As our Vital Church Initiative Team approaches the June conclusion of its work on Phase 1 of the process, I am deeply grateful to those who have participated directly in...
As our Vital Church Initiative Team approaches the June conclusion of its work on Phase 1 of the process, I am deeply grateful to those who have participated directly in our work. Wade Cupps, Linda Maylone, Linda Owulette and my wife, Andrea Cortelyou have traveled each month with me to the 4-hour sessions where we have discussed principles of church vitality that we hope to embody in the life of our congregation. We have then met in our local church with Paul Cook, Ernest Owulette, Doug and Irene Schoonover, and Harold Smith to spread the discussion and insights more broadly. I want to express my appreciation to all of these individuals for their service and commitment to the church, not just in this process, but ever since my arrival in the summer of 2014.
Assuming that we move on to the next step of the VCI process, we will prepare over the summer to have a Consultation Event here at the church. This preparation will include gathering of data about our finances and membership and evaluating our ministries, including my preaching and pastoral ministries. The Consultation Event, which will likely occur sometime between the fall of 2017 and the late spring of 2018 will lead to the report of three prescriptions – specific steps we can take as a church toward a more vital future in ministry. After time to consider these prescriptions, we will have a special charge conference to accept them as part of the life of our church, or to choose another path.
As I think about these upcoming steps I have my own concerns. Personally, I will be under evaluation as a preacher and pastor in a way to which I am not accustomed. I’m sure you can understand the anxiety that comes with that, particularly because I want this entire process to succeed and I believe that an effective evaluation of my ministry is an important part of that success.
Secondly, I expect somehow that the prescriptions will require all of us to step out in faith in some concrete and potentially uncomfortable ways. I don’t expect this process to succeed if we only think this will require us to talk differently. I expect we will have to change the ways we do some things that are important to us in ways with which we may not feel confident. In fact we may have to get accustomed to the idea that the path to success will include a few partial failures along the path.
From the Bible, I draw the strength of the story of Abraham and Sarah who set out on the remarkable journey to be the parents of God’s Chosen People, late in life, with limited resources and with plenty of evidence of the impossibility of what God asked of them and promised to them. And yet they ventured forth, overcoming more than a few failures of their own, and obstacles created by others. Without much of a roadmap, other than God’s promise and presence, they journeyed away from a home of comfort, but devoid of joy, into the life of faith and of promises fulfilled for generations to come after them.
In fact, that is my ultimate hope, that the VCI process will bring our church a vitality of faith that will last well after I have moved on as pastor, perhaps beyond our lifetimes, and for generations to come.