How do we decide it’s time to act? When is the moment we step out in faith in a new direction, and how do we know it will be worthwhile? And what if we fail?
Clive Tutty, pastor of the Uddingston Church of the Nazarene just outside of Glasgow, Scotland recently took a step out in faith with his congregation, but their story isn’t what you might expect to hear. They spent over four months planning, praying, weighing the costs, assessing the risk, and then they did something bold: they moved their Sunday morning service to a cinema.
“We’ve been toying with the idea of going somewhere novel, someplace new,” says Pastor Tutty. The cinema turned out to be a possibility. They started with a trial run and after advertising widely they began moving their worship service to the cinema on a once-a-month basis. They hoped a change of venue might reach the generations their congregation was currently missing.
Because of the risks and costs involved, the bar for success was fairly high.
“We need to see 100 new people on the first day. That would be the sign that this would really work.”
On the day of the first cinema service, the Uddingston church arrived, along with two other local congregations, the Viewport and Twechar churches. Some required transportation as they typically walked to worship, and some didn’t make the journey to the new location at all.
“That first day in October, no new people came. None at all, it was just ourselves,” Tutty says. “Even some of my own people didn’t come.” But the service went on, with about 25 faithful gathered in the cinema.
“We enjoyed the service, and the important thing was we were trying something. If people didn’t come, we couldn’t control that. We had done everything we could do.”
This is not a story of staggering numbers in attendance. This is a story of daring to try, about boldly going beyond the church doors, and refusing to see the outcome as failure.
“In a nutshell, I would say, we thought about it, we calculated, we prayed, we set out a price and the number of weeks we would do it. In the end it didn’t work, and no one was discouraged.”
Pastor Tutty and his congregation may not have attained the results they hoped for, but they don’t seem to regret taking the opportunity to do something new.
“It takes a lot of energy out of you doing something like this, mentally and physically. After that, we rested for a bit, and we are now looking at new ways to reach out. But we’ve all been encouraged by it really.”
The British Isles North District, where Uddingston is located, is striving to embrace a culture where churches and leaders dare to dream of what God can do, and are willing to take risks to pioneer new, creative expressions of church, and reach their communities in innovative ways. Uddingston certainly exemplifies this new attitude toward taking risks. Tutty reported at the recent assembly about the cinema outreach effort, and was praised at the assembly for his church’s willingness to try something new. And even though they didn’t see the outcomes they hoped for, he says that receiving permission, even permission to fail, was an important motivating factor in their planning process.
Success is a relative term, and when a church is willing to seek out new expressions of corporate worship in their community, simply trying feels like success.
-- Ted Voigt is a writer and full time missionary with the Church of the Nazarene working in Wicklow, Ireland along with his wife Sarah and their kids.