Sometimes congregations console themselves that others are struggling too. At the same time they watch new congregations blossom and grow in a community, right in the midst of several struggling congregations.
These problems are not the fault of society, technology or thriving ministries. There are plenty of people with real needs, seeking Christ and searching for a loving community to fill every church building of every denomination. It is not, as some have suggested, that people are just not interested in the Church or that people have abandoned their spiritual journeys. The primary causes of congregational struggles are not from outside forces and the solutions to decline cannot be imported from the outside. That is why outside programs, methods and formulas seldom work.
Greater congregational health and vitality is possible and what is really heartening is that the factors that determine a congregation's return to vitality are all within the control of leaders and members. It begins in the hearts of members and must be undertaken individually and corporately.
The seminar process is Biblically based and straightforward. First, members of a congregation must decide that they sincerely desire to find their true place in the Body of Christ. Second, they must commit to seeking to better understand Christ's vision for His Church and how it can come alive in the life and ministries of the congregation. Third, each person in the congregation must commit to participate in doing need-meeting, life-changing, disciple-making ministry.
It works regardless of the congregation's location, finances, membership, average age or any other negatives people might suggest. God is not confined by our human thinking and limited vision. Healthy congregations can be found in all types of settings and each one looks and sounds a little different because each has a different place in the Body of Christ.
In the Putting the Pieces Together Seminars we help individuals and congregations through the process of taking inventory and self examination. The process helps individuals discover where they are on their spiritual journeys, envision where they want to be and where God is calling them to be. Then participants take a look at the Church in the Bible and seek to discern Christ's vision for His Church. From there we help participants determine how they can take Christ's vision and make it come alive in the ministry of their congregation.
Experience has shown us that it is not always easy to integrate Christ's vision for His Church into the realities of the institutional church. In the seminar we help participants discern the Biblical absolutes and priorities for congregations and individuals and then create their own harmonized set of priorities upon which they can build and grow.
The seminar is a safe place where participants can briefly separate themselves from the duties, details, routines, local traditions and personalities of their own church history and weekly experience and try to see God's greater purpose and more fully grasp Christ's vision for the Church. We take time to really hear the Word and we make time for participants to receive the Word.
Looking at God's greater purpose and Christ's vision for the Church without the filter of duties, details and local traditions and personalities is often the beginning of new understanding and even revelation. When people go from just hearing the Word intellectually to receiving the Word into their hearts, change occurs and healing begins. As people become more God-centered and Christ-centered they become more committed to obediently doing God's will.
When will we encounter the Risen Lord? When we are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned - that is when we will encounter Jesus. (Based on Matthew 25)
We take a very practical, hands-on approach to ministry. Ministry really is something that everyone can do. When each person in a congregation seeks to do their part in building up the Church based on Christ's own priorities for the Church amazing things happen. Ministry can take many forms but it must always be: Christ-centered, other-centered, need-meeting, disciple-making ministry. When ministry fulfills Christ’s call, commands and commission it will also be life-changing.
Congregations and that become completely focused and obedient to Christ’s desires for His Church will be empower and enabled. In time they will more fully understand what it means to be a new creation in Christ and experience the joy of taking their place in the Body of Christ.