By Rev. Eliana Maxim, Associate EP
I recently heard a theologian comment, “I’m not so worried about whether or not our children will have faith. My concern today is whether our faith will have children.” How will we continue to grow our churches? How can we ensure that we are both relevant and faithful?
Last week, 12 members of the Seattle Presbytery attended the PCUSA’s New Church Development conference in Florida. We had pastors and elders from four of our fellowships -Kenyan Community Church, Iglesia Restauracion, Vietnamese Presbyterian Fellowship and Christ Our Foundation Filipino Fellowship.
Various speakers and workshop facilitators challenged us to use our missional imaginations, to seek out where we might find brokenness and death in our communities and how we could break through and create healing relationships – much like Jesus did in his ministry. Leaders should be seeking to be a missional church, where each person has their own missional story. We should be more focused in nurturing opportunities for people to experience God, rather than planning worship services, building churches or creating complex gatekeeping policies. In short, we were challenged to rethink church, evangelism, leadership and buildings.
Calvin wrote, “We go to reveal the church”. So, consider the question – does your neighborhood really need another church, or does it need a public witness of the Gospel? Graham Standish, author of Becoming a Blessed Church, pointed out at the conference, “What causes churches to grow is not ‘bring a friend to church Sunday’, but by having worship and ministry opportunities that led people to an experience with and an encounter with Christ.”
The presbytery – through the ministry of the Catalyzing Missional Communities Committee – is actively partnering with all our fellowships as they discern how they are ministering to their communities and what sort of formalized relationships they desire to have with PCUSA. But beyond that, we seek to engage with all our churches in supporting how they can be a public witness to the living Word in the world and be the church.
May it be so.