeking renewal whilst having negligible impact on its organisational structures and operations. I have yet to see a 'fresh expression' that is at all fresh or peculiarly expressive in anyway and yet they do succesfully engage people. Human need does not change as rapidly as the world in which they move and their base requirements remain largely unchanged other than the manner of the satisfactions in which they seek in response. What the church does not do well is any developed practical theology of sacrifice. If we truly believe the mission is Gods and God is in the world, what are we prepared to give up in order to resource that mission? Until the churches put the money where the mouth is why should the rest of the world take notice?

"The struggle itself... is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."The Myth of Sisyphus - Albert Camus.

Forgot this one....

An apt quote. For it is in the pursuit of God, or the continued pursuit, that one catches glimpses of Him. The search isn't ever over in this life. It is hard work, fulfilling, satisfying, relentless, intensive and revivifying, with its attendant highs and lows, harvests and fallow seasons, stillness and colour, despairs and joys, etc. To think we derive all the answers to deep Christian living in each of our limited human timespans is illusion and myth. Most churches consider they are the 'go-to' authority on hermeneutics and spiritual enquiry and fail to explore the margins of the mundane & everyday where the 'miraculous' occurs, and most 'Christians' either far too ready to proffer pat, glib, half-baked spiritual 'truths' or too afraid of embracing doubt and uncertainty (which encompasses most of the Christian faith, IMHO)

Interesting article but I’ve not heard quotes like “Of course our new minister can singlehandedly reverse 150 years of decline in the Methodist Church - no pressure!” I’ve yet to hear that explicitly or even feel that implicitly as an expectation from a circuit or a church. Now how many ministers think that? is a different matter is that the problem the its leadership that's lost its way in fact was it ever leadership that ministers were meant to give? Could that be the problem they are still fixed on the top down leadership model. A new CEO going into a company doesn’t think they are going to have to do it all they know it will be down the people within their organization, they have learnt 1 or 2 decades ago the power that lies within and they are prepared to release that power. So why does a minister think it’s all on them have they been out of the non-church working space too long. Perhaps some industry techniques would help bring a professional approach to growth

What is the aim of fresh expression we seem to spend a lot of time thinking of new places and ways to “do church” aren’t we in the discipleship making business not the church business wont the second flow naturally if we do the first. Doing Church all sounds rather hollow and more an excuse for finding ways to flex the numbers rather than actually engage with people. (is our toddler group church or a group of people meeting in a church building ?) Some would say church and add that to their numbers others would say no it’s a mission field and not count it. The way we talk about fresh expression leaves many confused thinking fresh good current bad. Strangely we alienate the very people we need to make disciples the very people who if they owned the change would grasp it with both hands.

In our drive to find these new ways of being church are we in danger of just creating hundreds of ghetto churches working in isolation and only resonate with a small number of people who have a likeminded view of walking, painting, crafts, coffee drinking or a host of other options that we immediately add church to and start to excluded more people than we attract. again I'd ask aren't we in the disciple making business not the church business wont the second flow from the first rather than the other way around? Now I know that there is a long walk until people commit their lives to Christ but if they do that in a closed community the opportunity for growth is limited, if it’s within a gregarious community the growth opportunities become much broader and far more interesting and lasting.

One thing that I can’t get my head round and never have is this people won’t come to us regardless of what we do, which often goes hand in hand with the people can’t listen for more than 5 minutes (we are very patronising at times within the church). Really so how did football reinvented itself to make itself family friendly and fill the grounds why do concerts still sell out cinemas have seen a resurgence plays and even the opera people listen to comedian for an hour or more. These are all still selling roughly the same product they always had they saw attendance dip and tweaked the approach. What they have done is sell it well and get word of mouth working I wonder should we learn something from that, isn't that how we spread the faith.

Perhaps we should forget the bells and whistles the great new next big thing and just get back to basic personal contact get the change driven from the grass roots up not top down, drive change from those who work outside the church out in the workplace they know what makes people tick they have to, to get along with them we need to drop the poor us approach, the everyone expects me to do it from the leaders and get moving with people.

