Friday, June 20, 2008

Church and Growth

Recently I have felt a real tug on my heart to be the church in the world, rather than just do church within the walls of Sunset.
This may seem like a no brainer, but, if I were honest, the largest part of my week/life/thoughts/actions focuses on doing church week in and week out. It has been my calling.

I've been wrestling with how to reconcile these two things and was stuck. I didn't like that I felt myself changing. Didn't know how to answer questions about church growth when I was caring less about how many people came on Sunday and more about how many of us were in relationships with people who are far from God and impacting our community with the love of Christ. I knew that the change was the Holy Spirit at work in me but couldn't figure out what it meant for my "normal" life I have come to love.

At the Arts Conference I had (made) time to listen to the Holy Spirit. Nancy Beach prayed about God being a transforming God and this concept broke through the doubt and fog in my heart. That's right... God is about transformation... I am still in process, God never sought to leave anyone where He found them... (deep sigh of relief and some tears)

Then during a session at the Arts Conference... after coming to grips with my own personal transformation, I was able to move to mission.
"personal transformation is not the whole story." "The church is not the end user of the Gospel. We are to be agents of healing and transformation.-- Brian McLaren"
I came alive in this moment.

This morning I got this quote in my inbox.
The Church is an organism that grows best in an alien society. -C. Stacey Woods

It's everywhere I look... and I'm listening Lord!

I have been doing some serious thinking on this since I came home, I get the role of the church in the world. It's hard work, it asks something of us and is not as easy as going to church for an hour on Sunday. I believe that God has been at work in the life our my church to wake us back up to the priority of evangelism, he has drawn leaders around our Senior Pastor who share this passion. So many examples come to mind... Ron's admission that we had become to inwardly focused and challenges from the platform to connect people to Jesus, Matt Singley handing out invites door to door in the snow, Jay McKenney who is Jesus in the world to neighbors and strangers, Julie Reid, our ministry leader who could be internally focused because she believes so strongly in worshiping our God together in community, yet she constantly reminds and challenges our team to remember people who are far from God, people who need hope when they come in our walls, Kurt Brandemihl's ruthless pursuit of lost kids, Women's GIFT move to service as a part of their weekly Bible Study and the tenacity and momentum that our Outreach missional team is currently leading with. How does the Hour on Sunday fit in?

I came across some challenging and encouraging stuff in a post by Sally Morgenthaler.
The "worship-driven subculture" was a sizeable part of the contemporary church that had just been waiting for an excuse not to do the hard work of real outreach. An excuse not to get their hands dirty." speaker unknown in a conversation with Sally Morgenthaler.
ouch that hurts...

And one quote from Sally's final post on her worship resource website when she decided to take a break from the worship focused sub-culture machine.
Worship must finally become, as Paul reminds us, more life than event (Romans 12:1-2). To this end, we will be focusing on the radically different kind of leadership practices necessary to transform our congregations from destinations to conversations, from services to service, and from organizations to organisms."

Our team meets next week to set our goals for the upcoming season of ministry. How will the Holy Spirit guide our conversations and decision making? I'm so excited to see. I'm spending the week seriously preparing for our time together. Please be praying for wisdom and direction for our team, for our leaders.

One last quote from Sally's blog, this was SO encouraging!
"Yes, worship openly and unapologetically. Yes, worship well and deeply. (Which means singing songs that may include anger, sadness, and despair. Have we forgotten that David did this? Have we discarded the psalms?) But let our deepened, honest worship be the overflow of what God does through us beyond our walls."
-- Sally Morgenthaler


tyler said...

awesome post janet.

Stephanie said...

wow.. good stuff! thanks for sharing!


GodSide said...


My heart beats twice as fast when people begin talking about Her standing up and actually GOING to meet people where they are at instead of sitting back expecting to show up week in and week out. We can work our fingers to the bone trying to make services that engage outsiders...but none of it will matter if we aren't intentionally going after them.

When you read Matthew 18:12-14 you have to wonder just what Jesus meant speaking of finding the lost sheep He said; "he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off" Are we happier as a church reaching the lost sheep or caring for the found sheep?

Continuing to pray for Sunset;

"May God fill our seats with the lost and our mouths with the Gospel"

Melinda said...

Amen! This is what fuels my work at Westview, Habitat, Resource Center, etc.

Matt Singley said...

I can't believe you remember that snowy day...huh. Wow.

I loved reading this, and it made me miss you, because I would love to hear you say this in a conversation that we have in the hallway. But I guess I'll have to settle for 970 miles of internet cable stretched between LA and PDX.

I know you are the church in the world already, you just don't see it as much right now. You will. Bless you!