Dear Pastors and Ministry Leaders:
During our 2015 end-of-year CAD team meeting we broke into groups to list our strengths and challenges, and to identify objectives for 2016. Though good ideas emerged, I noticed the challenges getting the most attention in ways that almost were threatening to become the focus of our planning. I say “almost” because in one of those Holy Spirit “aha moments” we agreed we should focus on our strengths, not our challenges. That shift changed how our plan for this year took shape.
There’s an important principle here that I think applies to the planning you do within your congregation. I believe we all need to operate from a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity. Doing so is a key to renewal in all of our congregations. Let me explain.
Operating from scarcity means holding tightly to what we possess, fearing it may run out. The assumption is that there are insufficient resources. This mindset is especially prominent within very small congregations (we refer to them as fellowship groups) where it’s hard to envision a future when, “most of our members are old and we haven’t had a visitor in years.” Given that perspective, it seems prudent to hold tight to money, ideas, time, possessions, positions, etc. Though a scarcity mentality is common in our culture and deeply ingrained in our nature, it’s not the fruit of faith, as noted by Jesus in his parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21).
In contrast, operating from abundance means knowing there truly is enough to go around because, by faith, we live in communion with a generous God. This abundance mentality is exemplified in Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-15). With an abundance mentality we are a generous people—sharing all we have been given: time, ideas, finances—all we possess—in order to help others and in doing so to participate in what God is doing to build up his kingdom. Operating from abundance means knowing it truly is “more blessed to give than to receive.” It means building up people and relationships—living out of the extravagant grace and loving communion to which our name (GCI) points.
As many of our smallest congregations transition to fellowship groups, my prayer is that they do so from a posture of abundance, seeing that God has placed them where he has, and given them the mission to which they are called. It is not just larger congregations that are called to renewal—God has brought all of GCI to the threshold of renewal and has renewal plans for each congregation, no matter their size. This issue of Equipper focuses on renewal within fellowship group-size congregations. In our 2016 regional conferences we’ll have workshops focused on helping fellowship groups be as effective as they can be. In the meantime, I encourage you to give prayerful thought to answering some questions that flow from Paul’s challenge in Romans 12:3-13 for us to use “sober judgment” in considering ways we can be truly generous in using the gifts that, by grace, a generous God has imparted to us:
- What is our average worship attendance?
- What is the generational and racial/ethnic makeup of our congregation?
- Do we have a community (focus group) where we are known because we are actively serving?
- Are we locked into (comfortable with) our weekly service format, or are we open to trying something new?
- What is happening in our congregation between the Sunday worship services?
- What would we perceive as a “loss” if things changed within our present group?
- What do we see for our congregation over the next three years?
- What resources do we have for more actively joining Jesus in his mission of drawing all humanity to himself?
- Is the Spirit nudging us to consider new approaches? How are we responding?