His question was essentially ‘why?’ with the following queries.
- Is it because one of the churches is nearly dying and has become unviable?
- Is it because the two churches are located right on top of one another and so working with the same target group?
- Is it because Shrewsbury already has too many good live churches?
- Is it because of some doctrine that big churches are better than small?
- Or is it because both are small and can’t see any other way to grow, or to avoid withering away?
The honest but somewhat painful answer is that it’s mostly in response to the first issue. The Grange Free Church has been serving in the community for more than 50 years, while NSCC is a mere 6 years old. Over those six years NSCC has seen some encouraging growth over that time, and while seeing many good things happen the congregation at the Grange has also aged with the church and now the spirits are willing but the flesh is frail. It has now reached a critical point, as founder members are gradually receiving their promotion to glory the future of that church was questionable. They are bravely and wisely acting now while the choice is still theirs to make.
Peter then wondered about the following if this was case;
“If so, in practice that one would in effect have to die – following John Wimber’s dictum. Or an alternative might be an agreed transfer of resources (people and financial) from the viable church to the unviable one to make two viable churches. Or you make a building sharing agreement without any kind of formal merger.”
So why merge? It’s a practical response to a spiritual issue. The Grange leadership’s primary (and right) concern is the evangelical Gospel witness and Kingdom advancement on the housing estate of Harlescott Grange. They’ve done what few churches have done and more churches should do, and taken a long hard look at this and concluded they need help in the present and in the future. We share their concern and we honour their years of service and witness, but everyone agrees change is necessary not in our message but in our methods.
Merger, while difficult, seems to us be the best way to manage the resources (buildings & finances), pastor the people and continue the mission.
There is also a close geographical element – we are already using their buildings for some of our key initiatives and the school we meet in is just 1.5 miles away (closer if you’re a crow), but at the same time we serve two distinct communities, each of around 10,000 people. There are fewer 300 Christians worshipping and witnessing in that area. There’s work to be done.