Diocesan Director of Making & Nurturing Disciples, the Revd Richard White, writes:

We have focused our strategy on reaching children and youth, younger adults, and people living in poverty. As we do so, are we called to be realists or idealists?

Paul writes in Romans about Abraham who “faced the fact that his body was as good as dead”, since he was very old, “yet believed the promise of God that he would be the father of many nations… being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised”.

We too are called to face facts with unflinching courage. Truth, however gloomy is always our friend. But we must not stop there. We must then believe the glorious promises of God, which energise our prayer and action.

Like Abraham, our body may seem as good as dead. February’s General Synod is discussing sobering findings; 38% of churches have no children and two-thirds have five or fewer. Just 0.7% of people on estates attend church and this number is declining nearly four times faster than in the rest of the country. There is a “serious threat to the future of the C of E’s presence in many large and poor urban and rural areas”.

There are exceptions of course, glorious stories of places showing a very different story, but let us not kid ourselves that these are anything but the exceptions which tend to prove the rule.

Yet, we are people of hope and of faith, commissioned to make disciples of all, including all ages and classes. Like Abraham, having faced the facts we too must believe God’s promise. Stories of emerging life are not just exceptions that prove the rule. They are green shoots emerging from winter ground. Signs of the unstoppable life of the Spirit of Jesus who promised to build his church.

Heather Black is newly in post leading our Mustard Seed initiative, supporting churches and individuals in making disciples and growing worshipping communities in places where life is tough. Multiply, our work to reach those in their 20s, 30s and 40s is seeing beautifully diverse green shoots across our diocese (click on the map at multiplyreach.org to learn more). And for all of us, the Come and See weekend offers a simple, practical opportunity to act on our faith that God has power to work beyond all we could imagine amongst our own communities.

Richard White