Often in the Old Testament story God’s people stop to reflect on their current situation, reaffirm their covenant to God, and commit to follow him in the future (e.g Deuteronomy 29-31 and Joshua 24). Christ City Church is just over two years old, so we wanted to do a survey to do something similar. We wanted to get some feedback for two primary reasons:
- Alignment – are we becoming the kind of church we had hoped to become? Does Christ City Church align with our values – mission, discipleship, community and leadership? Are we starting to fulfil our vision to make a positive impact on Dublin spiritually, culturally and socially?
- Planning – we want to think about the next three to five years, where we will look to multiply – in terms of City Groups, Sunday Services (maybe a church plant or a second congregation/service) and a mercy ministry. We’d like to get a better understanding of our current situation so we can ensure the church gets the right resources, care and training as we keep growing.
There were four sections to the survey, which align with our four values, with five multiple choice questions in each, followed by a few extra questions at the end. Each question had 5 possible responses and we could therefore grade the answers out of 5, and give an average score for each value. 51 people anonymously completed the survey and in this blog I want to reflect on the results, one section at a time, thinking about:
- Encouragements to build on – what are we doing well that we should keep doing well?
- Questions/comments to consider – what things do we need to re-examine, question and focus on that we could do better?
(1) MISSION (3.73)
Encouragements to build on – when it comes to mission, a church must try and hold the tension of being radically engaged with the culture/city in which it finds itself while being radically distinct from it. So we’re not to withdraw and separate off from culture, nor are we to capitulate and confirm to it. Some churches become Christian ghettos where people don’t have any friends outside the church. Some churches become so accommodating of the values of the prevailing culture they lose all distinction. The good news for us is that we have friends that don’t know Jesus and on the whole we feel equipped to share the gospel with them. That’s great!
Questions to consider – given that we have friends that don’t know Christ and yet not many are connected to Sunday gatherings or our Intro course (the two main avenues we have for those exploring faith) we have to ask the questions:
- Are we distinct enough? As Jesus-followers are we any different from those around us?
- Are we daring enough? Are we willing to share the gospel with our friends or ask questions or invite them along?
- Are we better than we think? The survey says that on the whole we’re able to share our testimony and the gospel, but I wonder how many actual conversations happen in any given week/month? And two people in the extra comments said they wanted help in this, so do come along to our sharing your faith seminar on 22nd January.
- Do our friends lack spiritual desire? They know we’re believers but our culture is apathetic towards our faith. Do they have no desire to learn more? In which case, does our prayer life reflect that we need God to move deeply in their hearts?
- Do we need another ‘avenue’ for those exploring faith? Do we need to find a better way of helping them? If so, what and why?
With regards to our value of reaching the poor and marginalised (which we scored lowest on) I think there are a few comments to make with regards to the areas we are currently involved in:
- Just Ask – our main strategic way of helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds is through partnering with Just Ask, a club for kids aged 7-11 on a Monday, where we send two – five people at least twice a month to build friendships, play games and share something about Jesus. Our plan is to build on this and see how we can do more.
- Friendship – as a young church our resources are small and therefore what we can offer people is friendship, a listening ear and a place where they belong, can have a role, be supported and know they are loved. We do this for a number of people already as well as providing financial and practical help as needs arise and we shouldn’t underestimate how important this is. It’s hard to quantify but it’s hugely valuable.
- Zambia – this is our main ‘overseas’ way of serving those less fortunate than ourselves as we support Vinjeru school financially and also with a mission team each year to help in the school and encourage the church plant. We see this as a long-term connection we will invest in and pray God uses. Maybe some of the school students will be able to come to Dublin in due course?!
- The Banquet – we have done this for three years and it’s been a big success each year. Through doing it we have made some good and long-lasting connections with which we’re starting to see some real fruit. We plan to keep doing this once a year as a way of connecting with the homeless and disadvantaged of Dublin. It will be good for us to think about how we can co-ordinate this with more regular work.
- Yes we want to do lots more! – whether that is through a new city group focusing on reaching the homeless, setting up a Christians Against Poverty Centre (or equivalent), buying a house which can provide refuge for those in need, or partnering with existing projects in the city, we do want to do more. However it is worth saying that reaching the poor and marginalised is complicated and long-term. For example, helping one person out of homelessness into a sustainable lifestyle with income and accommodation is not easy. Seeing transformation in people’s lives is a long-term game; the ‘results’ are not instantaneous.
So there seems to be lots to be encouraged about, but we are looking forward to thinking through these questions and comments over the coming months.
(2) COMMUNITY (4.06)
Encouragements to build on – it’s great to see that people think of church as a place to belong to and a family and community, more than a service to attend. Also it seems we’re a warm and welcoming church where people are able to access what’s going on (we’re not a clique) and that if in need they’ll be looked out for. Long may all that continue, and it will get harder as we get numerically bigger.
Comments to consider – there seem to be two things, firstly around friendships and secondly around gifts.
- Friendships take time and intentionality – Deep friendships don’t form overnight. While we might find a connection with someone comes quite quickly, the trust and vulnerability comes with time. It requires shared experiences and lots of conversations. Most of all though it requires vulnerability – allowing someone into your life who knows everything. And that is scary and therefore it requires intentionality. The infrastructure is there at CCC for you to find friends – through the pub, through City Groups, through Life Groups, through the weekend away, through socials we run etc, and it’s up to us to take the initiative to jump into all these opportunities and see who God connects us to AND THEN start to build something more intentional.
