I spent Wednesday this week at the launch of HeartEdge. This is a new initiative coming from St. Martin-in-the-Fields, which is seeking to set up a network of churches to see if the combination of congregation + commerce + culture + compassion that marks the life of the church there, can be something which can help other churches in terms of mission and sustainability.
Sam Wells argues that the old benefactor (which historically resourced the Church of England) and stewardship (which remains the classic Baptist congregational mode of resource) models are no longer working. This was the story at St Martin's in 1987 and the response was to grow a commercial wing, initially to resource, but which increasingly began to shape the life of the church that historically was (and is) marked by ministries of compassion. This new model Wells calls the kingdom model. The classic view is that the world needs the church, Wells argues that now (perhaps always) the church needs the world.
Those who gathered on Wednesday were overwhelming Anglican, so it will be interesting to see how Baptists might fit in where they decide to join the network. It will also be interesting to see what kind of commerce (outside of room hiring) churches outside of city-centre locations might be possible to develop.
The day included stories from other churches, although none seem to have full grasped the 4 Cs mentioned above, at least in a strategic sense. They were good stories doing interesting things, but St. Martin's seems to be flourishing because it has found a way to integrate congregation, commerce, culture and compassion increasingly together, in some part probably because of theological wisdom that Sam Wells has to tell a story and offer a vision that the church has embraced.
It is called HeartEdge because it is for churches 'working at the heart of culture, community and commerce, with those at the margins and on the edge.'