Paul Northam is the Diocesan Advisor for Evangelisation & Discipleship (with Marriage & Family Life) and is based in the Office for Mission.

What will the Church look like in 10 Years Time?

Predicting the future is a tricky business. There are so many variables to consider. And that’s even before we get to the person making the predictions! Are we a ‘glass-half-full’ or a ‘glass-half-empty’ sort of person? Are people or processes more important to us? Do we see the big picture or the little picture? Do we value novelty or stability? Do we look for internal or external signs of hope?

While we might wonder if predictions are even a good idea, the way we see the future very much affects the next steps we are likely to take. This is true for the Church. But the Church also looks backwards, for guidance for how to think about the future. The words of our Lord, at the very least, should give us pause before we become too sure of what we think is coming over the horizon. And Jesus did intend to leave His Church with a real sense of hope!

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” – Matthew 16:18

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” – John 16:13

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20

These statements are as true for us as they were for those first disciples, but we so often feel besieged and overwhelmed by our circumstances or the size of the obstacles in front of us. So how do we balance these realities?

In 10 years time it will be 2033, which makes it 2000 years since the momentous and history-changing events of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, which unleashed the power and witness of the Church upon an unsuspecting world, so focussed on its own importance. Our own times paint a similar picture to the one we find in the Gospels – and we are in just as much need of the Holy Spirit and of Saints! So what do we want the Church to be like in 10 years time?

The most important thing we must remember is that the Church is in God’s hands. However we can effect the part we play in the Church’s mission over the next decade. Standing on those (and the many other) promises of God, let’s look at the other signs of hope He has given us for the Church in Birmingham…

  • The global Synod gave the Church the opportunity to listen to the Holy Spirit as a whole, and through the voices of both clergy and laity.
  • We have been given a Diocesan Vison which lays down a few simple principles that parishes can apply, to take initial steps toward the future we are discerning through the Synod.
  • Our Church has never been better resourced, with models like Divine Renovation, Sycamore and Called & Gifted (to name a few) which can help us to envision, and form, missionary disciples.
  • Over the next two years the Church is calling us to go ‘back to basics’ with the Jubilee Year ‘Pilgrims of Hope’ and the preparatory year, the Year of Prayer – with emphasis on the Our Father.

Having mentioned a few of the opportunities and tools we have to help us prepare for the next 10 years, it seems to me that we should be hopeful for what our Church will look like. So what might be holding us back?

That will be different for different people, but I’d suggest it is simply that we struggle to imagine a Church which is much different to the one we ourselves grew up in, or in which we might have to reorientate our priorities. That frightens us.

The saints are always reliable guides in these situations. When things appear to be in crisis, to go against them, to change or decay beyond all recognition, they cling to the one who is unchanging. They go deeper in prayer, they cast themselves upon the Rock and dig deeper foundations – and people follow them, because they show us the way to God! Will the Church of 10 years time be one which clings to God more closely and which is more deeply converted to Him? That is certainly my prayer!

We can also follow the example of the first Christian communities who knew what it was to rely on each other in difficult times: “Those who believed were of one heart and soul, they had everything in common” – Acts 4:32 & “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” – Acts 2:42

What can we devote ourselves to, over the next 10 years, as we prepare to celebrate the great Jubilee of our redemption?

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Diocesan Office for Mission