25 years in the making
This is the shocking but shared consensus of a small group of seasoned interdenominational Irish church leaders and planters. In general it takes 25 years from the initial planting to the actual establishing of any new church in an Irish context.
Compared with Africa, America or even some parts of the UK this is staggering.
Some of these men have been involved in the activity of church planting in Ireland longer than I have been alive. They know the work is painfully slow and remains, for a very long time, depressingly small. They also know the rate of failure is frighteningly high and the impossibility of the task just seems to grow with each successive year.
Yet these men remain committed to the task for they also know that it is worth, at least starting, as many new churches as is humanly possible.
They are not schismatic, tribal or bothered by politics of any form, be they secular or denominational. They are happy in their respective convictions regarding polity, baptismal practices, and church/state relations. Yet they know none of these matter more than speaking clearly and winsomely about Jesus Christ, and the grace of God to be found in Him, to as many who will listen.
These men believe hell is real, God is holy, in Jesus alone there is forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit has been given not to make us feel better about ourselves today but to equip us for a battle where the future outcome is already secure.
It is a privilege to be part of such discussions.
It is also salutary to be constantly reminded that what we are attempting in Irish Church Missions will not appear significant in the eyes of the world, or even among many in the church. No one need get prematurely worried or hot headed about our attempts to evangelise new churches into existence. Much of what we are attempting to do will look small, move slowly and some may even be short lived. But if what these men believe is true, both about the content of the gospel and the context in Ireland, then in ICM we certainly want to echo that it is worth making a start on as many church plants as possible.
25 years in one sense is a long time. It is likely to involve rejection from both the world and the church. There will be some successes, but as many, if not more, failures. However, actually in the scheme of eternity 25 years is really quite short, any ‘suffering’ is but for a moment, and the consequences might change the destiny, of even a few, forever.
How else would you want to spend your next 25 years?