In the early 1900’s, 70% of the world’s Christians lived in Europe. So much has changed! However, I and many others are convinced that world and national events are working together with what God is doing, to bring about the greatest opportunities in history for the church.
Let’s take where I live as an example: Manchester, England. Dr. Peter Brierley, the leading authority on these statistics, in his ‘UK 2010-2020’ report states that, if present rates continue (total UK membership of churches in 2015: 5,370,000) will be at 4,790,000 by 2025. However, he notes that where growth is occurring it happens “primarily because each is continuing to plant new churches.”
Brierley says that the church is adding and multiplying where there is: “A heart for mission and a willingness to try the new… along with a structure that allows such experimentation and in effect gives its new initiatives permission to fail as well as to succeed.”
The business world talks about the difference between a Blue and Red Ocean strategy: in the Red Ocean there’s blood in the water as the sharks bite each other to fight where everyone else is, over a dwindling shoal. The Blue Ocean is when an organisation or business goes where nobody else is going, to reach people and markets nobody else is reaching. One reason so few churches in Europe have been planted in recent years is that existing churches have sometimes felt threatened or intimidated by such new initiatives, in a scarcity mindset. That will always be the case if you are competing in a Red Ocean.
In Luke 5 Jesus challenged Peter to put out from the shoreline,
“Launch out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”
Sometimes it’s easier to stay safe in the shallows, where we can see and touch the bottom. Wading and wandering, without risking deeper water. We resign ourselves to where we’re at, even though it feels like we’re going nowhere. Peter had been doing everything he knew to do. Working hard, tiring himself out. Much effort, little effectiveness! He was frustrated, exhausted.
What do you do when what used to work, doesn’t work – however hard you work it? So many leaders are cleaning their (already clean), empty nets.
Whenever Peter did what Jesus said, where and how he said it, the resultant catch was so great he always needed help to haul the catch, and partners to bring more boats to land it. I would love to invite you to join us at what could be a turning point event that changes the way we see, think and act with regard to church planting in Europe.
We will go to the deeper waters, get bigger nets ready, and learn how to work better together as fishers of people!
Ivy Church Network, NewThing Europe