Many parishioners here look back over a considerable number of years at St Paul’s. Throughout that time they have gained many precious memories, have been fed in their faith, led in their path through life. This church has been a significant part of their life. Those who joined us more recently have hopefully developed some sense of connection with the church. It is little wonder that we want to see St Paul’s thrive and prosper. And yet, like many churches in New Zealand, St Paul’s seems to be more struggling than successful, at least in the ways we most often define success.
Because we value the Church so much we propose plans for success. As has happened in churches throughout the world, different ways are suggested: “If only we did this or that.” And as has happened in churches throughout the world, there is disagreement, when others are not convinced by the solution we ourselves see so clearly. If only we had a praise band, a different liturgy, different sermons, a different colour of the carpet, an Alpha Course or a ready-made programme that has been successful somewhere else.
We certainly need to look at our music, liturgy, messages, furnishings and study opportunities. But we need to be authentic and faithful first. We also need to be attentive to our own context, the gifts that we can really bring, and consider what people can realistically do. It is good to be open to ideas, but it is not the wrapping of the Gospel, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself that is most important. Through all this our love for God can hopefully shine through—that is more important than promoting our solutions. That means listening to each other and prayerfully considering the ministry that God is leading us to as the church in this place.