Our church is getting ready to plant a new congregation. It's been planned for a while, but the kick off date for the new church plant is now only three weeks away. Exciting times ahead. And sad ones, as we say goodbye to some good friends who are leaving us.
We are staying with the group who meet at our current location. The new church will be further away from our home so it made sense for us to stay where we were. The last Sunday where we will all be together is in two weeks' time, but we will still be away on holidays then, so next Sunday will be the last Sunday for us in the church as we currently know it.
We've been with this church for almost seven years now. It was very small when we arrived and has grown to become very large over the time that we've been in it. God has been good to us.
One difficult thing that I've found about the growth in numbers over the past few years is that it gets much harder to get to know people at church. In a small crowd, you know everyone and can catch up with them every Sunday. As the crowd gets bigger, it gets trickier. New people arrive and you welcome them and you might want to get to know them better, but if you already have lots of friendships on the go (and if, like me, you cope better with a smaller quota of friends) then it's harder to catch up with all the new people and establish new friendships with them. Sometimes it's just easier to hang out with the old friends, but that doesn't make it easy for the newer people to feel like they belong.
I think it's important for us as Christians to make space for new friendships in our lives. It builds our church as a community, and challenges us to think about how we can serve others and look outwards. It stretches us out of our comfort zones, perhaps more than a quiet type like me would like, but in a way that helps us to grow and become more mature as Christians.
Yesterday we had lunch with some friends from church at the home of a younger couple who only started attending our church in the last twelve months. The wife is a fairly new Christian, and her husband is from a Jewish background, is not yet converted and would probably describe himself as an atheist. He has attended services at our church for special occasions (like Christmas carols) in the past, but yesterday was the first time he had come to a regular Sunday service. Catching up over lunch afterwards was a lovely time of chatting and getting to know them both better. We pray that over time he'll come along to church some more. I hope that building good friendships will encourage him to do that.
Bring on the changes. And the opportunities for new relationships that they will bring our way. Please pray that we'll be open to growing in new directions and reaching out to others.