Made your own?
Which response would you choose if I came to you and your church and told you that was what required in your church over the coming year was this; 'Just bring one person to faith'?
In conversation with a Methodist minister this week I was surprised by their claim that the 'man at the top' (their description) had called on each of the churches to bring one new person to faith over the next twelve months. Surprised because of the tone and the nuanced speech which accompanied the information.
As niggardly as this number might seem (just one person a year? Pah!) Revd Steve Wild, President of the Methodist Conference, made this call to this Church (as a member of, not the owner) with the desire for the church to 'take God seriously and put mission back onto the agenda and take God seriously'.
I was surprised at the almost sneeringly 'just one person a year' observation because when I pressed them it seemed that 'just one' would have been a major leap forward for the churches in their circuit as all they had to offer was many venues and declining members. So was the bump in the road that was troubling my companion caused by the paucity that 'one person' presented or by the mountain that they perceived it to be?
I am often troubled by the big mission campaigns with their big name speakers* because try as they might (and here we find a very variable feast) the transition between 'seeing that hand' and leading the person on the end of it though a meaningful 'sinner's prayer' and beyond is an immense journey requiring some sound administration and committed pastoral skills.
When Billy Graham came to London in 1989, apart from getting what I thought was a bogus call from his office because the church plant I was leading was the 1,000th church to sign up*, what amazed surprised me most was the way that people were processed after they had put their hand up, come to the front and prayed.
Their names and address were taken and, unless they had a church connection beforehand, they were pointed to their nearest church (from the list of those who had signed up and sent people to be part of the whole thing) and then prayed for and talked to and listened to (doesn't always happen) and off the went. The receiving church was then contacted and the details of the person was passed over for them to hook up and sickle.
Contrast this with my experiences where the people raised their hands, said THE prayer and were sent off - never to be seen again! This makes up the majority of my church mission experience and I saw hundreds apparently make a commitment never to return or become part of a church elsewhere. Talking to someone where I experienced this it appears that this continues as the practice to this day: The claim the scalp but never do the parenting and one day (make it soon Lord) the Boss will want a word in their ears over that I am sure.
Bring one person to faith and spend a year disciplining them and you have a convert. Steve Wild has pegged it just right I reckon. He does say that the Holy Spirit might just bring in more than one - always good to err on the cautious but give prior warning of revival just in case it frightens the faithful!
When I mentioned this to another minister (not Anglican) they muttered something about just seeing one person come to faith in their church would be akin to revival and started moaning about ageing congregations, poor attendance, lower giving and a host of other ills which were making church hard work. I was about to say that if we who were in leadership (in any form) made Church a bit more hard work then perhaps we'd be seeing less of the problems but, seeing they were already having a bad time, decided against it and instead lent them a book on renewing vision and an invitation to the Mission Shaped Introduction course which is being held here beginning Wednesday 23rd September (7:30pm) - All are, of course, welcome!
So let's pray for Steve Wild and his vision and for the churches he is working for, and trying to help 'get serious about God', and let's pray that they do.
And perhaps we could pray that for our own churches and the churches in our towns and even further? Couldn't do any harm, could it???
* Talking of the mega evangelists we have; am I the only one to notice how many use the same jokes, anecdotes and stuff that I was hearing thirty years ago. Where's the new material and the spontaneity, the fresh and contemporary