This weekend brought another of the cluster meetings for the area congregations participating in the Partnership for Missional Church. We have made a three year commitment to this process and are about 1/3 of the way through the second year.
Initially there were ten congregations; this weekend there were eight - Skillman, North Davis, South MacArthur, Preston Road, and Metro from the Dallas area, Highland and Minter Lane from Abilene, and Mineral Wells.
Each of these congregations is committed to carrying out the mission of God in its community. Several, like Skillman, are faced with changing demographics both in the neighborhoods surrounding their locations and within the congregations. More about this later, but for now three thoughts resonate...
We need, as leaders, to move from a model that is primarily focused on decision-making to one of discernment. I posted some thoughts on this about a year ago; we are comfortable taking information, making some decision, and going on about our business. We do that regularly in our professional lives, and carry those skills and practices into church leadership. The result is that we often decide and then ask God to join us, rather than trying to discern what God is already doing and joining Him.
We need to reframe our perspective of 'serving' the community. Instead of looking for ways to do for the community, we need to seek opportunities to do with the community. (This is something that Larry James figured out a long time ago.) We will not be able to enter into healthy relationship with people when we perceive them to be needy and ourselves as providers.
We must trust in the resurrection; we need to trust that if 'our' congregation as we know it should die, that God can raise it again into something greater that more closely reflects his purpose and carries out his mission. Much like Barton Stone and the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, we must be willing to give up our identity and sink into union with the body of Christ at large, trusting that God will indeed raise us up again in accordance with his purpose.