Dr Hugh Osgood is a senior church leader in the UK with various roles including the following: Free Churches Moderator, President of Churches Together in England, Co-Chair of the UK Charismatic and Pentecostal Leaders’ Conference and President of Churches in Communities International. Hugh is married to Marion and they have three children and ten grandchildren. We talk to Hugh about his outlook and vision for churches across the UK.
There has been a huge growth of ethnic minority churches in the UK in the last few decades e.g. from Eastern Europe and Africa. How is this impacting the church generally in the UK?
There is a lot of diversity within the UK church. The book of Revelation speaks of a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9). We’re experiencing something of it now and that’s a cause for celebration.
Ethnic minority church attendance is very high and there is some evidence to show that this is providing a growth stimulus to churches outside the minority ethnic groups – particularly in London and the UK’s major cities. Churches grow when they are confident, particularly when they are confident in the gospel. The confidence that the minority ethnic groups have in the gospel is inspiring and infectious!
What significant moves of God are taking place in the UK today?
God always takes us by surprise. For instance, we were taken by surprise some years ago by the impact of Alpha – suddenly, relatively affluent middle-class churches started growing rapidly. I’m very excited by the recent growth of youth-orientated churches – there are many examples of vibrant youth churches all around the UK today.
University campuses provide fantastic opportunities for spreading the Gospel. Social action projects such as Foodbank, Christians Against Poverty (CAP) are in contact with people otherwise excluded from church life; the impact you’ve made as the Jesus Fellowship, like the Salvation Army in the past, really excites me too: this is how God does things: He chooses the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to bring to nothing things that are (1 Corinthians 1:28). God takes us by surprise.
Many churches around the UK are in transition – some of which were founded one generation or several generations ago. What are the challenges for such churches in transition?
Transition times are vulnerable times – people don’t know what is going to happen next.
As the Free Churches Moderator I work with denominations which had a very exciting beginning such as the Methodists and Salvation Army. As movements re-discover their original purpose, go back to their initial core values and learn to express things slightly differently, they will experience a second and third wind. It’s so important not to lose the essence of what they started with. Vision needs recasting from time to time and churches need to undergo a process of ‘gathering up the best’ in order to present it afresh and take it forward.
Transition times where people feel vulnerable are less dangerous than the times when people feel secure and settle in a rut. To be satisfied and stuck when you can be growing in God is worse than being vulnerable. Transition is challenging but worthwhile – it’s so important to press on through our vulnerabilities.
How important is succession in leadership?
There is no success without succession! Without succession your success ends when you end. Getting succession right is a challenge. I think it’s important not to insist on replacing yourself with someone like yourself. When establishing succession, we must be prepared for change. I think it is more important to raise up groups and teams than just one particular individual – Jesus raised 12 people around Him.
Have you a sense of something God is saying to the church in the UK?
The Lord desires with all His heart to see the Church rise up with greater confidence in the gospel. We are almost in danger of huddling together for warmth, rather than standing up in the boldness of what God has given us. We need not so much to speak up for what we are against but to stand up for what we are for so people can hear the gospel! My conviction is: if we do this, an incredible harvest will be reaped.
We often talk the Church down. God has got something much better for us in the future and we need to believe for that. The gospel has not lost its power. I’m convinced that the situation in the UK is anything but dark: we will see the light of the gospel shining forth.
For more info go to Hugh’s website.
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