Exploring the Intersections of Faith and Life

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2008

The Two Most Important Things…

Recently I have been cleaning out files and old emails, and was reading thru a bunch I’ve accumulated around the theme of transformation. Over the course of the last three years I’ve read countless books and articles on the subject, attended events where we’ve focused on it, and picked up skills in specific tools for transformation efforts in churches. It comes in handy when I am with some of our church members and they ask for help.

The answer, though, isn’t a particular tool or strategy plan. Now don’t get me wrong, I think tools, such as Natural Church Development, the Acts 16:5 Initiative, and such, are very helpful – when we don’t know where to start, they give us direction. But in every example of a church that has made a successful transition and shown sustained growth and vitality, there were two key factors present:

1. They began with a spiritual base. They were intentional about developing their prayer life, Bible study, discernment, and spiritual practices. Pastor, elders, deacons, members all. Let’s not forget who we follow and who calls us! First and foremost, we are followers of Jesus Christ, who calls us into an ever deeper and richer relationship with God. God is also our source of strength in every endeavor. The though of trying to do anything of substance in the church apart from God is sheer folly. Churches that are meeting the challenge of being relevant and thriving in this changing world are building a strong spiritual base.

2. They showed courage. They were willing to risk. More importantly, they were not only willing to risk doing things they’ve never done before, they actually stepped up and did them! They had courage to try things that scared them. Let’s be honest – we’d love it if we didn’t have to go outside our comfort zone for the church to thrive and be relevant in today’s world. But the reality is, that is exactly what Christ calls us to do, and that is what it will take for our churches to make a turn-around.

As I said at Tuesday’s presbytery meeting, we are in the season of Advent, when the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Don’t be afraid.” Of course, when the angels say that, I have to wonder – is there something I SHOULD be afraid of? There must be! But what follows “don’t be afraid” is “I will be with you.” God will be with us. We are not alone.

Encourage your churches to build their spiritual base, and to step out in courage and take some risks. Not only is there really no other way, but when they do, they will discover a new strength and joy in serving God and sharing God’s grace with others.

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