A serious question for the Church of Scotland right now is whether recovery is possible? We are undertaking drastic and critical surgery, cutting away apparently dead flesh but will we breathe again unaided?
While chatting with a colleague this week, we were considering what Kirk ministers may now be called to. For some it may be to care for dying churches, providing them with comfort as they fade away. Some of us may already feel that we have been slowly administering the morphine for years. Perhaps Mission Plans have simply introduced blatant euthanasia to the process? And for those churches teetering between chronic and terminal illness, the prospect of death may certainly be more attractive than the expectation of fresh approaches to church and mission.
But what about new life? Is there a coordinated approach to identify those who will act as midwives for the Kingdom? Like many this year, I failed to engage significantly with the General Assembly. Perhaps I have missed something; was there more than new funding for mission?
Because, as others have identified, we have a people crisis. Where are the evangelists, missionaries and planters? We have categorically failed to develop these ministries and the frustrating thing is we knew it and looked the other way. This is not a crisis of recruitment. It’s a failure of vision. And throwing money at the problem will not necessarily conjour people to do the work.
We are putting great trust that non-stipendiary ministeries will appear with the right gifts and expertise. Where exactly are they coming from? As someone with a church predominantly comprising families with people between 30 and 50, it strikes me that most are extremely busy with kids and work. Does the Kirk have a ready steam of folks in their 20s?
So, that means we need to employ workers. Who is training them? Who is preparing them? Are any of the Kirk’s education partners able to develop skilled people at the volume required? Few of the church planting networks, of which I am aware, are working at that scale and most are unlikely to work with the CofS.
Here’s the question. If we are honest, have we already accepted that the Kirk is dead? Are we satisfied with a palliative ministry? Because if we are not satisfied, what are we going to do about new birth?
Currently our actions are illogical and confused. We have initiated drastic cuts which only make sense if we have something new in which to invest.
But if we don’t have something new, why are we engaging in the euthanasia of local churches? Why not let them die slowly until the money runs out? Otherwise, why are we trying to protect finances? Of what use is a big pot of reserves and empty buildings?
Do we truly believe that ‘God is not done with the Kirk’? Do we truly believe that the proposed cuts and rationalisation are required so that new ministries and churches can be birthed? If we do, what are we doing to prepare a new generation of trained and skilled practitioners ready do the work? Because the harvest is plentiful…