20 Years – Time Flies When You Are Having Fun!

George Lings

At four weeks to go to retirement, I realised I was definitely counting because I’ll miss what I do, the people I am teamed with, and the need to finish off the work I said I’d do. For months facing this change, I have felt deep gratitude for several reasons:

  • I have always believed that the point of life is being and doing what God calls you to. Living vocationally is more central to being Christian than living professionally. Calling is assisted by competence but not created by it.
  • Also, I have uttered truth in jest that Church Army has paid for me to do my hobby for 20 years. How lucky is that? – and I don’t mean the model railway.
  • It has been such a privilege to be part of a brilliant team. Over 20 years it’s been 16 people – I would name you all but there’s the blog word count! So to Isabel (the 1st), via Claire (long stay medal) to John (most recent) thanks so much. We have been a community together: I have learnt from you and laughed with you.
  • Church Army took the risk to have a research unit. Bless you Philip Johanson for the starting, Mark Russell for the sustaining, the board and managers for sticking with it. No better place to do this research than to be known to be committed to the Church that needs it, but not controlled by it. I call it ‘connected objectivity’.
  • Church Army community has been a great family to belong to. I’ve never really fitted in, in mainstream Church – I’m too radical for some and too establishment for others. To be in a community where to be Anglican and evangelistic is natural and normal is a dream come true. Thanks for putting up with me, my questioning, my relative inactivity, my long words and even longer writings.

What’s it all amount to?

I think together we are living through an epoch-making change. Christendom is dying in the West and the wildness of an earlier Christianity is coming back. Here are three convictions I live with:

  1. We’ll only get this right if we hold together what God wants from his mission, his kingdom and his church. Drop any one of those three and there is fatal distortion. If you want that unpacked, try chapter 11 of my only book Reproducing Churches or another version is on our website.
  2. We have lived through the early part of a bigger story. It will take decades. Knowing my role is drawing to a close I was asked to write what I thought the state of the art had got to about fresh expressions of Church. The progress is remarkable, competition is around and important questions remain unanswered. See the website for this article too.
  3. Behind all this I think there is a character, charism and spirituality of Christian research. Why and how this is done matters. If we become just academic, or even polemic, we cease to attend in the right spirit. So, I revisited and revised something I wrote about this in 2011. Read it here.

All three articles are also downloadable from Church Army’s Research Unit website ( Typical! You read a blog and now have three other things to read – those researchers!

Love to you all,

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