Yes we need to go out amongst the people but (and this shouldn’t be a surprise ) that’s what most Christians do every single day. We may need new venues to be church and there is a place for that but could we actually use our existing venues more regularly and at more varied times and in more varied ways. Interesting isn’t that people will regularly put aside 3 hours or more of a Saturday or even a whole evening after work travel many miles and pay £100 or more to watch football go to the theatre etc and yet they are unaware of a life changing experience they can have for free now I wonder how we get the message out there? That would be talking to people I guess. Lets not dress this up with fancy titles the only way people are going to come to Christ the only way they ever have is personal contact seeing a life lived differently and thinking why?

Dare I ask a dangerous question do we need to find less ways of pretending to be church and more ways to actually make disciples.

Excellent post asking why people don't come to church given they do go to other things. Part of the problem is that the quality of the product in the average church is relatively poor compared with professionals who do attract crowds. We suffer from bad preachers - but don't get rid of them because we feel the need to keep services going at Stuck In The Mud chapel. The requirement to sing is probably unhelpful - whilst asking for money is a real turn off.

Which on the whole means that most of our services are completely unhelpful to outsiders. Which means that if we believe that 'the church is the only institution intended for those outside its ranks' those services are fundamentally unhelpful to that purpose.

So - on the whole we need to start again and ask: 'Is this church achieving anything of value by meeting on a Sunday morning?' If you can't point to significant benefit, then do something else that achieves what little those gatherings are achieving 'it's nice for the old people to get together' - and delete the rest.

Or we can close it completely in a few years time...

'aren’t we in the discipleship making business not the church business?'
I'm not convinced we are. There are many Sunday club members who want to do nothing more than turn up and sing hymns on a Sunday while those who would be willing and useful for mission work are spending all their time filling administrative roles for their local church. It is the quality of our members and churches that we need to improve before we can even think of increasing our numbers. We talk about brotherhood and peace and love and yet we have pockets of people sitting in separate churches because one group sings psalms and the other reads them yet there are no details in the NT of the 'right' way to worship.
We need to get those groups together, sharing out responsibilities amongst these larger groups and allowing the focus to shift from guarding against closure to guiding people to Christ.
There are a lot of people who class themselves as spiritually christian but not religious -if they didn't see us lot making a mess of it, maybe they might find their way into church too.

In the Methodist church, the 'church minister' is supposed to be the evangelist. It is supposed to be the responsibility of the church stewards to pick up the practicalities and do the pastoral work. If the ministers refused to do what the other members of the church should be doing, it would have 'interesting' consequences. A new appointment is a chance to try an experiment...

In the NT, it is the role of all christians to be evangelists. I agree with you about ministers, in some churches, having to pick up stewards' tasks. And there are many churches where one or two members of the church council do all the roles with others holding the titles nominally. That's part of what I meant about Sunday club members who expect to be able to turn up but are unwilling to do anything that makes that possible.

"In the NT, it is the role of all christians to be evangelists."

Nah - that won't fly. Witnesses in a general sense, yes. But the specific role of evangelist? Not convinced. And the danger of saying things like that is that those who ARE, don't get protected from duties such as sitting on committees which is necessary if they are to be free to evangelise.

Fair point but anybody can be called to evangelism. It isn't reserved to ordained ministers.

Whoops - didn't express that very well. I didn't mean to suggest that the minister was to be assumed to be the only evangelist in a church, though I see that's what could be taken from my comment. What is crucial is that those that ARE evangelists are released to fulfil that role, whether they are lay or ordained - and that needs an active recognition by individuals AND the church their gifts. Which is something we don't do well.

Here's one way we can be "transforming church culture rather than maintaining it." Let the living, resurrected Jesus be the church program! https://stevesimms.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/let-jesus-be-the-church-prog...

Heard it. I wouldn't mind a trip to Nashville though if you're paying...

I would like to thank mostly everyone for the article first and then the various comments which have exercised my mind and memory considerably.

