a Scriptural Framework
Psalm 23 offers an interesting framework for the evaluation of a congregational ministry. Begin by replacing the name of your congregation where the personal pronoun exists in the psalm and pause to review the implications of taking what the psalm says as directly applying to your congregation.
As an example, hear the Psalm for First Community Church.
“The Lord is First Community Church’s shepherd, FCC shall not want.”
If that is true, that FCC does not lack anything necessary as long as God is shepherding her, what does that about her ministry ?
“(God) makes FCC lie down in green pastures; (God) leads FCC beside still waters: (God) restores FCC’s soul. (God) leads FCC in right paths for his name’s sake.”
Look at the ways that God has provided your church with experiences of restoration. If God is leading you in right paths, what are some of those paths that beckon to you as a congregation?
“Even though FCC walks through the darkest valley, FCC fears no evil; for you are with FCC; your rod and your staff — they comfort FCC”
Review some of the dark moments in FCC’s history and upon reflection how have you been both prodded (the rod) and rescued (the staff) from those experiences. Does that past history provide you some comfort and strength that you are not alone in this journey?
“(God) prepares a table before FCC in the presence of FCC’s enemies; God anoints FCC’s head with oil; FCC’s cup overflows.”
All churches have negative experiences or opposition that acts like an enemy to their practice of the faith. Sometimes it is people, or the values of society, or the conditions that surround you. It may even be a negative spirit among some of the members. Yet even in the midst of such experiences, there have been moments of joy and celebration. It might be a liturgical event, like Easter, or it may be a birthday of an elderly member that is recognized. Maybe it is just a good church picnic in which you just enjoy the pleasures of eating and fellow-shipping together. Whatever it is, how have you allowed those experiences to interrupt the power of negativity and reminded you of the joy of faith?
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow FCC all the days of her life, and FCC shall dwell in the house of the Lord her whole life long.”
God has been with you at the beginning of your journey as a faith community and will be with you at the end. How can you affirm that faith as a congregation?
ENGAGING THE CONGREGATION
Having made use of Psalm 23 for session reflection on the ministry, it can also be used liturgically to engage the whole congregation. It can be printed in bulletin or on screen for a responsive reading. Then the sermon can draw upon the work of the session with respect to the Psalm and the ministry of the church. This way the whole body is engaged in the conversation.