MCCN The Hayes Conference 2005

Faithworks

The Revd Dave Hitchcock

Dave Hitchcock is Operations Director for Faithworks. He has overall responsibility for developing services, training, consultancy and other materials to support churches and other religious organisations at a local level.

No written words can hope to capture the performance that Dave gave in two inspiring sessions.

Four and a half years ago, just before the last general election, Steve Chalke published a book about what the church contributes to society [Dave never mentioned its title] in which he suggested that the government should recognise this contribution and that the church itself should acknowledge it.

Dave pointed out that there are around seven thousand church youth workers – twice the number funded by secular organisations.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, requested a copy and having read it asked to meet Steve and encouraged the formation of a movement based on the book …

Faithworks is a partnership of eleven agencies, four hundred churches, and eighteen thousand individual members together with associated traditional and new denominations. It has two objectives:

  • to empower and inspire individual Christians and every local church to develop their role at the hub of their community
  • to challenge and change the public perception of the Church by engaging both media and government

Dave suggested that the first five years of this millennium would be remembered for the breakdown of public services, public services are falling apart. Government is soliciting faith communities help in engineering community cohesion. The Church is well placed to respond – we are everywhere: village, town and city. And we are there 24/7. There are fifty thousand church buildings – each could be the hub of its community.

Dave read from Luke's Gospel, Chapter 4, verse 14 …

We have reduced worship to a specific place and a specific time. Jews worship in the home, in the family. For Jesus worship could take place everywhere and at any time. Worship is in the whole of life – work, rest and play. We need a bigger understanding of worship, a bigger understanding of family. (The shrunken family of the western world does has not seem to have worked?)

The Church must consider the spiritual, physical, emotional and development needs of people. This is the pastoral benefit. Jesus was more than a preacher, he was a prophet. He did things and then allowed people to comment. The Church has this prophetic role.

Jesus was conscious of timing. He said 'my time has not yet come' at Cana and later we read that 'Jesus knew that his time had come'. We must have a strategy, we must set goals. We must distinguish between the urgent and the important.

Dave set the conservative evangelical stance that you are either 'in' or 'out' (with no in-between state available) against the idea of direction. People can be facing towards the church or away from the church and we should see the facing towards the church as positive however far away or near a person might be. (The church described in the letter to Timothy is a 'zoo' church with all sorts of possibly unacceptable practices but the people are facing in the right direction.)

Jesus doesn't impose … he allows people to walk away.

Dave then read from Mark's Gospel, Chapter 6, verse 34 …

A SWOT chart We mustn't hide behind 'I'm just me' which was the attitude of the disciples. Jesus asks 'What have you got?'. And whatever it is that we have we must not see it as a drop in the bucket. Jesus got the disciples to set the people down in groups. He broke what was a big problem into manageable pieces. He promised low but delivered high.

At the end all were satisfied. We must put the little we have into God's hands. When we are on the edge that's when we understand Jesus best.

We then broke up into three groups and identified the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that faced the network. (It was difficult to avoid thinking as a single church in a particular city rather than thinking as a network.)

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Conference faces

4 March 2005