Church Growth: what does it mean in multi-faith London?

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profile-AngusCTC Director Angus Ritchie blogs on an exciting event on 17 June which goes to the heart of a major debate within the church: What kind of growth should Christian congregations be aiming for?…

Jesus tells a number of parables which relate to fruitfulness and growth.  The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed – initially the smallest of all seeds, but growing to be the largest of the garden plants, becoming a tree in which the birds can come and find a home (Matthew 13).  By contrast, Jesus also tells the parable of the fig tree, which is unfruitful for three years – and is to be dug around and given manure one last time (Luke 13).

What, then, are fruitfulness and growth, flourishing and success, in Kingdom terms?  The Contextual Theology Centre is in the middle of a research project on this issue.  We have interviewed thirteen church leaders from multi-faith contexts in eastern London – Anglican and Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Baptist – about their understanding of growth.

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Our interviews revealed some common themes, and some substantial disagreements.  On Tuesday 17 June, we will be presenting the initial findings of our research, and Bishop Stephen Cottrell will be responding to our initial findings as he gives the 2014 Presence and Engagement Lecture, which is entitled “What kind of growth?”

Stephen Cottrell’s commitment to sharing the Gospel makes him an ideal speaker to address this issue, and as Bishop of Chelmsford, he will be responding to testimony from Christian leaders in some of the most deprived and diverse parts of his diocese, and of the dioceses of London and Southwark.

The Presence and Engagement Lecture is an annual event.  It is part of the work of the Greater London Presence and Engagement Network (PEN), a project the Centre runs for all the Anglican dioceses which cover the capital.  PEN equips Anglican parishes and chaplaincies for ministry and mission in multi-faith contexts, and is part of the Church of England’s national “Presence and Engagement” initiative.

The Lecture is at 6.30 for 7pm on Tuesday 17 June at St John’s, Stratford; a church with excellent transport links, and with its own story of growth and fruitfulness in a multi-faith context!

CTC’s research project will lead on to a report later in the year, in our Theology for the Local Church series.  You can already download the Centre’s well-received reports on Just Church: Local congregations transforming their neighbourhoods and God and the Moneylenders: Faith and the battle against exploitative lending, which tell stories of powerful, effective Christian ministry in multi-faith neighbourhoods.

You can find out more about the different faiths in your immediate area with the postcode tool on the excellent new national Presence and Engagement website.

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