Looking to the future

Church Growth Trust produced a DVD in 2015 called “Warehouse or Wine Bar” with the sub-title “what will your church building be used for in ten years’ time?”

Many trustees of church properties across the country have watched it and are asking for Church Growth Trust to help them ensure that their buildings are not lost for the Kingdom. Giles Arnold, Church Growth Trust’s General Manager, says, “I mentioned the DVD at the recent regional Living the Passion conference and, judging by the positive response I received afterwards, I think this really strikes a chord with many assemblies and trustees who are struggling to see what the future holds”.

Many assemblies are getting older and smaller in numbers. They are faithfully preaching the word and doing whatever outreach their limited resources allow and some are only continuing because they cannot consider the alternative… of having to close the work and sell the property. But there often is another alternative, where the Gospel work can continue and flourish once again. There are many growing and vibrant evangelical churches who are looking for buildings and Church Growth Trust (CGT) has been blessed on many occasions, when an assembly has decided they cannot continue as they are, to find another church to either work with the assembly or take on the building themselves, continuing its use as a centre of worship and outreach to the local community.

One recent example is a chapel in North London, where one of the two remaining elders was planning to move and the assembly’s future was in the balance. CGT found a number of local evangelical churches who are now working together to provide leadership and to encourage members living in the locality to join with the assembly, in order to revitalise the church. Change is inevitable, but the churches are taking time to get to know each other and agree on a way forward. CGT will hold the property in a long term stewardship role, allowing the church to use it at a nominal rent.

Another example is a gospel hall in Surrey, where the remaining elder has relocated and the few left in the fellowship are struggling to continue on their own. Church Growth Trust has contacted a number of local evangelical churches and national networks of churches to see whether any are interested in continuing the work from the building. The process of finding a suitable church has taken a number of months, but has been a journey where CGT has fully involved the assembly. God has shown His perfect timing in preparing everyone for what He has in store. CGT and the assembly had assumed that a new church would be found to merge with the assembly, as with the North London chapel, but it has become clear that this will not be possible and therefore the assembly has agreed to close and the new church will take on full use of the property.

CGT will always work with the existing assembly to consider options for the future and would not want to force an assembly to close. The decision has to be theirs. “We try to be sensitive to the desires of the fellowship who have invested their lives in the work and often feel a sense of failure or a great sadness at the prospect of closing a Gospel work” states Giles Arnold, “but we also are able to give them a sense of hope as they look to the future, with ‘their’ building being used once again to its full capacity and a Gospel witness growing and reaching the local community”. CGT will, where possible and if the assembly wish, try to accommodate the existing fellowship into a “new” church taking on the building, but sometimes this is difficult, as the new church will do things very differently from the “old” assembly; for example in terms of worship style, outreach events and the number of times they hold “breaking of bread” meetings.

“What impresses me so often about assemblies looking to the future is that they may not like the way the new church does things (as it is not the way they have always done it), but they are able to see the bigger picture of the Gospel work flourishing once again and people coming to faith and they are prepared to let go and pass on the baton to the next generation in such a gracious and God-honouring way. I know the Lord will honour them for this open-hearted response to what He is doing. It is very rewarding being part of this work”.

Giles Arnold

If you would like a copy of the Warehouse or Wine Bar DVD or would like to discuss the future of your assembly and church building, please contact Giles Arnold on 01536 647164 or email giles.arnold@churchgrowth.org.uk.

Foundation Spring 2017