I said, in a recent comment on the rural ministry post:
'I recall Stephen Cottrell, before he became a bishop, saying, 'The problem in this country is that there are too many churches; the gospel paradox is that the answer is to plant more.''
Why is this true?
1. Too many of the churches are in the wrong place.
2. Too many of the smaller gatherings in those places are intransigent.
So a minister, trying to grow the local church, may find it easier to plant a totally new congregation than to encourage an existing one to be genuinely welcoming to the alien and stranger. This might mean investing minimal effort in keeping a small congregation of the unchanging and unwelcoming going and maximum effort in working out what to set up that will attract others.
David Jenkins, former Bishop of Durham, once told a group of us that he had been advised that if a small Durham church closed the congregation would not go elsewhere. His reply, which I can still pretty much recall word-for-word:
'Fancy even considering, even considering, keeping a church open where the congregation had learned so little of what it was to be church that they would not go to another one if theirs closed.'
He may have had poor publicity from time to time but he was a wise man for sure.
Now, who wants to start something?