What would a healthy growing church in Northern Ireland look like?
Members from across Northern Ireland came together on Sabbath 23 April at the Dunsilly Hotel for the inaugural Revitalise NI Day, looking for answers to this question.
Most of the attendees came from the Coleraine, Derry/Londonderry and Larne Churches, although they were joined by members from Belfast and Banbridge.
These churches were traditionally the backbone of the Irish Mission and throughout the history of the Mission they supported the growth and activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church across the BUC. However, over the past couple of decades, through the natural processes of movement and ageing, these churches have shrunk in size. What has not shrunk is the desire of our members in these churches to see God at work in their communities and a wish to see their churches grow again.
Revitalising the Northern Irish North Coast churches (Larne, Coleraine and Derry/Londonderry) is part of the Irish Mission’s strategic plan that was voted at the last session for the next 5 years and this special Sabbath was the first opportunity for the three churches to come together for worship, fellowship and training.
Pastor Jacques Venter, BUC Missions Secretary welcomed everyone to the day and explained how the IM is supporting the churches in Northern Ireland. He then introduced Pastor Wayne Erasmus (SEC Church Growth and Advent Mission Director) as the main speaker for the day.
Pastor Erasmus drew from his personal experience of pastoring small multi-church districts and his years of church growth/planting coaching to challenge the attendees to see themselves as missionaries in their local communities.
After reflecting on the example of Jesus, and drawing from the Spirit of Prophecy Pastor Erasmus reminded everyone of the importance of individual personal ministry; being intentional in the way we interact with those in our families and communities. Using the acronym BELLS, each person was challenged to play their part in God’s work of revitalisation by following the 5 habits of highly missional people.
B- Bless Others, E- Eat Together, L- Listen to the Spirit, L- Learn Christ, S- Sent by God.
By dividing the day up into smaller sessions, there was plenty of time for church members to discuss, reflect and plan for the future. Everyone went home with a BELLS bookmark to encourage them to develop these habits; and in the coming weeks the local church pastors will continue to share material and books from the day in order to keep the momentum going.
The Revitalise NI Day may have been the first meeting, but it won’t be the last. A series of special Sabbaths, training days and workshops are being prepared, with another day together planed for October. Although this first event was organised for the North Coast Churches, future events will also be open to other members in Northern Ireland who wish to become missional members, taking a personal responsibility for sharing the gospel in their communities.