The first part of this week, I am at a Healthy Church Initiative workshop being attended by the Cabinet, some members of the Conference staff, and our Lay Leaders (Steve McIver and Kim Simpson). In major part, we are investigating a major tool for the transformation of local churches to engage in their stated mission of “making disciples for the transformation of the world.” Among many things, we are learning how cluster groups might best engage in energizing and equipping local churches and how we as a Conference staff might help them. As a part of that learning, I read a blog written by Dr. Thom Rainer (author of Simple Church) in 2011 entitled “Signs of Hope.” I found the blog both accurate and encouraging. I quote:
- A Renewed love for the Bible. -Increased hunger for deeper preaching and teaching. -The rise in interest and commitment to spiritual formation.
- Increasing passion for nations. -Transformational church members are actively involved in reaching nations with the Gospel. Conference churches engaged in places like Kenya or other nations. -The Denominational Focus area (1 of 4) reaching around the world especially to Africa on Imagine No Malaria and the emphasis in conversion growth for extended areas of the world.
- A concern for both eternal needs and temporal needs. -Transformational churches are focused on both the Great Commission AND the Great Commandment … with fervor. -Attempting to rediscover the connection between evangelism and social justice/mercy. The Focus Area in the UMC on combating poverty. -The rise in local church mission initiatives in their community.
- The young and restless millennial Christians [born between 1980 – 2000]. -The largest generation in America’s history (78 million). -Only 15% are Christians. -Causing shake up in our churches with their Holy Discontent. -We have tended to relate to the 15% and struggle to engage the 85%.
- A desire for authentic and transparent leaders in our churches. -… a return to godly, biblical leadership -The overwhelming feedback from laity and the great need for us to teach leadership to both lay and clergy. -Leadership Development as one of the Four Focus Areas for the UMC.
- A healthy reevaluation of church and denominational structures. -New leaders are not anti-traditional … but want structures that are the best use of God’s resources -The Call to Action Report and Interim Operations Team Report – IOT on the national level; the Exodus Project on the Conference level.
- An increased emphasis on church planting. -U.S. currently has one church for every 1,000 people -Path One as one of the Four Focus Areas of the UMC