It's called the "Visioning Process" and through it, we have created a Stewardship Committee and Alignment Team. We hired a group last year to help us conduct a thorough look at the health of our church, inside and out. It has included an all-church survey, committee formations, and new programs.
The goal is to create a new vision for the Morton AC Church.
Last Fall, we were pleased to have a minister with us from Indiana who has the job of working with many, many churches, both AC and non-AC. In looking at the people and their purpose, he can help determine the state of a church and why it is or isn't growing. It's very interesting.
He came and spoke to us and gave a presentation, and I remember absolutely loving it. Last night, we were able to hear the presentation again and see the slides he used.
This time around, I took notes. I didn't want to miss any of it, and I know that for me, the best way to remember something is to have it recorded somewhere in words.
The following is what I took from it. I share it because for the second time, I thought the exact same thing: Anyone who attends a Christ-following church needs to hear this. It's all interesting, eye-opening, true, and important.
Dare to Have a Purpose
Remember the song, "Dare to be a Daniel?"
"Dare to have a purpose... dare to make it known..."
In order to have a church that grows, you must have a clear sense of purpose. Churches that decline do so because their purpose is fuzzy. Perhaps focus is off.
How is this done?
The Spirit must be free to work in the church. However, in order for this to take place, the right environment must be created.
Here's an interesting statistic: 83% of churches in the U.S. are declining. 83%. Only 17% are growing, and of that 17%, only 4% growth is happening due to true Christian conversion. The rest of the growth is due to one church taking believers from another church.
Is that unsettling?
It was to me.
Why is this happening? Largely in part, due to a lack of purpose.
A church MUST have a compelling purpose. Every church is founded on a purpose, and starts with a "Story." Along the way, methods and programs are instituted in order to run the church and help make this happen. Yet after time, it's easy to place more importance on the "methods and programs" than on the founding feature: the compelling purpose, and the reason stemming from that which is the importance of allowing the Holy Spirit to be free to work.
There are four main factors that must align in order to create a Spirit-filled environment that can carry out a purpose. They are as follows:
This is so important.
Here, we have a balance. On the one end, we have those that feel reaching out into the world and the culture is the way to go: be in the world, not of it. On the other end is those that feel protecting ourselves from the evil and corrupt nature of the world is the best thing we can do. To preserve sound doctrine is where we need to be.
Which is it?
It's both. We must reach out to others WHILE protecting our hearts from evil and preserving the word of God. They must both occur. You can't have it one way or the other.
So culture is a huge topic. In fact, the majority of the talk was spent on this topic.
We must not conform to culture but we must reach out to it. And in order to reach out, we must understand it. Who are we trying to reach?
Culture has been through a lot of different ages...
This is the age that Jesus was on the Earth. Everyone spoke. Anything known was mostly learned by verbal communication. Word of mouth was how news spread. Church was mostly driven by a "speaker" of sorts.
Enters the printing press. It revolutionized the way communication occurred. Bibles could be printed, and church became more of a "meeting."
TV. Church transforms into an "event," and the ability to entertain was priority.
Our current age. Computers & internet has changed the way we think.
The Young Unchurched
Some more interesting statistics regarding the young unchurched, who most, by the way, believe in God or a Higher Power, but have no interest in seeking answers in church... I wonder why? See below statistics for the answer:
38% have a bad impression of Christianity
87% view church as judgmental
85% view church as hypocritical
It's not the "Me Church." At this point in the presentation, we were shown a video that was hugely exaggerated, but definitely drove the point home of how often we try to make a church fit our needs instead of viewing church as a place to fulfill compelling purpose and allow the Spirit to work. Church is about worship and sacrifice; we don't attend for ourselves. We attend to glorify God.
With the entrance of the broadcast age and now the digital age, faith is much more emotion-driven. The younger generation "feels" faith now more than ever. It's all about an emotional experience. Influence by performance and entertainment is much higher than before.
Respect of authority and the elderly is not there as it once was.
I state this as a fact, not as an accusation to my generation or as a "right" or "wrong." It's simply just how it is.
The explosion of the internet has given way to the ability to connect in more ways than ever before. We want to know how to connect with others, and we want answers as to how to make sense of our world. The demands of the digital age include participation, networks and communication, authenticity, and pragmatic answers. The "search to belong" has become a higher value now than in ages past.
Deal With It
It's easy to ask questions about what we don't know.
At this point, a story was told about this man when he was a young boy in college. He was learning about the human muscle and how it worked. At the end of the lecture, he felt the explanation and what he had read in his textbook was incomplete. He approached his professor about this, and shared his thoughts.
"That's all we really know," his teacher told him.
But... regardless of what is known or unknown... our muscles still work. Right? They don't rely on our knowledge.
Questions that may arise... issues we may have... areas that don't seem to make sense... anything regarding our Faith... the same principle applies.
We deal with what we don't know. And in the end, it works, regardless of our complete knowledge or not.
Faith is the same way, and that's the beauty of it. God works when we have Faith, often IN our inability to understand or know.
How to Create a Compelling Purpose
Imagine a graph with 3 circles overlapping. In the middle of the 3 circles is your "compelling purpose." So the 3 parts that go into creating that:
1) Leadership Passion
2) Community Needs
3) Congregation Giftedness
Leadership must be on board, in unity, and passionate. Community needs should be known and ways to develop and cater to this should be processed. And last but not least, the gifts of the people in the church must be used.
A church cannot function unless everyone participates and is willing to be used BY THE SPIRIT. Hidden agendas and selfish motives will always act as poison. Satan can use blessings and talents of people in a church to masquerade as something unfortunate rather than beneficial. Only by the Spirit's free work can the church fulfill a true purpose, and only in an environment created for the Spirit to work can this all come to fruition.
Our Church Purpose
We have come up with a beautiful vision for our church, and I am excited to see how it is carried out in the coming months. It was said that our (AC) church has something worth protecting, a certain uniqueness, virtue, and groundedness that is hard to find anywhere else. As we seek God, follow the Truth, and allow the Spirit to work, I have faith that our church can experience a growth due to a compelling story.
Don't Settle for "Safe Christianity"
Towards the end of the presentation, this video was shown. I've seen it about half a dozen times by now, but it touches me every time I watch it.
Love you all!