The Future of God’s Church

June 2010 Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article The Times They Are a-changing was the title cut for Dylan’s 1964 release. Observers of the social, political, economic and religious scenes might make the case that the only thing that hasn’t changed since then, is that the times they still are a-changing.

We live in an era of unprecedented change. If the church intends to thrive in decades to come, it needs to respond to these changes. (When I use the word “church” I mean the church in all of its expressions: local congregations, denominations, social service agencies, schools, hospitals, disaster response efforts; even the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” which encompasses all that God is up to through the church these days.) We are called to proclaim Christ in a world that our grandparents couldn’t have even imagined. Technology and prosperity have shrunk our world and expanded our possibilities. Social and religious diversity have surrounded us with numerous ways to understand God and human spirituality. Cynicism and individualism have eroded our sense of moral authority. In the midst of all this, we ask: “How does the church offer a ministry that is compelling and transformational in today’s world?”

Christian congregations thrive these days when they have leaders and supporters who take very seriously the times in which they live, and the central message of our faith. This past month our Administrative Team decided to work on a three-year financial plan for Saint Peter. I’m hopeful that this will lead to a joint project with our Mission Team and our Ministry Team Leaders to come up with a Three-Year Vision for Ministry at Saint Peter. If this is to be useful, it will have to take into consideration the changes that are happening around us. More importantly, it will need to be focused on the core purposes of our congregation, including:

  • A radical commitment to being a welcoming church (how do we create an environment that is as welcoming and accepting as Jesus himself was?)
  • A central commitment to building faith (how do we lift up the importance of discipleship, holding one another accountable for staying open to the leading of God, and living in ways that our lives become a witness to what God is doing through us?)
  • A strong, continued support of generosity (how might our annual congregational budget reflect the kind of generosity we encourage our individual supporters to embrace?)

Asking these kinds of questions can help us flesh out what it means to live together as a people who have been welcomed into God’s love and sent into God’s world. As our congregation becomes clearer about its direction, that will help our Ministry Teams and our individual congregational members be clearer about how they engage and support the congregation’s mission. I look forward to working on these issues with all of you – thanks for your participation in a ministry that strives to be both relevant and faithful. May God bless our efforts!

God’s peace to you all,

David J. Risendal, Pastor