The Wesley brothers are for me heroes of the Christian faith: the power they channeled to their society was immense and is witnessed still by the numerous chapels used and unused that are to be found throughout the country. It was manifested, at the time, by a man on horse, who dismounted and preached eloquently the gospel of redemption. John Wesley then posed the question,"Are you saved?", It brought people up short- made them think about their own personal position. Many picked up their crosses. If Tommy or Tammy Brown can remember their footballing heroes and celebrate their feats long after their deaths so can Christians celebrate their heroes and heroines. The Wesleys and their contemporaries brought many to infinite changes in their lives, In modern parlance 'what's not to like': their record is well placed in the history and life of the Christian church of this country. We do well not to be dragged down by the world the state of the church and all it's problems. Our Father's time is different from ours and we do well to keep that in mind.

The sad thing is........

To be continued.

Dear Friends,

I agree with much of this article. You may also find this BLOG post (the central theme of my doctoral thesis) of some interest:

www.grahamsingh.org/news/dead-alive-church

Blessings,
Graham

The sad thing is that as part of being human we are attracted to the novel whether or not it has any real depth; it distracts some of us from the day to day content of our lives the very stuff that might require our closer attention. So church numbers decline and church buildings enthusiastically constructed empty and close. Such processes are not helped by our conservative, in the apolitical sense, natures. We naturally reverence that which we are taught, investing those in authority with superior knowledge to our own, At certain points in our lives this is unquestionably true but it cannot always remain so if we are to pick up ' our ' crosses and follow him. The Old Testament prophets and our Saviour warned us of the pitfalls of ritualized and mechanical religious practice: all show and no substance. As I heard a Pentecostal preacher repeat over and over again ' Do you feel it? - Do you feel it?'referring to the enlivening and enabling Spirit of God. Jesus taught us that we were to become ' fishers of men': have you seen the numbers of 'flies', lures, baits and methods which people use to catch fish?

To be continued.......

Hi... May I call you friend? I've just left a meeting at the NEC Birmingham (National Exhibition Centre). It’s a regular monthly meeting of senior managers and directors across the business. The business provides opportunity for 3,000 employees and fuels 29,000 jobs in the UK. I sit at that table knowing I am welcomed. I wear my clerical clothing and I take the invitation and opportunity for residency seriously. Through respecting an invitation to be present in a place where 3 million people gather every year I am invited to many meetings, engage in 1:1 intimate conversations with total strangers, employees, CEOs and people from around the world. Most would not go to church. I don't invite them to go to church. Yet I speak with countless thousands of people sometimes without using words. Through being outside the church walls, and inside someone else’s walls, and not thinking I know all the answers as I don't know half the questions, I am invited to many tables, many corners and encouraged in the most unexpected places with people of all faiths and none. We invariably become friends where a meaningful relationship takes place - sharing life with ordinary, vulnerable, marginalised, desperate, broken and must not forget... often happy and jubilant people. If I can help anyone do let me know. :-)

It's people like you David that give the church a good name: you are indeed a 'fisher of men'/ people kind. Yet, from your title you do not appear to have left the church. I regret the splits in the church's history; the outflow of reforming spirituality is always something the church can ill afford and sets back progress and useful change by decades, sometimes centuries. Savonarola and Luther were inspiring leaders but outside the church of their day: Girolamo Savonarola, burnt at the stake by the Church for holding a position very like that of Pope Frances today: a humbler Church preaching the way of Christ and ministering to the poor in spirit and body. I know it 's not easy, organizations, like oil tankers, can take a lot of human time to turn around. We are as a specie often very impatient: we have an idea, we might want the credit – yet we have read that in matters of Christian practice , we should not let the right hand know what the left is doing. Could it be that we have to light the touch paper the Spirit will do the rest.

to be continued...........

Hi Graham,
coming to this thread a bit late, but I'd like to add something we have been working on in the East Midlands for the last four years and in which we have our first Methodist congregation joining (it is also expanding in Berkshire and Durham). The "Partnership for Missional Church" isn't the answer to the church's issues as there isn't one but it is a three year slow process of change which uses spiritual practices appropriate to our 'new missional era' which can change church culture towards mission in the long term.
I'd be happy to explain more about it to anyone interested and you can read more in the Grove Book "Forming the Missional Church: Creating Deep Cultural Change in Congregations" P139 2014.
grace and peace,
Nigel

Rev Canon Dr. Nigel Rooms
Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham

It would be a welcome change if an article like this did not simply repeat all of the cliches and theolofudge that has been used to no advantage over the 100 years since GB Methodism last saw growth.

