Excuses are the enemy of effective ministry.
Yesterday, my wife Shelley and I had the chance to worship in a church that could have offered about as many excuses as any church imaginable. But they’ve refused to do so and have, instead, become one of the most influential churches in the world – London’s Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB). The home of the Alpha program and so many influential books and worship songs.
Here are just a few excuses they could have used (ones that some of us may have heard or used ourselves) but have chosen to rise above.
“We have such an old building.”
HTB was built in 1826-1829. Without carpeting, air-conditioning, video screens or electrical outlets.
Their church’s cafe and bookstore are in underground crypts beneath the sanctuary. Actual brick-walled, low-ceilinged, designed-to-bury-the-dead crypts. As you can see in the photo I took, above.
What most would have considered a huge problem, they turned into the Coolest. Church. Cafe. Ever.
“We’re in a horrible location.”
Holy Trinity Brompton is not visible from Brompton Street. It’s not even accessible from Brompton Street. It’s completely hidden behind a massive cathedral that we had to walk around to get to HTB.
Shelley and I actually took a selfie in front of the other cathedral before recognizing our mistake and having to find HTB behind the bigger church.
“There are so many other big churches near us.”
In addition to the massive cathedral completely blocking them from the street they took their name from, within walking distance of HTB are some of the world’s biggest, grandest cathedrals, including Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral. Yes, the places where royal weddings and coronations are held.
“The weather is bad.”
“All the churches in our area are experiencing losses in attendance and commitment.”
Europe – and London in particular – has experienced that reality as much as anywhere on earth. They are what post-Christian looks like.
“You can’t design a service that young and old will both like.”
Shelley and I arrived about 20 minutes before the service started and were mostly among people our age and older. As the service time got closer, the average age dropped until, by the time worship began we were sitting in a room with as strong a cross-generational mix as you can imagine.
“People from different ethnicities and backgrounds won’t worship together.”
In addition to the generational mix, the congregation looked liked the streets of London. A wonderfully healthy mix of ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds. All worshiping Jesus together.
“This generation doesn’t have the attention span for a service longer than an hour, or a sermon longer than 20 minutes.”
The sermon was almost an hour and the service was almost two hours before the formal dismissal. If you include the after-service prayer time at the altar, it went past the two-hour mark.
“If you’re reaching today’s generation you must be watering down the message.”
The sermon we heard was a Jesus-is-the-only-answer message straight from the Gospel of Luke.
Effective Ministry – No Excuses Allowed
Holy Trinity Brompton became one of the most influential churches in their city and the world, not because they had all the advantages, but because they wouldn’t let any of their disadvantages become excuses.
Doing what HTB has done is not easy. Or inevitable. In fact, no matter how hard we pray, work and preach, no other church will ever do what they’ve done. But even if you disagree with some of their methods and/or theology, you can still learn from their example.
“I can’t” should have no place in our vocabulary, because it doesn’t exist in God’s. There are so many churches, large and small, that have defied the odds and proved the naysayers wrong, stepping up to do amazing, unexpected things as they’ve followed Jesus and led others to him.
Holy Trinity Brompton is a big church. Cornerstone, where I serve, is a small one. But we’re both determined to be a “no excuses” zone.
I hope your church is a “no excuses” zone, too. If not, it can be.
After all, if Christ called you there he did so for a reason, not for an excuse.
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