Taking a Church to a Doctor – Part 2
While the eyes of the world may currently be on the smoke emanating above the Vatican, in recent weeks a small pilot program has been underway among some Sydney Anglican churches.
Last year, I wrote about the concept of a ‘church consultation’. It is a little bit like taking a church to a doctor. When one has a pain in their back, or just not feeling well, the doctor starts by running some tests. Before too long, a diagnosis is possible, which is then explained so that the patient understands what is going on. Often the symptoms are indicative of deeper issues. Finally, prescriptions are made to aid in a turn around.
One of the world’s most experienced ‘church doctors’, Dr Paul Borden, has just left after working with Sydney Anglican churches for almost 2 weeks, including an inspirational training session with many of the Mission Area Leaders and Bishops. Hosted by Bishop Ivan Lee, Dr Borden reflected in these meetings that ‘while God gives the growth, the external church consultation has proven to be a human tool that God has used powerfully over 15 years across many denominations and several Western countries around the world, including Australia.’
Unlike other one size fits all schemes, the external consultation acknowledges that while the local church is the centre of God’s mission in the world, the particular issues and opportunities vary markedly from church to church. A central assumption in the process is the need to make new disciples for the Lord Jesus.
On this visit, consultations were conducted at two churches, and I had the privilege of being part of one of the teams. The central hinge of the process, beginning with the church’s self-study long before the team even arrives, essentially goes through the phases of tests, diagnosis, education and understanding, and prescriptions – all in an exhausting weekend. If the church chooses to adopt the prescriptions, they are then provided with coaches and support for 12 months. (Being part of the process was invaluable in thinking about my own church).
While the early signs from both churches are very positive, Southern Cross will report more following the congregational voting process (the church itself must choose to whether or not it wants to adopt the report). This ‘human tool’ has been the catalyst for hundreds of churches around the globe being enabled to be refocussed on evangelism.
In June, God willing, Dr Borden will return. While further consultations and training will be conducted, he will also teach the ‘Turn Around Churches’ as an MA Unit at Moore College, in conjunction with Archie Poulos.
Feature photo: Alex E Proimos