In a FX setting the start is a zero and any positive outcome is "good". Easy challenge - free cake should do the trick.
In the SX (Stale Expression!) setting almost any action will challenge and probably reduce the headcount. Cake has been tried but does not quite overcome the staid welcome or the reality of dismally-poor-quality services.

So in FX or SX settings what is the Method for the 21st century? It cannot assume a church-aware or bible-literate population willing to tolerate a mishmash 10.30 Sunday service. It may need to assume a Victorian chapel as the setting, since that is fairly common. What should the minister be doing in that setting to refresh how the church "offer" is presented - and where is the back-up from Circuit Sup & District Chair?

I look forward to a half-day session in the 2016 Conference on that topic!!

I would first like to apologize for posting an' anonymous ' comment on the 14th. of October; this was not my intent,rather my lack of skill in this area. The comment ends: ' the Spirit will do the rest'.

As a society we have changed considerably over the past 100 years. Increasing levels of education has meant that a lot of people have far more confidence in their own judgment and are not prepared to be patronized. 'Top down' church is no longer a sufficient response in a more 'sophisticated' and distracted age. However, I do think they are prepared to be engaged in a variety of ways not just coming to church on Sunday mornings. It will be said and no doubt written that this is indeed happening but it must happen much more, with the small enthusiasms of some members of a congregation encouraged by their sisters and brothers to work it out. The Spirit of God will seal the outcome. One kind of service/ activity does not fit all and we need a diversity of paths which will lead to Jesus Christ and an awareness of God. Some individuals will choose their own route, but for a lot of people we have to give them a place to start.

to be continued..........

"The pursuit of God for His own sake" is probably the nearest we are getting here to what Graham is after. The question for the church corporately is the same as the the question for each of us individually. "Who is the boss?" and "Who is in charge?" Unless the church makes an overt, determined and credible effort to put God first in everything then it will only be "institutionalised religion" (which it clearly is) and not the living body of Christ which it was designed to be. One church I know which bucked the trend of church decline for many years had the motto "seek first" (the kingdom of God etc). It was written everywhere and dozens, maybe hundreds of people each year emerged from there having had a life changing experience (or 2 or more) of God. I think the motto was originally chosen in the expectation that "all these things shall be added unto you" (as the words of Jesus go on to say) but it meant that the focus was not on church but on making God the king. God will build His church if we seek His Kingship. Where we have tried to build the church the results are now obvious but were predicted rather dramatically by D. Bonhoffer in 1939.
(Before reading though please note the words "without wishing or knowing it". Generally there is no blame to be attached ... we cannot pass on to others what we have not received ourselves and I for one am conscious that I have so much more to learn about the life Christ gives. I want to say to all (even if your walk is already such that your shadow passing brings healing) that God has much more good stuff for you to experience of HIM.)

‘…it is not we who build. He wills to build the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess – he builds. We must proclaim – he builds. We must pray to him – he builds. We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of building. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down. It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church; you confess, preach, bear witness to me, and I alone will build where it pleases me.’

I am the editor for a parish magazine that covers our local Cof E church and a Methodist church. This article continues from a theme that has been running in recent weeks and it would be good to get a Methodist angle in what is mainly a CofE publication. Could I publish it (perhaps edited slightly to make it fit the space I have?) I would of course completely credit it and also include a link to the original.

