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2005: Going forward with God - questions for the future

NB  This page is based on the last part of the history of St Barnabas written in the 50th anniversary year, but it has been updated to reflect the situation in 2005.

The story of St Barnabas from its beginnings is a great story of God blessing and leading us. Now we look to the future with faith in his continuing blessing and guidance. As we do so, there are several important questions we must face about how we should adapt to changing circumstances.

1. How do we win people for Christ today?

Evangelism has been the life-blood of this church from its earliest days. But the experience of this church in recent years has been:

  • after reaching a peak in Ron Hargreavesí time, there has been a decline in numbers
     

  • the homegroups have moved from being geographical centres of evangelism to being fellowship and learning groups
     

  • we lack a "fringe": there are far fewer weddings and baptisms, and although the latter may indicate a healthy move away from just having the children "done", yet this too indicates a lessening of the extent to which the majority of the population looks to the church to supply its needs
     

  • we have seen on several occasions the tendency for people to be willing to pray prayers of commitment, but then not to be willing to translate that into the reality of commitment to Christ and his church.

This is of course not just something affecting St Barnabas. The church generally in this country faces the problems of apathy, cynicism, cultural distance ("itís nice to know the church is there, but donít ask me to go to it"), and the rise of a kaleidoscope of New Age and other spiritualities.

On the other hand, we do see encouragements:

  • the "Jesus" video, and more recently the video "So, who is this Jesus?", has proved an effective modern means of helping some people to see what Jesus did and taught
     

  • we have run small discussion groups for those who wish to explore Christian faith, using the "Christianity Explained" and other suitable courses, and the response has been very encouraging in many ways. 

So we do see people coming to faith in Jesus, and then growing in their Christian faith (even if they sometimes move and it is another church that reaps the benefits!)

There are indeed encouragements, but the fact remains that we seek to make Christ known against a perhaps increasingly difficult background. We therefore need to go on thinking and exploring as to how best we present the gospel to people today in this area.
 

2. How do we staff the work of the church?

In terms of full-time staff, it is rather unlikely that we can again have two ordained full-time staff members, since the financial pressures would be very great

In terms of the service of lay members of the church, it has to be said that the tradition of members of the church being actively involved continues strongly and many members do an enormously important job, (often indeed several jobs!). However, there are real pressures on leadership, and at times we hit the problem of feeling it would be good to run something, but finding that we do not have the man/woman-power available. 

At one level we can say that God has always provided for our needs, and it is also always thrilling to see people growing in their gifts and taking on tasks that they might have felt a year or two earlier were quite beyond them. But at another level we do find that the number of people available limits what we can do.


3. How do we respond to the social needs of the area?

Already we have Pre-school and Tots Club, both of which deal with the needs of young families. We also have the Pastoral Care Team seeking to give help mainly to bereaved people. The Social Services hire the hall for their Acorn Group for young families, and Bromley Children Project hires a room for use as an office during the week. But there are many other social needs in this area, and although it is not right for the church to try to become another social work agency, yet we do need to respond to some of these needs.

Significant here are the developments in Churches Together in the Crays, which now involves 9 churches in the area, the various developments that have taken place in the community in recent years, and the increasingly strong involvement of the churches in the community. We particularly value links with "The Centre" in Cotmandene Crescent. One particular matter which was implemented in early 2004 is industrial chaplaincy in the Sevenoaks Way and Cray Avenue industrial estates - this is being done on an ecumenical basis. 

 

4. How do we deal with the problem of the church roof?

The roof has in fact leaked ever since the church was built, (as mentioned on the page on the consecration of the church). In recent years the leaking has produced "spalling" in some internal concrete beams. Minor repairs of the roof have never had any significant effect, and the idea of major work has always been rejected until recently because a huge financial bill could ham-string the life of the church and stop us from doing what we should be doing - it has always been much easier just to laugh (or mutter) and put the buckets out! However, we now feel that because of the consequent damage we must at least investigate very seriously whether it would be possible to replace the roof - not altering the shape or height, for that would involve basically demolishing the building and starting again - but a total re-covering of the roof. Since the suggested cost of this is about £400,000 or more (largely because of the enormous cost of scaffolding a building like this) we will only be able to go ahead with this if we can raise a very considerable sum of money. As a result we are at present investigating the possibility of selling land behind the church for housing. If this goes ahead, we will also use the proceeds to provide a proper surfaced car park.

 

These are four big questions, and some of their implications for the future can seem quite demanding and threatening. Nevertheless, the church remains very positive, as shown in the Mission Statement that aims to touch on some of these areas. 

So we go forward in the name of Christ
into the future that he has for us.

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