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November 28 , 2010

Ecclesion: the Small Church with a Vision


In an age in which Christians have to choose between blossoming audiences of largely conservative theology and dwindling numbers in the corner church, Ecclesion has offered a strategy for a completely new approach to small congregations. Developed twenty-five years ago, this strategy has even more to offer in the present day.
The E-book is a lightly edited version of the original which is still in print and may be ordered from the author. Since this was first published, the bleak picture presented of the small to medium mainline congregation has become only more bleak. The Ecclesion strategy for Sunday is still confidently proposed as an appropriate solution.
The Ecclesion congregation will gather only once a week and will not promote or demand involvement in other activities, meetings or committees. Its people will be dedicated to the service of the wider community and they will spend their discretionary time there rather than in pursuits and business relating to the congregation.
However, when the people do meet they will take a little more time than the customary one hour. They will share in a worship style most appropriate for their numbers; they will engage in serious learning about faith, mission and ministry and they will share fellowship, usually over food and drink. And, significantly, they will make decisions about any business matters as part of the gathering. The deliberate intention is that members will not be withdrawn from the wider community to be “church” except for one single gathering a week.
This basic thesis of the 1990 book is absolutely unchanged. Most of what has occurred since its publication is still completely relevant. However, there has been considerable change in the recruitment and education/formation of clergy. The questions raised in the original chapters have been very largely addressed by the national church. So this section of the E-book has been adjusted somewhat. Similarly, the advent of Local Shared Ministry has fulfilled proposals originally offered. This style of ministry in the small congregation is much more comprehensively addressed in the author’s The Cavalry Won’t be Coming – a Way Ahead for the Small Church. These sections of the original have not been removed but they have been fairly heavily edited to reflect a more current situation.
From the Introduction:
Part of the purpose of this little book is to encourage some congregations to keep looking and hoping and praying for a vision that will be as a breath of fresh air in their situation. Many of them are familiar with the symptoms. Some know of the disease. All too few can actually lift their eyes beyond the immediate situation to see the bright cloud on the horizon. If this book can encourage some just to do that it will have achieved much of the hope of the writer.

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1991: An Epworth Bookroom (NZ) “Book of the Month”
2015: Warmly commended by Dr Keith Suter, ( whose dissertation on the Future of the Uniting Church in Australia offers one scenario that would be most appropriately fulfilled in an Ecclesion style of congregational life.

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