Friday, November 4, 2011

Demise or Dream- Dilemma of the Small Congregation

Over the past few years I have the opportunity and blessing to work with a few small churches that were struggling in their ministry direction. It is indeed a privileged because the folks in these congregations are dedicated and committed to the message of Christ. One of the biggest issues they face is what I call, Fuzzy Future, their direction seems unclear and with little focus. They know that they need to be the Body of Christ to their world and the world around them. At times, they just don't know how to accomplish, The Great Commission. Over a period of an eight to twelve hour seminar style gathering the people are able to begin understanding how God has impressed upon them certain values. The values we keep close to our heart are the source of great passion. From these values springs forth a prayer filled vision that empowers the congregation to live out the commission from Christ.

Values- All people have a set of values. What they determine in their mind and soul to be important and a priority in living. Values are as varied as the people that hold them. A few are common and universal, Loving relationships, Children, Health, Nutrition, Safety etc. Others might be music, education, fellowship, and specific cultural or demographic values.  The important thing for congregations is to come to an understanding of mutual values.

Understanding mutual values is the first step in congregational focus. People need to come together and talk about and define their values. This first step may take as little as an hour, or more. It is amazing to watch this process as people can become very passionate as they talk about what pulls at their heart. Values are written out on large sheets of paper or marker board. The next step is to prioritize the stated values. There may be a few values written down or dozens. These values need to be prioritized down to four or five. These four or five values will be the driver behind the most passion and commitment from the group. The group needs to be in agreement that the values are of the highest priority. Prayer and communication will be the elements that enable these to come together.

Vision- This portion of the gathering is of the utmost importance. Worship and prayer need to preceded and proceed this portion. The gathering needs to pray over and ponder the vision that God will lay upon their hearts in light of the values they have expressed. This "Visioning" process will take time. It may be best if a time of rest and more prayer takes place prior to expression and understanding of God's Vision for the congregation. This is a time of openness and vulnerability and the freedom for all to express themselves must not be hindered. Remember this is asking people to reveal their heart and desire for their church as they believe God is showing them.The process of expressing and writing down the vision needs time.

Prayer and worship will be used by God to bring His people together. Remember it is His church and He wants His people to accomplish His will depending upon His power. The vision that is born through this process will be unique to the congregation. It will be their passion for ministry and purpose that will empower them into the future.

The priority of the Vision Statement is utmost. This statement will be used to guide the congregation in the focus of ministry. Resources such as financial, building use, time and talent will be focused on the ministry of the vision. This will bring great freedom to the people as they have agreed to the new priorities in ministry.

Mission- The mission of the church has been given to us by Jesus Christ himself. He told His followers that their life focus would be the spreading of the gospel. Matthew 28:18 begins, The Great Commission. The mandate to the church is plain and straightforward. Take the message of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ to the known world. Bring new believers into the fellowship and empower their growth into Christ likeness.

Many churches are in a state of confusion because they think their mission changes or is open to any or all sorts of interpretation. Any mission that wanders from the heart of Christ is not the churches. It may be noble and good for people or society but it is not the mission of the church nor is it the true mission of the people of God. The spread of the gospel brings life to people. The people that the gospel changes become participants in the message. They reach out and touch others and the church is alive.

I am not stating that all outreach ministries within the local church should stop. Not in the least. What must be clear is the preaching of the transforming power and love of God as shown in the life, death and resurrection of Christ, must be first and foremost. Ministries of feeding the hungry, helping the disadvantaged, and the myriad of other social causes must be kept in place.

The small church can be a vibrant and living power as she knows her values, has a passion filled vision and is sold out to living out, The Great Commission.

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly, I'm working through Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God with a mentee. I had her read ahead just a paragraph or two in the chapter for next week because it was so exciting to me. It dealt with a church that had given up: attendance way down, etc. They decided to do Blackaby's book as I am. In the course of their study, several things happened that could only be God leading and directing. In the end, they found all sorts of new ministries and obviously decided to stay :-)