Warm greetings in the name of Christ our Saviour.
I have not been in Gloucester very much in June due to two weeks holiday leave which was immediately followed by 5 days at Minister’s Summer School in Cambridge. I did however lead worship at Christchurch on June 4th on Trinity Sunday and our first ecumenical Taize worship service took place that evening and we had a very encouraging number of visitors from around the city. In the morning I also drew the congregation’s attention to a letter I had written to Christchurch just a couple of months before moving here in 2019. As we enter July, I am conscious that I have now been here 4 years serving as your Minister, and I give thanks to God for this period of fruitful service.
That letter that I wrote to you all 4 years ago and used to form a sermon on Trinity Sunday highlighted 10 marks of a growing Church. Detailed research was completed by The Bible Society from their Church Growth Department during the 1980’s. They looked at the common factors within the life of 100 growing Churches around the UK. These Churches were from various denominational and non-denominational backgrounds, but they all shared these ten characteristics in common. So, I share again with you the 10 marks of a growing Church, and I passionately believe these are just a relevant today in the 2020’s. The growing Churches gave strong evidence of their commitment to;
Their firm belief in biblical authority – the foundational authority and power for growth.
Commitment to prayer – the spiritual life-blood of growth.
Expectant worship – the focal point for growth – the glory and praise of God, Father, Son, and Spirit.
Mobilised membership – the gifting for growth to the whole Church from the Holy Spirit.
Effective leadership – the vision for growth.
Continuous evangelise – the commission and desire for growth.
Internal united and loving community life – the spiritual fruit of growth – especially love.
Compassionate outreach and service – the overflow from growth to the world around – service.
Openness to change and the renewal from the Spirit – the renewal and transformation for growth.
Released resources and generous giving – the material and spiritual provision for growth.
As you study Acts in the New Testament and the significant growth of the early Church after Pentecost – you can clearly see the verification of those ten marks in the story of the spread of the gospel of Jesus. In Acts 6:7 for example we read that “the word of God spread and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” Earlier in descriptions of the Church’s life in Acts 2: 42-47 and Acts 4:32-36 Luke refers to the factors which are driving that growth from within this fellowship of believers in Jerusalem. Guess what? You see many of the above marks of growth. Further evidence can be discerned later in Acts as the Word spreads more and more. These are therefore the things we should be concerned about and develop a passion and a vision for. It is an exciting challenge to do so – and God has given us the guidance through His Holy Word and the resources through His Holy Spirit.
Thank you to everyone for your support and encouragement over the last 4 years which has included the two difficult years affected by Covid. May God give us the grace build on what has been achieved so far through the work of His Spirit within us. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Peace and grace to you all; with love and prayers,