On a flight some time ago I sat next to a couple who wanted to talk. The man sitting next to me asked what I did for a living. I told him I was a pastor. He said he was a "PB". I have heard the term "PK" before referring to Preachers Kid. He explained it meant Preacher's Brat. He was a few years older than I and we talked about life in the church and ministry in general. Then he asked me what I thought the formula for growing a church was. I asked him the same question and he said the old axiom, find a need in your community and fill it, which is the general paradigm popular in his denomination. He shared that many of the churches in Boston were shrinking and worshipping only 35 or so each week.
As I thought through my answer I found myself being a bit too critical of some of the megachurches in my thoughts. I offered the thought that God doesn't define a successful ministry by the number of people in worship each week. After all, Jesus started with 12 and ended up with 11. Jesus was not unsuccessful. Then I shared with him what I believe about church growth. I believe that the harvest is in God's hands. Jesus didn't ask us to pray for the harvest, but to pray for workers to work the harvest field. The harvest is always God's business. We are called to be faithful to do the work God has placed in our midst. But still God desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.
Proverbs 29:18a (KJV) came to my mind, "Where there is no vision, the people perish...." What is our vision at Our Redeemer? Where does that vision come from? We would probably all agree that the vision of ministry comes from God. But to whom does that vision come to? Does God give the vision to only one person? Is that person the pastor? The next question is, How do we live out the vision as God's people, gathered together, growing up and going out by God's grace?
I had always been of mind that the vision of a church is given by God to a congregation. That if it is the Pastor's vision, given by God or otherwise, that vision will more than likely depart when the pastor does. Many of the megachurches have very long term pastors that have had a vision and have been relentless in bringing that vision to fruition. Is that the way it is supposed to work?
The Elders and Council are planning a leadership retreat in the near future. We will prayerfully struggle with our vision at Our Redeemer. We are at a crossroads. Although we are very frugal in our spending, we continue to fall short in our offerings to reach our budget. How long can this go on? What are some options? How can we use the space God has blessed us with for God’s glory and to increase our income? What does God have in store for us at Our Redeemer as we move into the future? There are many possibilities.
The world has changed in many ways and we need to change with it if we are to be a beacon of light to a world lost in darkness. The world has remained the same in many ways as well. We still live in a fallen world and are lost in our sin apart from faith in Jesus Christ. In order to remain faithful to God, we dare not compromise the Holiness of God and Scripture. Since COVID has interrupted the lives of our people and our worship, we have posted online sermons. Now we are live streaming the 11:00 service and hope to live stream the 8:30 service as well in the near future. Our website has been created anew and is beautiful and easy to navigate. We are going to need the continued support of all of our members. Please invite your unchurched acquaintances to join us for worship.
We have an important role to play in and among all the megachurches and different denominations. Our Sacramental view of worship and our distinction between law and gospel make us unique and I believe we should not let go of those things in order to try to grow. There are some things we can let go of without compromising our identity as Christians. What are those things? That's where vision comes in. Please pray for Our Redeemer as we seek to discover God's vision for us and the power of the Holy Spirit to live it out. God wants His Kingdom to grow. Are there things we are doing that create a stumbling block to the growth God desires? Pray that when God provides answers we have eyes to see them and the commitment to carry them out.