Transforming a Congregation is Tough


Transformation is tough. Up in Alaska, it seems like you make a few small steps and then people move away. Where do you start getting traction. Here’s one answer and it seems like a long way away:

For congregations to transform 20 to 25 percent of the active adults must be on a deep spiritual and missional journey in their personal lives, and see their congregation as their place of gathering and scattering that enhances the impact of their individual journey.

Community is important. Congregational community is extremely important. Beyond the core group of people on a deep spiritual and missionary journey, another 20 to 25 percent of people in the congregation community must be preparing or pursuing a deep spiritual and missional journey. Without this the overall journey of the congregation may be too shallow.

(via)

Two Questions

Lawrence Wilson says that there are only “Two Questions Any Pastor Should Be Asking Right Now.

The first question is one about the Christian character of the pastor, him or herself.

How do I get people to imitate Jesus in daily life as opposed to giving intellectual assent to Christian ideas without exhibiting life transformation?

There needs to be transformation. And it needs to start with the individual who is pastor.

And the second question is about how we witness in the world:

How do we transform the public perception of Christians as judgmental, anti-intellectual, and mean-spirited to welcoming, hopeful, and helpful, which is how the ordinary folk of Jesus’ day perceived him?

The answer to both questions is by being more like Jesus. It’s a matter of discipleship for the person pastoring.

Discipleship: Making a Profound Difference in the Life of a Few People

The world is not transformed by making a superficial difference in many lives, but by making a profound difference in a few. Real, lasting life-change takes place not at the macro-level, but at the micro-level, one on one, close up.

You change the world by changing a life. And you change a life by making a disciple. It’s what Jesus did. He could have impressed us from the heavens, but he chose to impact us by entering our world and pouring his life into a few men who, in turn, did the same.

The disciple-making mandate is the mandate of all believers. Author Robert Coleman notes in his book The Master Plan of Discipleship, “If making disciples of all nations is not the heartbeat of our life, something is wrong, either with our understanding of Christ’s church or our willingness to walk in His way.”

 

(From Dale Losch)

The Scratch and Smell Church

The language in our best theology is that a church exists as a “sign, symbol, and foretaste, of the Kingdom of God.” It’s a scratch-and-smell experience for the people around. When people rub up against the church, a Kingdom aroma should waft from it; they should catch a glimpse of life as God intended it to be lived in the first place. And just so we don’t forget, the reach of the Kingdom of God is not just local; it is regional, universal, in fact it is cosmic in scope. It’s a big purpose and thinking about it in this way changes the game. (Alan Hirsch)

Active-Reflective Environments for Discipleship

OK, I’ve been on a few short-term missions trips. They’ve been good. I’ve had a great time with youth or other adults. I’ve enjoyed the process.

But, I’ve also heard the bad stuff about short-term missions. Sometimes it can be paternalistic. Sometimes, when going to impoverished areas, the missionaries go back to swanky hotels for fancy dinners while the persons they are there to serve go hungry.

But Aaron Monts uses short-term missions as a way to talk about discipleship in the local church…that what short-term missions provide is an “Active-Reflective Environment” which is different that just passing along information (which is what most of our discipleship has been). Here’s some of what he has to say on his blog:

In my experiences and through many conversations, the common consensus is no greater transformation of the disciple occurs than in those who return home from a short-term missions trip. Now, while it is completely impractical and perhaps not very beneficial to send hundreds of people each year from your congregation on short-term missions trips, it does say something about the total immersion into discipleship that occurs. It is an active engagement of the mind, the heart, the body, the soul. Sure, some of the transformation wears off once the person returns home and some time has elapsed, but is there not something important to take away from this experience?

The core of a short-term missions experience from a discipleship standpoint is that of the active-reflective environment in which the person is immersed. We have become really good at creating environments where one or the other are present–action without reflection or reflection without action. Active-reflective discipleship is the key to unlocking not only discipleship, but the true heart of missional discipleship: a discipleship that takes an active role in the Missio Dei (Mission of God).

So, does “Active-Reflective” ring true to you?

Dry Spell

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OK, so our missional community is in a little dry spell. It’s not that our times together haven’t been less than fruitful. It’s not that the material we’ve looked at hasn’t been challenging. The issue has been we haven’t been meeting.

Oh, I am full of excuses. I got lots of them. See, I’ve been out of town for a few weeks so far this summer. We had a lovely vacation with our little girls. Plus I was gone for a bicycle race for a weekend which involved some preparation time as well. Then I had a memorial service to attend.

And those are just my conflicts.

Everyone else has been exceptionally busy as well. Summer is the time of our seasonal, tourism-related work around here. Everyone is out to make their money. Our retired persons are rarely fully retired in the summer. Our younger persons are thoroughly employed. And all of us have our Alaskan summertime visitors and play the part of host and tour guide.

So, we’re in a little dry spell.

Perhaps these questions from Verge Network could help us start seeing some growth again:

1. What was the best part of your community this past season?

God loves to give us stories that make us smile, laugh, and remember with joy His goodness. Every community has experienced the goodness of God no matter the season they have faced.

Reflect on the stories of redemption, transformation, fun, joy, and God’s breakthroughs this last season.

2. How has a love for God increased in the people in and around your community?

It may be in a few individuals or it may be the whole community, but there is no doubt that a love for God increases around a community pursuing Him and His mission. Who have seen grow in their love for God and how have you? Have you shared that with them?

Reflect on how God’s love has become more tangible during this season.

3. How have people felt the love of God through others in your community this past season?

When the community becomes family you begin to see their gifts, time, energy, and emotions be used for the good of others. How have you seen God’s love manifest through the people in your community to one another.

Reflect on how the community has loved one another well during this last season.

4. How have those outside the community experienced the gospel as good news in word or deed over this season?

It may be one person or it could be many who have experienced the good news of Jesus Christ through your community. They may have heard the good news and seen it in how you serve others.

Reflect on how your community has extended God’s love to those who don’t follow God yet.

(Picture Credit/Creative Commons)

“Imagine This” — A Vision Based on on Alan Hirsch

Imagine by Flickr user Flying High.

Imagine this…

 

What if every Jesus-following man or woman in our cities made it a priority to intentionally make space for sustainable and loving relationships with just two or three others, and asked them to do the same? Within 50 years, what kind of impact could we make?  Our hope is that the Rule and Reign of God would be proclaimed and demonstrated in every life around us.

(Quote via Forge America / Photo credit/creative Commons)