We’ve set the compass to North. That’s where we headed at St Michael le Belfrey. That’s the direction we set in 2010. And now, almost two years later it feels to me like we’re beginning to take a corner, turning us onto a slightly different route North. The view will look and feel different to the one we’re used to. And there’ll be challenges and difficulties on the way that we’ve not faced before, which some will love and some won’t. That’s what happens when you begin to turn a corner.
I talked to the Church Council about this a few weeks ago and they agreed that we need to take this new route. They were unanimous that we shouldn’t turn back onto the old road. And they recognised that we’d probably need to slow down to corner well. After all, few can take a corner at high speed without crashing off!
So, what will this new road look like? What will life be like, round the corner?
1. From evangelistic to missional
Being evangelistic – a people who regularly share the good news of Christ – has been a mark of our past and is really important, but God is calling us to be missional – which means there’s a outreach edge to all that we are and everything we do and that we always have in mind how we might draw others into God’s kingdom and church. We’ve already begun to do this by moving from cell groups to Belfrey Groups in 2011 with each group having an upward focus (of worship), an inward focus (of discipleship) and an outward focus (of outreach). But there’s a lot more work to do if our groups are going to function as missional communities, and play a central outreach role in life round the corner.
2. From seeing conversions to making disciples
We’ve always celebrated at St Michael le Belfrey when people are converted to Christ, but what we’re really looking for are people committed to a life of discipleship. After all, Jesus commissioned his followers not to make converts but to ‘go… and make disciples’ (Matthew 28:18). So our Foundations course is aimed to help newcomers not only to learn about the church but to grow as disciples. Baptism is the key marker at the beginning of a disciple’s journey, which is why we’re aiming to baptise new disciples every month.
3. From multiplying cells to planting churches
Cell church has taught us so much over the last decade or two, particularly about the need for community and supportive friendships. With mission-minded leaders, you can multiply cells, and this can be a great means of church growth. But it’s even more effective to multiply congregations and churches and so the church we’re becoming will involve more church planting. We’ve already done some of that at The Belfrey in recent years, but look out for more. It will be pioneering, hard work, costly and a great adventure!
4. From parish church to minster church
We’ll always be a parish church – in the sense of being an Anglican church with a local parish to serve – but as we play our part in serving God’s transformation of the North, so the view when we get round the corner, will be much bigger. What we see and feel responsible for, will be not just be a locality, but a region. That’s why we need to become more of a resource church – what’s sometimes called a minster church.
5. From city centre church to network church
Whilst we value being a ‘city centre’ church, life in the future will involve stronger relational links with other churches who share missional values and desire to be part of a network, for the purpose of planting churches in York and the North. So being involved in some key networks will probably be very important in the future.
6. From one site to multi-site
Worshipping in three centres in York – at St Michael le Belfrey and St Cuthbert’s & Burnholme Community College – has not proved easy for us in the past and in reality we’ve really been a church of one main site with one or two satellites, but I suspect that the future will involve a more intentional plan to establish and value congregations of The Belfrey based in multiple sites in the city. This multi-site approach will open up new opportunities and fresh challenges as we work out what we do separately and what we do together.To maintain strong vision and so we learn together we will probably share more teaching across the multi-site congregations.
7. From quantity to quality
It’s good for a large church to offer multiple activities and options. We must keep doing this. However church round the corner will value quality, even more than quantity. Belfrey people who’ve travelled round the corner will value simplicity – doing less things well rather than lots of things averagely. Being effective and fruitful will take priority and should help us step up from ‘good to great’.
8. From world mission to northern mission
We’ll continue to have an international perspective and support mission partners oversees, but round the corner our main missional focus will shift to become more regional, as we recognise the urgent priority of reaching with the gospel of Christ the people God has put on our very doorstep – the people of North of England.
9. From training everyone to training leaders
Church round the corner will focus on training leaders who can train others. This will not mean that others aren’t equipped, supported and included but it will involve a move from Parish Assistants (who come for a year to serve) to interns (who come for a year to be trained in leadership).
10. From a busy church to a praying church
The church we’re becoming will be full of missional disciples working hard and giving their best serving Jesus Christ. But they’ll also be having fun and resting and praying. When others talk of us, I’d like them to see us first and foremost not as an hyper-busy, over-active church, but rather as a prayerful church – recognising our dependence on the Spirit of God. If we’re too busy to pray, then we’re too busy.
So there we have ten characteristics of church life as we travel into the future. The journey will be stretching and sometimes require great courage. There’ll be obstacles to navigate and challenges gallore. The road won’t be easy but the view will be great. As we head round the corner.
Fancy coming with us?