Good things on the rise
New growth is happening in many churches around the world. From the UK we hear that current church growth is made up of four trends: Migrant congregations, Fresh Expressions, Pentecostals and Cathedrals.
Every denomination experiences most of their growth from immigrants, not the ’native-born’. The number of new so-called ‘ethnic churches’ is great. They are flourishing family churches.
Fresh Expressions are new community churches that are based around a niche need in the community, and not based around Sunday worship. They include more people who were previously ‘unchurched’ (45 percent) than do traditional congregations like ours (five percent).
Pentecostals the world over offer signs of God’s presence by expressing fully their need of and love of Christ. These denominations also record that their major growth is among the migrant population.
A fourth kind of growth is in some ways opposite to the Pentecostals. Cathedrals offer signs of God’s transcendence. People are flocking to cathedrals. They savour the flavour of silence, not excitement. It is no longer thought ‘weird’ to go on a retreat, meditate, fast, take solitude, or pray in silence.
In the USA, Chris Morton observed three additional trends in growing ministry: dinner churches, networked micro-churches and reimagined Campus Ministry Centres which have a door to the wider community. I leave you to imagine what they do.
All together, that’s seven growing options and more are emerging. They all avoid parochial attitudes and pyramid structures. Focused on the Good News, they are reaching new people, nurturing faith in new ways and curating worship creatively. When the TV crews go to Hillsong to photograph a vibrant visual experience that they can then scorn, they miss all the signs of hope in this list.
Let’s not miss it too.
Ian Robinson is the Alan Walker lecturer at United Theological College