In common with the not so ‘New’ Labour, I guess many people must be ruing the use of the word ‘new’ in connection with church. For many within what is still called the ‘New Church movement’ -even though it started some 40 years ago- it would seem that the wind is going out of the sails.
An article I came accross recently on the Christianity + Renewal magazine
stated “John Finney, Chairman of Lee Abbey and former Anglican Bishop of Pontefract, who, in his book, The Fading Splendour, (DLT 2000 ISBN 0232522863), identified the typical cycles that exist in renewal movements from the New Testament times to the present day. From his research he suggests there are three possible fates awaiting groups involved in renewal: Divide and divide again, so they become smaller and smaller; accept that they are a denomination like any other; disband and join back into the mainstream of the church.”
I hope and pray that the author of this article is wrong. There has to be an alternative to denominational heirachies that will stand the test of time. I for one have not given up on the idea of families of churches on a mission together, and I thank God I belong to just one such family.
The article explained that there is a danger that some of the groups have lost their way and distinctives. It went on to quote Roger Ellis, a leader of Revelation Church, Chichester, part of the Pioneer Network who says: Some have opted to centralise and structure around a central vision, others prefer to stay loose, and it is fair to say that some churches have deconstructed altogether and have essentially lost what we might call the bread and butter essentials of the apostles doctrine, gathering for worship and evangelising.
The article rightly concludes “For some of these the writing really is on the wall.”
Does that matter? I for one am a believer in churches and even movements of churches being founded and at times closed down by God. We must never let a movement outlive its usefullness. If God is closing something down, we should rejoice. I can see that in the UK at least there will be many churches and groups of churches that will close in the next few years. But I thank God that other churches are being opened all the time!
If a church is closed because it has lost its way, then that is no bad thing. Thankfully not all ‘New Church’ or charismatic movements have lost their way.
The article quotes Charismatic evangelical Dave Roberts, former editor of Renewal magazine, who says it is it no accident that a stream such as Newfrontiers, which has a clear understanding of its identity and direction, is also the one which is the largest and seeing the greatest growth.
Lets pray that many churches around the world will either gain or continue to hold a clear understanding of their identity and direction, and for those who cant, lets leave God to deal with them as he sees fit.