Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Risk-Taking Church

I have written letters for the annual report every year for twenty-one years.   I don't know if anyone ever reads them.   Here is this year's.   The challenge facing my congregation is that we have many visitors.   We have many new faces.   Sunday morning is not enough.  What is the glue to make church a community of meaningful work and play?   That was on my mind when I wrote this.

Dear Friends,

This past August marked my eighth anniversary as your pastor.   I have been pastor of this congregation longer than I was pastor of each of my previous congregations.   You know what that means, right?

It means we like each other!

It also means we have a lot of stuff yet to do.  

I am excited, proud, and honored to be the minister of the most progressive congregation in the region.      That doesn't just happen.  It is because faithful, visionary people have taken risks.  People are hearing about us.  Whether it is our advocacy for marriage equality and ecological sustainability, our Jesus Seminars on the Road and Evolution Sunday, we are blazing a trail for a 21st century faith.  

The question is, “Where to now?”   We have new people coming in our doors every week.  How do we turn visitors into activists, strangers into family, and observers into participants?     That is our central question.

Here is a way that is tried and true.  Give people a friend and a job.  

Here is my question:  How can I help you get that done?    What can I and your leadership do programmatically to help people make connections with one another and to find meaningful things to engage our bodies and minds?  I look forward to your ideas.

For those of you who have been here for a while, here is a question for you:  Remember when you first came through the doors, a little skeptical perhaps, a bit shy, uncertain in a sea of unknown faces.  You weren’t sure when you were supposed to stand up or sit down during worship or if you “really belonged.”    Remember the person who reached out to you and welcomed you and showed you the ropes?  Remember the person who befriended you? 

You are that person today. 

If you are relatively new to our congregation, here is your question:  What do you need to have happen before you can say, “This is my church” and “I belong?”  Can you make that happen? 

We are a permission-giving church and a risk-taking church.   If you have an idea, we have the space and other resources.   If you want to start a class, a ministry, a cause, we are all about that.  As long as you don’t burn the place down, we are good to go.    

Exciting adventures await FPC Elizabethton!

I am honored to take risks with you!


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