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
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
On the other hand, we do see encouragements:
"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
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
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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