Via the Nashville District Site
What are appropriate measures of a congregation’s vitality? Are they best expressed in quantitative or qualitative terms? Quantitative measures may point to successful ministry but are not necessarily predictive of a healthy condition of the soul of a church. Our District Missional Strategy Team has chosen to embrace a vision for the district expressed in qualitative terms. It appears at the top of our website home page (nashvilledistrict.org).
It is a fearful time for many churches, both in our Nashville District and beyond. Most of our medium and small churches are experiencing reductions in quantitative things – worship attendance, revenue to support our infrastructures, overall participation in congregational ministries – things we have traditionally associated with successful ministry and on which we rely to maintain the institution. If we have the energy for anything, it is focused on survival considerations. We want short-term fixes that will produce a balanced financial statement. We see ourselves in a failure scenario where it’s easier to point a finger at someone or something beyond ourselves as responsible for our present circumstances.
It is also a hopeful time for the church, a time that challenges us to acknowledge that the vitality of our congregations equates with the collective spiritual vitality of individual members and can only be measured rightly in qualitative terms such as loving service, reconciliation, and unity of effort in ministry. All else is easily measurable support without which most human institutions will fail. What if we saw our church as inspired and directed by a God who will use us to achieve God’s purposes if we will align ourselves with those purposes as revealed for us in the example and teaching of Jesus? We are called to bear fruit and to “thrive.”
The commitment of our Strategy Team is to support individual congregations in their efforts to discover who they are beyond statistics on a report form. This implies a change in a way of thinking pointing to a new way of doing – a new “normal.” New questions are called for:
Can I envision a church experiencing resurrection? What does a resurrected church look like? What needs to happen for this to become reality? How can I partner with God to become a more fruitful disciple of Jesus Christ? What is my role in helping the church better reflect the image of Christ? … achieve its full capacity for witness?
Old forms, ways, and attitudes must die before resurrection can be reality. Our Strategy Team has come to this realization. Force- feeding is not on our agenda; support and encouragement of each congregation in its journey toward resurrection is on the agenda. Coaches are now working with one of every three churches in the Nashville District to envision a new future and to help make their vision a reality. We hope to continue to expand the conversation and extend coaching as funds are available to those who are ready, willing, and able to envision a new future. Our sense is that this is God’s preferred way for us and that the spiritual energy we need for the task is available from God if we will open ourselves to it.