5 Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Rev. Hoppert is on Sabbatical.  Our guest blogger is Marsha Meyer, Directory of Youth & Family Ministries..

As we continue this journey through the five practices of fruitful congregations, these ideas are more clearly coming into focus.  Without radical hospitality, we will not grow as a faith community.  Without passionate worship, we will not feed our souls, without intentional faith development, we will not grow into our faith.  Without risk-taking mission and service, we are not living the call to love our neighbor.  Without extravagant generosity, we are not trusting in God’s abundance.  We need all of these practices in order to be a fruitful congregation.

We are at the half-way point in our sessions.  Having just completed the intentional faith development session, we have had hours of conversation about what ‘intentional’ looks like.  The chapter of our study begins telling the stories of our faith from different places in time and ends with this story…..

…a young woman pulls into the church parking lot just before the session begins. She’s running a little late.  Like most Tuesdays, she’s still wearing her suit from work, going through her evening blur of movement from the office to school to soccer practice to drive-thru to church.  Her son dumps his fast-food wrappings in the trash bin beside the door as he carries his school books into the building.  He’ll work on homework while Mom does her “Bible thing.”  She slips into the room as the video begins.  Her closest friend is there and welcomes her into the seat beside her.  They had signed up for this together, deciding to “just do it” after years of wanting to study the Bible.  The class also includes two couples; two older women; a graduate student from the university; and the leader, recently retired from the bank.  She didn’t know most of these people before they signed up for the Bible study, but she’s been amazed at how much she’s learned from them as they’ve shared their thoughts about faith and God and Scripture and about how much she’s come to care for them as they’ve shared their lives.  The Tuesday evening study has become a time of refreshment for her each week, an oasis of encouragement, learning, and support.  For ten minutes, they listen to a seminary professor on the video talk about the stories of Moses, his birth and marriage and encounter with God.  Then they walk through the readings, sharing observations and questions.

Every day for the past week, she has spent time reading Scripture, sometimes lost in the archaic practices and customs and confused by the stories and characters.  She has so many questions about God.  She wasn’t sure she had time for this kind of study, and sometimes even now she thinks she’s wasting her time.  Moses seems way back then and way over there.  Then the leader talks about Moses’ call- the bush, the fear and humility, and the excuses and justifications given to avoid doing what God asks.  Her stomach tightens as she hears people tell about times they’ve felt called by God to do something and have repeated the same excuses themselves.  She looks at her own notes from her reading through the week, and she sees the questions she wrote.  “How does God call people?  Sometimes I feel called, but I’ve never heard voices or seen a burning bushes.  Am I being called?”  She shares her questions with others and discovers that they wrestle with the same thoughts.  The evening ends with prayer, and after she drives home with her son, sends him to bed, and nestles herself into her favorite chair, she finds herself praying, asking, and hoping, “What will you have me do, Lord?”

Taken from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase, pages 61-62

Food for thought….

There must be a reason that you’re connected to the church.  Why church and not something else?  What are you seeking?  And how can this community of faith help?  The Five Practices team looks forward to having a conversation with you about this during our Membership Gathering which is planned for Wednesday, July 12th at 6:30 pm. – Marsha