Fantastic News –
VaVaVaVoom! 2.2 billion World Christians, 1/3 of the world’s population. In China 4 million Christians 80 years ago is now 67 million, and growing about 7% per annum! TODAY Christ’s Worldwide Church Family is growing faster than ever!

Grim News – “We’re Doomed Ah Tell Ye!” Church of Scotland (C of S): in the last 10 years, membership dropped from half a million to 336,000, losing 15,000 members a year, and in the next 5 years  ‘Revs in Charge’ will shrink from 932 to 611.

 

Hopeful News?  After years of denial, the national church is considering a firm nettle grasp and mustering of the mettle required to change the dire trajectory. The growing popularity of Street Pastors, Sports & Workplace Chaplains, added to existing appreciation for Forces, Hospital & Prison Chaplains, suggests a growing ‘secular’ appetite for excellent, soul-full, emotionally literate loving Christian care. And scattered across Scotland are pockets of imaginative social & spiritual enterprise where Christians connect with communities to express the Love of Christ in down-to-earth life & community transforming ways.

 

Take Greyfriar’s Kirk (Edinburgh) and their Grassmarket Community Project, which employs, apprentices, generates re-useable income and grows Christian Community around caring causes. Take the Madoch Centre (between Perth & Dundee), a recently opened hub for church & community, which, like Fullarton ConneXions is using hospitality, sport & exercise to connect with people and express the holistic care of Christ. God’s Care goes deeper than just social, mental & emotional needs right into the depths of our soul and being. John 3:16 still directs us to find in Christ full-salvation and new life, but today it is often not until we have shared the unconditional love of Christ in earthy, sacrificial care and concern that we earn the right to talk about ‘why Jesus died’ and expect people to trust us.

Realistic News? Numerous parish churches are finding fresh ways to be and do church, meeting in homes, sports clubs, schools, community centres, practicing the Jesus principle of ‘going to where people are’ rather than wait for them to come to buildings and services they can’t relate to. I count 7 C of S’s, 2 RC, 2 Baptist, 3 Pentecostal, 2 Brethren, 1 Nazarene, 1 Salvation Army Corp & several other Christian churches in Irvine today, with possibly 6 or 7 fulltime ministers. With present trends & statistics, Irvine will soon be much reduced in the number of traditional congregations and buildings. But if we manage to focus on the deep-seated needs of people in our town and maneuver all resources (people, finances, buildings, etc.) into sharing the love of Christ with our neighbours, and genuinely bring them to God in soul-searching prayer, then renewal & revival in Irvine is very possible, even likely. But tightly clutching ‘oor kirk’ and ‘the way it’s always been done’ to ‘see me out of this world’ will simply bang nails into a kirk’s coffin.

This is me just catching up with our latest General Assembly and its fresh call for ‘death & resurrection realism’, especially encouraged by Rev Robert Allan and his RevRabRants. Someone asked me a curious question: “When’s the best time to get off a dead horse we’ve flogged for years trying to get it moving again?” Pardon the expression, but it’s time for our churches to ‘waken up and smell the nitroglycerine!’ I’m ever hopeful we will.