Churches need 'Kingdom DNA', says Bishop of Bristol

|PIC1|Churches need to replace the DNA of the present status quo with the DNA of the Kingdom, the Bishop of Bristol told Christians at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Sandown Park, Surrey, this week.

Bishop Mike Hill was leading a seminar for local church leaders on how to implement effective change within a spiritual environment.

He told Christians, "The Kingdom is a very dynamic reality and if the church is supposed to be a foretaste of the Kingdom, something of that DNA of the Kingdom has to be reflected in the life of our churches."

Bishop Hill stressed the necessity of change: "There is a fantastic myth alive in our churches and it's this: if we stay as we are, we will stay as we are. Why is that a myth? Cos if we stay as we are friends, we will decline."

He urged Christians in local church leadership to be clear on their vision and expected outcomes, and follow the example of the early church by having a plan for growth in place.

"What we are trying to do is get some priority of vision," said Bishop Hill. The early church "was a community where people expected God to work", he said, and, "significantly and challengingly in our culture, they were a growing church".

He pointed to St Paul, who would first preach to the Jews in the synagogues before taking the Gospel to the marketplaces.

"That was his game plan," said Bishop Hill. "I am amazed by how many churches I go to that think great things are going to happen by accident...The idea of a plan is not unspiritual or worldly. Friends, it's common sense, and you need a plan."

Churches also have to be clear about whom they are targeting, Bishop Hill stressed.

"There is a massive temptation in churches to go for the blunderbuss approach. We fire a load of shots out and hope it will hit a few people," he said.

"If you're trying to reach young families don't be ashamed to say that because that has massive repercussions for how you try to achieve that."

He pointed to one church plant within his diocese whose regular attendance increased in 18 months from 30 to 350 people after Norland Nannies were brought in to look after the children in the congregation during service times.

Bishop Hill maintained, however, that faith was crucial to positive change within churches.

"My fundamental belief is this: God is so brilliant that He works despite us. Please don't think that the future of the church could be [guaranteed] if you could just learn a few tricks from leadership books and business management books.

"I think what we want to do is grow in faith, that we might release the power of God into this dark, hurting world that we are called to serve and to save."

Bishop Hill appealed to local level church leaders to keep their focus on glorifying God.

"There's a terrible pressure on you when you are a leader to make your mark. And actually godly leadership isn't about making your mark. It's about drawing your line in the sand for Jesus," he told church leaders. "It's about how you can leverage whatever gifts you've got in your organisation to give glory to God and not to draw attention to yourself."

He also urged church leaders to expect a long and difficult road to success, saying that great leaders in the Kingdom were the ones with "immeasurable reserves of courage".

"That doesn't mean that they don't get frightened," he told the audience. "Courageous people still feel fear but what courageous people do is they work out strategies to help them get beyond that and when faithful people do that you would be amazed at what can happen.

"I never saw a great work of God that didn't involve a massive injection of courage, and neither did I see one that didn't come very close to folding completely.

"God wants to know how persistent we are, I think, and how faithful we are and sometimes He allows projects to run very near to the bottom of the barrel in order that He can discover how persistent and how faithful we are."

Bishop Hill concluded with a word of encouragement to local level church leaders.

"Local church leadership is one of the toughest callings that a human being can have. Churches are full of people who think they could do your job better than you.

"But the bottom line is that very often they are measuring it by the criteria of a commercial organisation, not a voluntary organisation, which is far more subtle, far more demanding, far more scary in a way. Thank you for what you do."