- Discovering your gifts starts with starting* – What I mean by that is you will not know your place of service if you don’t start somewhere. Join a Sunday team, join a City Group, volunteer for the mission trip to Zambia or The Banquet. Finally, come on 6.30 Leadership where we spend time looking at our gifts, and what it means to serve as part of a church, including taking a gifts questionnaire. We are SO keen that everyone feels that they are being used by God in the building up of the church, and are open to new ideas and ways we can help. So please contact us or your City Group leader…but start somewhere and allow God to develop you from there.
- Teaching – as a church we want to teach more on these two things over this coming year and apply them in City Groups too. This feedback is part of the reason behind our Invest series so do join us on Sundays.
(3) DISCIPLESHIP (3.94)
Encouragements to build on – it’s a great encouragement to
hear that people are growing in their relationship with God and their character, and that we are equipping people to integrate their faith and work, and live for Christ 24/7. Praise God! Long may this continue.
Comments to consider – the only area to consider is around character growth as there is a slight disconnect between growing in relationship with God (overall, very positive feedback) and developing our character (still good, but slightly less). So how does character change happen? Typically there are 3 ingredients needed:
- A clear understanding of what the Bible says – that we learn about God’s love and grace, his forgiveness and adoption of us, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the great hope that we have in heaven. These and many other truths need to become ingrained in our hearts and minds.
- Personal devotion to God – that we develop rhythms to help us grow in certain areas, including preaching these truths to our hearts daily.
- Intentional deep and vulnerable friendships – where the truths that we’re learning from the Bible are being applied deeply ‘in the light.’ For real lasting change to come in our lives, it is nearly always when we bring an area of our lives from darkness (just me and God know) to the light (me, God and 1-2 other Christians know). Then there can be prayer, support and accountability. So this comes back to the point above about being intentional with one or two friends and why we place a big emphasis on Life Groups.
(4) Leadership (3.96)
Encouragements to build on – there seems to be a sense of trust in the church around decisions and finances which is encouraging and good. We certainly seek to be transparent and honest. I think with 6.30 Leadership, the Internship and the Apprenticeship we have a good system in place to start growing leaders.
Questions to consider – let me mention 4 things:
- Leadership Structures – as the church grows we’ll develop different leadership teams to care for the increasing numbers. To read more about our thinking on how we’ll do this, check out this blog post on our first leadership transition.
- *Using your gifts – see comments above and come and speak to us, plus sign up for 6.30 Leadership. We want to see everyone released and equipped to serve God using their gifts and passions.
- Church Planting – when Jesus gave the apostles the great commission in Matthew 28, their application of it was to preach the gospel and plant churches. Statistics show that church planting is the best evangelistic method to both see people converted and to see cities impacted. So we as a church want to become a church-planting church and teach more into this. In two to three years we want to start to consider launching a second congregation, and building a team and leadership for that. Please pray that God will lead and provide as multiplying always feels like a ‘loss’ to those who remain – friendships and community dynamics change, and these are some costs we will need to count for the sake of reaching out.
- Long-Term Thinking – I want to put a challenge to all of you to think more ‘long-term’ about the church. Churches thrive (and therefore cities thrive) as people commit and invest, both internally in the friendships and externally in the city and the lost; people in particular who have come to Dublin recently for jobs or studies or another reason which fitted a personal need. It’s great that you’re here, but don’t just take from the city and then leave. Give to the city and consider that God might have brought you to Dublin and CCC for more than just fulfilling your personal need. Dublin is a transitory city, people come and go and if we’re going to make a long-term impact we need people who will stick around and build with us. So,
- If you have come for one year, considering staying for two;
- If you have come for two years, considering staying for five;
- If you have come for five years, considering staying for 10;
- If you have come for 10 years, considering settling down for the long-term;
- If you have come to study, look to find your first job after university in Dublin, or do our Internship;
- If you were born and raised in Dublin, you are more vital than you know! Do you see Dublin as a city God has placed you in to make a difference in? Will you commit to building a future here, even though cities can be expensive and often people drift to the suburbs or the country as they settle down.
Can I encourage you to think long-term and consider that by you staying and committing to Dublin and CCC, you will make a much bigger impact to the kingdom of God?
It is no surprise that we have a high proportion of nationalities and that the majority of our community is under 30 years old. Why do I say this?
- It’s how church plants work – they are typically good at reaching young people and new people groups in cities. Why? For two reasons. Firstly, these two types of people are normally more open to new ideas. Secondly, these types of people often find it harder to engage with older structures as those churches are seen to be ‘set up and sorted’ and it’s hard to get involved and serve.
- It was our vision – particularly initially, that we would be a church that reached 18-35s. This was the age-group in Ireland who had most fallen out with church and God. So that is intentional. As we grow we’ll want to continue to engage that age bracket, but broaden and deepen. This has already started to happen which is good. Furthermore, we want to be a church that reflects Dublin, and Dublin is now very cosmopolitan, so it’s great to see so many people connected to us.
If you plot the results on a four-axis graph, with our four values on each axis, you get a visual representation of our situation which might be helpful for some
If you have any comments or questions or have a suggestion or want to meet with us, please don’t hesitate to get in contact. It’s exciting to see what God has done so far, and there is so much to give thanks for. But we ask you to continue to pray and dream, and commit yourself to God and what he would do to multiply the work so that we might reach more and more people.
Steve & Leanne