Timmis and Chester point to a 2003 report by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity which concluded:
The reason the UK church is not effective in mission is because we are not making disciples who can live well for Christ in today’s culture and engage compellingly with the people they meet … Jesus has a “train and release” strategy, while overall we have a “convert and retain” strategy. (Total Church, p35)
The Crowded House has no central church meeting, people are trained as leaders and released into small house churches. The practice of “train and release” can be applied to churches like St Luke’s which do meet together on a Sunday morning. It is a matter of where we focus our energy.
We’ve noticed that many people in Blakenhall are happy to meet midweek for 1-2-1 bible study or at a small group but that Sunday service attendance does not always follow. We are conditioned by tradition and mission statistics to think that new Christians must come to church on Sunday or we are not being effective. Much of our weekly energy is spent producing a Sunday service where people will want to come and stay. Often, though, I will fail to produce that critical excellence or “ambiance” from the front.
The idea of Total Church is to focus energy in the harvest field and not the barn. By training people to lead a small church (group bible study, pastoral care and mission) the gospel is more widely proclaimed and small gospel communities created.
The main Sunday service might then attract many, but not all, of the people in small groups. People will come on Sunday not primarily because of my performance at the front but because of the quality of relationships, teaching and care offered on a small scale in homes.