Having heard about the recent demise of Thomas Cook, it was heartening to hear that all was not lost as Hays Travel had stepped in to save the day. I, for many years, worked in the retail sector and have seen many companies who aimed to restructure but never had a real clear purpose, which resulted in the inevitable. John Lewis, a company that Charlotte and I have worked for, have looked at their core structure with a view to being proactive in streamlining their operations so that they can survive into the future and have a prominence on the high street. They are not alone; other companies are trying doing the same.
Putting this into the church context, the URC are having to look at new ways of being church in the 21st century, and one of the major issues is the deployment of ministers. This was a focus from the recent Synod Together meeting. It was noted that there were no prospective candidates going forward for training this year, which was sad to hear. To put this into some perspective there are at present 147 churches and 47 stipendiary ministers in the Southern Synod and it is forecasted by 2022 that this would have decreased to 37. It has been recognised by the URC that the old model of deploying ministers is no longer sustainable. However, what has been encouraging has been the increase in people going forward for Lay Preachers training, which is how I started my journey into ministry and am a great advocate of. Maybe with the increase of this valuable resource, we need to listen to what God is telling us, as this may be the way forward in aiding the leadership of our churches.
If we are to take Jesus’ command seriously to ‘go and make disciples of all nations,’ (Matthew 28:19), there needs to be a natural desire to go and spread the good news of the Gospel to all those we encounter. We are living in a time of many changes, both personally and in society and many people are feeling anxious and uncertain of what the future might hold for us all. As Christians, it is so easy to retract ourselves from what is happening and to disengage ourselves from the world around us. We are called to preach the good news and not put off those demanding and difficult tasks. Paul’s second letter to Timothy makes this very point where he addresses an important principle of natural church growth, “The things you have heard me say… In trust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” two Timothy 2:2. Paul is pointing out to Timothy that he is being called into the world that wants to resist the Gospel, but encourages him to face it with cheerful confrontation and not to look for easier activities that would keep him from embodying the cutting edge and challenge of the Gospel in which we are called to share. I think we can all agree that what we see is a world divided both politically and socially and are wanting to hear some good news. We all have traditions that we wish to see handed on from generation to generation and those values being maintained. If we do not hand on the batten like an athlete in a relay race safely, then in the same way the radical message of the gospel will be lost. The time is now to be summoned in whatever it costs to follow and share the Gospel with confidence.
Lay preaching is open to all and maybe God is calling you! If you wish to explore this further, please speak to me.