For faith comes by listening. (Romans 10:17)
We have come a long way over the last three years of ministry together. As I wrote in last month’s Towerbell: “We spent time over the last three years listening to each other, encouraging each other, and committing our work together to God. And it’s time to begin a season of moving our focus beyond the walls of the church, to learn together how we can better spread the Good News of God’s love and peace.”
That project begins now.
I have been feeling really very good about this congregation of late. It seems to me we have nurtured a loving and encouraging sanctuary for ourselves. I love this church and I love the people. My family feels supported and safe here. And yet… I have also had this feeling that it is time for us to do something new.
The word “evangelism” can provoke differing responses from different people. Despite its modern connotations, the word is simply Greek for “spreading Good News”, which is the call of all disciples of Jesus Christ. And it is the word that has been dancing in the back of my mind all summer.
I filled white board after white board with thoughts and ideas about what new forms of evangelism might look like for our congregation this year…and it looked like a jumbled mess, a Jackson Pollock-esque spattering of ideas.
But after speaking with a community organizer, it began to take better focus. This does not need to be a one-year campaign. It does not, in fact it should not, need to be perfectly planned out. And it does not, in fact it should not, begin with ideas of what we can do.
Instead, it is a three year project, modeled after our last three years as a congregation. As I wrote last month: “We spent the last three years listening to each other, encouraging each other, and committing our work together to God.” And this will be our model: to listen (to sow), to encourage (to nurture), and to commit our work to God (to taste and see what blooms). But this cycle our focus will be on our wider community.
Year one of this project begins on Rally Day. We will kick off a new program year, and a new guiding theme to “Sow Good News” and we will be led by our guiding verse: “Faith comes from listening.” (Romans 10:17).
We will spend a year listening. Listening to our community. Listening to where God is calling us. Listening to where our talents may bloom. We will bring in leaders from the area to speak, we will go out into the world to hear, we will study best practices for being a “Neighborhood Church”. We will approach our community with open ears, and pray for God’s wisdom to discern where the Spirit is leading us.
This is not a plan to increase membership. It is not a blueprint to fill our pews. But it is a calling to be faithful. To learn how to spread the Word, to announce the good news of God’s love and peace. It is a focus for our mission, our ministry, our discipleship.
So let us have conversations. Listen to neighbors. Be inspired by what we hear. Approach others with love. And listen for where God is calling. For only God knows where we are headed.