Hello Friends! –
We had another great Congregational Conversation last Sunday at First Pres. Seattle. We actually considered: What if this “great unraveling” (the massive social change that started back in the 1960s, resulting in the church no longer being at the center of society) might actually be good news for God’s people, including us?
I can hear someone saying, Wait a minute! Are you serious Heidi? The Presbyterian Church (USA) alone has lost 3 million members (down from 4.3 million members in our heyday, to 1.3 million members today). You’re not suggesting that the malaise in our churches today has been the work of God, are you?
Well, at the very least, as one theologian put it: “In Scripture places of unraveling were preludes to God shaping a new future for God’s people.”
I think when congregations like ours get stuck, we look at the state of the church and get panicky, thinking: Holy cow, what are we going to do? How are we going to get more members?
But last Sunday we considered what I think is a better question, namely: What is God up to? Where is the Holy Spirit at work in our neighborhood - and inviting us to participate in the mission of God? Do we have some Holy Spirit nudges? Can we take some risks, try some experiments, maybe even fail but keep learning? I think God’s in all of that!
Sometimes we think all we need is an amazing leader, an expert, a genius, to.just.fix.it. Actually, I am becoming more convinced that the extent to which leaders do the primary work of change and innovation in congregations, there will be no lasting change. If the leader alone owns what the Holy Spirit is up to, and everybody else just watches, things will fizzle. Because discerning God’s future is more like a way of life together. The best leaders cultivate a learning environment so that all the people – yep, ordinary people – are sharing, praying, and discerning together.
We’ll take a break from Congregational Conversations this Sunday, but come back it on June 2, when we’ll talk about selling the church property, explore some of what the Bible has to say about church buildings, and consider how we are responding to this big change.
On the 6th Sunday of Easter this week the sermon text is John 14:23-29. It’s still the last night of Jesus’ life, and Jesus is still talking (in that loooong section of several chapters scholars call Jesus’ final discourse). I hope you get a chance to read it through a few times before worship. Why do you think Jesus talked about the things he did? What touches upon your life circumstance?
Look forward to seeing you Sunday!
Grace and peace,