I was excited to hear the news that the new Archbishop of Canterbury had been selected. No doubt there would be some interest in who the person might be to follow Archbishop Rowan Williams. I believe the choice of Bishop Justin Welby is a good choice. It will be important to watch how people in the Anglican Church around the world respond to this appointment. Lord knows there is going to be some reaction, both positive and negative to this news.
When I heard the news, I went to Youtube to see what I might find in terms of Bishop Welby’s preaching and speaking. I came across his first charge to the Diocese of Durham where he has been bishop for less than two years. He was for a time Dean of the Diocese of Liverpool before he became Bishop two years ago. In his charge he said some things that I am now mulling over in terms of the Church and how the Church needs to be in mission in the coming years. For example, Bishop Welby suggests something simple: “Full churches don’t fall down.” That is why we need to be about the mission of the kingdom into which we are being drawn. We are called and drawn by Scripture, tradition and reason in to the mission Dei to build communities because that is what this Community does. We need to be making disciples. This is the purpose for which Christ came and it is the reason for the Church to exist. As another Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, once said, “We need to present the claims of the of crucified and risen Christ in such a way that people will repent, believe and receive him as Saviour and learn to serve him as their King, in the fellowship of his Body, the Church.” (emphasis mine)
No amount of planning, programming or vision can supplant the difficult and necessary work of making disciples. It is important to make people aware of the need for rescue and salvation. But if we as believers and especially those of us, who like me shepherd the flock, fail to see it increase then we fail miserably at what we have been called to do. Our mission is not to keep doors of a particular denominational building open. Closure of a building is not failure. It is an end and a beginning. To find the new beginning we must effectively witness to what God is doing in our city and communities. We need to go and find God wherever God is and take our stand there with him. Taking such action will cause people to be drawn to you and other people to grumble about you.
And this leads to something else I heard the Archbishop elect say, “Diversity without enmity.” Who on the face of this planet, are we called not to love? We are called to love the sick, the poor, the needy the dying. We are required to love those who hate us and to do good to those who persecute us. Thus I haven’t met yet the person I am not supposed to love in Christ name. In fact Christ reminds me, when you do it to the least of these, you do it to me. Acting like that will give you the chance to tell other people about Jesus. How do I know this is true? Well then let me tell you this and I’ll finish up:
During service at which my wife and I were married, the Church building was pretty much full. There were lots of people, family and friends. Into this scene at the back of the Church came a homeless man who found the door open and the place full. It was at this moment, this nameless man came across a church not only full of people, but full of a group of people who knew Jesus and the majority were trained evangelists. One of these trained, the Late Captain Ray Taylor, took the man to the kitchen, got that man something to eat. And as the man ate, Captain Taylor told this man about Jesus. To me, that is what the Church is about, waiting for the Bride and Groom to appear, for there to be a great celebration and in the midst of it all for people to be led and fed at the banquet table so that they might truly live.
Remember, full churches don’t fall down. GO and do the work of an evangelist.