Friday, 18 September 2009

Facing the GAP

Last night I went to my first Deanery Synod meeting. We had a speaker from the diocese talking about GAP. For those who don’t know, GAP is the Growth Action Plan process that the diocese is asking all parishes to undertake. I have to say, I left the synod meeting feeling discouraged. It wasn’t the speaker – as one of the diocesan Mission Development Officers, he was enthusiastic, informative, and encouraging. Can’t fault him at all. It wasn’t his presentation – a good speaking style and the right mix of speaking, visuals, books passed round, and time spent in group discussion.

No, it wasn’t the speaker or the presentation - it was us. I don’t exactly mean the ‘us’ who were present at the meeting, I mean all of us. Christians. The Church. OK, this is a rant. I might as well be up front about that. I feel frustrated (to put it mildly) that we need this GAP process in the first place. It all just seems like common sense to me: ‘SWOT’ analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in relationship to growth and mission); ‘Vision’ (this is obvious, isn’t it?); and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, resourced and time-related steps to take).

The speaker pressed home the need for churches to be clear about what a healthy church actually is, because so many people have never really been in a healthy church. That made me feel sad. I mean, what is wrong with us?! There is no health in us! It is sad, but it is really a symptom of the churches’ failure to follow Christ, to be Christ to others and to see Christ in others. Please don't get me wrong - I include myself as part of the problem.

Here are the marks of a healthy church, taken from The Healthy Churches’ Handbook by Robert Warren, which I heartily recommend:

- Energized by faith
- Outward-looking focus
- Seeks to find out what God wants
- Faces the cost of change and growth
- Operates as a community
- Makes room for all
- Does a few things and does them well

The ‘faith’ mark is essential because without faith, the other six marks won’t be based on the right foundation. To get from here to there begins with individual faith and motivation, but it is essential that the whole body (of a parish) is brought to the place where it can begin to function and move forward as a whole body. I guess I’m not very patient with all this, and probably I’m rather naïve, being relatively new to church leadership. But what is our problem?! I think the problem is that we aren’t really willing to put God and his mission first in our lives. The result is that we are failing to carry out his mission. And all around us are the results – people have turned to false gods and false prophets. Once again, like the rebellious Israel, we have got to repent – to turn back to God. And pray.

1 comment:

  1. amen! and awomen! gets me revved up to do more at Trinity, it does!


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