Due to popular demand I am beginning a series of articles which flesh out my recent post on the ten ‘hard truths’ I learnt overseeing the Connect09 campaign.
The first hard truth I listed, was that the status quo is not working.
The diocesan mission requires growth. The mission of Christ requires growth.*
I know that such talk about "numbers" or "winning souls" or, when things get heated, "notches on belts" is very irritating to some. The holiest way to express this irritation is via reminders that "conversions" are God's work, not ours and/or rejoinders that growth in obedience and maturity of believers is just as important as growth in numbers.
Amen to those things.
Kingdom growth involves both conversion and obedience, not either/or. Surely they cannot be separated.
I would also add that any growth, whether through sharing Jesus with a neighbour or resisting sin is 100 percent God's work and 100 percent our responsibility. So let's labour like Arminius each day and sleep like Calvin each night, covering all in prayer from start to finish.
As I read the gospels, Jesus is quite clear that the kingdom of God grows as, one by one, people respond to the gospel and submit to the King. And he leaves no wriggle room with his final instruction to "make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey". Obedience follows baptism, which in turn leads to further baptisms and so on. Both/and.
The good news, then, is that the Diocese is growing as measured by increasing attendance each year and by increasing numbers of congregations and fellowships.
But the key question insofar as the diocesan mission is concerned is whether that growth is keeping pace with the growth of the population of Sydney. By that measure, and given the fact our target for the diocesan mission is much bigger, the status quo is not working.
And when we consider the nature of Sydney’s population growth (namely that this growth is through multi-cultural immigration and Generations Y and Z), demographics will not be changing in favour of the status quo any time soon.
I believe it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Of course our gospel message will not change, nor will baptism and obedience to the Word. But there is a great deal that we can (and must) change if we really do want a different result.
Connect09 was just a beginning.
* I do recognise that the Sydney diocese is not the kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus our desire is to see the kingdom grow. As Anglicans we want to do all we can, under God, to facilitate that growth as far as it depends on us. So do many other Christians in Sydney and they are doing their part. Let's just focus on our part here.