Thank you in anticipation

What an interesting read - the article and the comments!
I'm a recently retired Vicar, and now can't face going to church because I'll be under huge pressure to help maintain the status quo in our village church (attendance less than 10). So I keep my distance.
Yet my heart tells me that church as we have inherited and maintained it is not what Jesus had in mind when he said "I will build my ecclesia (community)". In fact, I've come to the conclusion that, whatever blessings Christendom has brought us, it's been in spite of the structures of Christendom, not because of them.
And it's not possible to reform a structure as big as Christendom - it just has to be allowed to die (or if necessary, dismantled) so that the new can grow in its place.
So, as Christendom slowly dies, what will replace it? Who knows? That's the exciting part of living through this paradigm shift - none of us knows what the shape of the Christian faith will be in the UK fifty years from now. All I know is that it's a huge privilege to be living in these exciting, disturbing, creative times and I want to be part of whatever emerges, not what's already dying.
Thank God that we live in such interesting times!

Dear Mr Gittner
I'm sure your "reflections on what I read recently" might be a better use of space? Linked to the article for the curious.

And then perhaps you might tackle the essay linked to "Joanne Cox-Darling poses some challenging questions as she explores mission-shaped Methodism and fresh expressions". Some 20pp that demonstrate why Methodism is struggling to get its message across to an everyday audience. Misdirected effort.

We might usefully look at the steady growth of secular organisations, publicly-funded CICs for example, or www.sundayassembly.com. These offer a range of community services usually provided by a church (eg tea & chat, wellbeing, youth work). This will tend to leave church with an "offer" that sits alongside Tai Chi or Local History - odd pursuits with niche appeal. How does that get turned around, especially for the under-60's? What skillsets do we need, and how might these be developed by existing and new congregations?

Odd pursuits with niche appeal sounds a bit like Christianity... Welcome to exile, drop the baggage, the new will not come until the old dies. What are we prepared to give up?

Graham

This article has sparked the most conversation I've ever seen on this site so thank you for sparking a debate that hopefully is going in in many places.

We get wrapped up in what church should or shouldn't be and what Christianity is or isn't that we forget that what's important is being a Christian living the life that Jesus calls us to. Perhaps its not about church or Christianity at all but being with Jesus being a disciple a Christian. if we all focused on that I wonder would more people be hearing and seeing the life changing message that God has for them.

I fear the literalists and Michelangelo have made God a difficult sell over the past few decades. I have discovered over nearly 30 years of meditational 'listening to God' that He is an energy rather than an old man with a white beard. His energy is love. The 1st letter of John Ch 4 is quite right - "God is love". Or try changing that around "Love is God".
Regrettably society has a very limited view of what love offers and entails. Falling in love gives us a glimpse of 'heaven' but far too many fail to follow through to the end where caring for dying loved ones brings such gratitude.
Society is crying out for love, seeking ways out of unhappiness, loneliness, support in sickness, bereavement etc. Caring love is what Jesus taught and told his followers to offer. Love and how it works is inexplicable - even to Dr Dawkins. As Jesus told Nicodemus - 'the wind blows where it pleases... so it is..'
So how about changing your pitch Graham, after all these years, to something on the lines of 'all you who are heavy laden with loneliness, unhappiness, sickness, stress or struggling in any way - come to us and we can help. We are the caring community in your neighbourhood.' ?
If we seek to repair all these damaged souls with love (and seeking God in this) rather than go through the institutional motions (and pushing 'church') that you have faithfully subscribed to all these years, I suspect they will appreciate you and maybe even bring their friends!
As David Ogilvy said many years ago "don't be rude about the customer, she's your wife" or son, daughter, neighbour. We have to meet them where they are, and at present we are clearly missing somehow.

This pitch assumes "we" exists. The problem is that this appeal to the "fringe" does nothing for the core/majority, without whom there will be no significant "we" in the near future, and the church ends up as a poor substitute for social services (or vice versa).

How might the central story be presented to a core audience so that they hear it, respond, develop and, indeed, then feel a compulsion to reach out to meet obvious need?

I thought this is the Fresh Expressions site? No reason why the churches shouldn't develop some special outreach Fresh Expressions to meet special needs. The regulars are clearly happy so leave their well alone.

Horsely's article was very much couched in general church terms, not specifically FX-only. No reason not to do FX, but it will not be as sustainable without a healthy "core business" from which those outreach efforts commence. Otherwise eat drink and be happy regulars ............

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