Our congregations, parishes, communities of faith continue to play a vital role in participating in God’s mission bringing wholeness and redemption to the world.
Pastors are tasked with the often daunting, but rewarding, responsibility of helping their people discover the ways the Spirit may be nudging them to join God’s work in the world and, in the process, deepen their faith as followers of Jesus. Pastors want to see their congregations thrive! This is the reason many felt called to ministry in the first place.
There is much to distract local churches from attending to their part in participating in God’s mission. Sunday morning attendance may be dwindling, finances may be strapped, able volunteers may be thin on the ground. Even in congregations that are not too concerned about their future viability, there is a feeling that business as usual is no longer an option. Evangelism used as a recruitment tool, is being met with skepticism. Outreach programs, while perhaps meeting a need in the community, often do not provide fertile ground for nurturing new relationships. Instead, these programs put our people in the role of benefactors which creates boundaries that prevent relationships of mutuality.
The stakes feel high. Pastor’s may not feel like trying something new is an option because it might not work. It can feel like there is little room for failure or for a particular outcome not to be realized.
And in the midst of everything and as has always been the case, the Spirit is on the move. The challenge before us is not to fix all the problems in our churches. Instead, we need to hold those problems lightly, or even set them aside for a time, so that we can focus our energy on discerning where the Spirit is leading. Congregations are beginning to pay attention to their neighbourhoods with curiosity and openness to what the Spirit is revealing. They are experiencing God’s hope-filled future and following the way of Jesus with renewed energy. There is a willingness to be present and listen to the stories of those we share life with, and experience God at work in unexpected people and places.
Joining what God is already doing in the lives of others is not a tactic or a program. Instead, it is an aligning of our work with God’s work and a way for congregations to learn to walk alongside the Spirit on the move. It is a way for pastors like you to step daily into your call to encourage and lead God’s people into following the ways of Jesus.