THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING
Since WW II, many denominations have tried to become organizationally efficient in the exercise of their ministry. We see it in the development of multi-staff churches and the specialized ministry that draws upon unique gifts of the individual. The same specialization is seen in many presbytery staffs. Recently both in churches and in the judicatories, there has been a felt need to pause in our busyness and refocus on the spiritual truths that has called the church into ministry. In some churches this is referred to as discipleship training.
Several presbyteries have recognized the value in stepping aside from the legislative and educational aspects of their ministry and taking time for spiritual development. In past blogs, I have provided some designs for how this can be done both in the meetings and in other activities that remind us that we are all part of the One Body of Christ.
DO YOU HEAR THE WIND BLOWING?
The value of the liturgical calendar for churches is that it invites us to deepen our faith in a framework shaped by the life of Christ. We have just experienced Lent and Easter as a culmination of that journey. Now we move towards Pentecost and the activity of the Spirit to energize the church.
In previous blogs, I have been urging the presbyteries to actively initiate exploration of what we mean when we believe that we are part of the Body of Christ not only as individual congregations but as a community of those churches.
One of the realities that we face as a church in this country is the impact of many people rejecting the need to participate in or commit to a church. The decline in numbers of members also means the reduction in resources among many of our churches. This results in a trimming of their financial support to presbytery, synod, and general assembly. It is easy to scapegoat the causes of this decline, but it may also be an opportunity for us to reexamine the nature of ministry in a context of weakness. Since this was the context of the beginning of the church, when disciples were so powerless that they felt the need to hide, this may be a fruitful time to ask towards what is God calling us.
According to Matthew, the disciples having fled in fear, hear reports of Jesus’ resurrection and gone to Galilee clinging to their hope that all was not over. “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (28:17) It was in that context, to a group who couldn’t even come to a consensus on whether to believe or not, that Jesus commissioned them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .”
Maybe it is in a time of weakness and fear, filled with both doubt and belief, that we are most open to hearing Christ’s audacious call for the next phase of our ministry. I want to offer you some ways that a presbytery could help the churches listen to that Pentecostal rushing of wind. Remember they experienced that empowerment when they were hidden away in fear.