A priority must be how the congregation is taking the next steps of faith and following Christ in mission today and tomorrow. Too often a church gets stuck in the past and fails to know the current neighbors, and forgets how to meet new people and have an active community church life beyond the walls of the congregation. It is imperative that every congregation take, at the least, an annual, honest assessment of the vitality of the congregation and the state of the community. The emphasis in this is to pray deeply, discuss openly, and plan strategically how the individuals of a church and the congregation as a whole will GO and love God and love neighbor in the year ahead.
Note that this is well beyond the typical church practice where a smaller percentage of a congregation engages in mission. Instead, this is looking for a congregational movement in outreach to join in with what God is doing in the community. This appeals to a strong sense of God's redemptive drama continuing to play out today in every community, and members of a congregation going out of their way to know this and be part of it. This is looking for everyone in a congregation to take their next step of faith in Christ in action, and even more boldly, seeking the group to join together in an even more dynamic expression of faith and dependence upon God and one another. We are doing nothing less than seeking a new day for a community and congregation, and a fresh expression of the Holy Spirit, that is shown through our everyday lives.
How is your church- as individuals and a corporate community of faith- loving your your community as you do yourselves?
Is your church current in the life of the community? Or are you 5, 10, 20 years or more behind in being a vital partner and contributor in your neighborhood or town?
Is your congregation known as a club for a certain group of people, a landmark for directions, or in some way identified by community people?
What does the next chapter of your congregation look like?
Both "by the numbers" and through prayer and discussion you can find ways to open your congregation to God, to one another, and to your neighbors.
Many congregations find that a church wide focus on mission, perhaps over a season or even a year, can be one way of realizing this new day in the mission of God. A mission celebration can be a way to have an event, yet build in a time of preparation that has strong elements of prayer, discernment, and assessment geared toward a sharp focus. Most congregations need to discontinue doing so little of so much! After all, that has gotten us where we are. Instead, many churches are finding benefit in more focus with fewer mission partners and going deeper into the life of the community, the relationships, and the church connection. If you are interested in learning more this lends itself well to conversations and consultation as there is a little complexity to this as attention must be given to what works in a given congregation and not merely following a generic recipe that works in every church.
Consider how God is at work in your community and how your church might best join in with that redemptive action. That's the sort of mission celebration and congregation in mission we want to help you experience! Rev. Scott Parrish serves in this role for both North Georgia, and for our UMC Global Ministries, and would be glad to assist you in this transformational experience.