Renewal: What Does This Mean For Our Life Together?
At our 2017 Assembly, we invited the Lower Susquehanna Synod into deeper spiritual and congregational renewal. The heart of renewal is nurturing deeper relationships with God, one another and our communities by faithfully participating in what God is already up to in the world.
In the waters of baptism, we become members of the body of Christ and are called to be disciples in our daily lives. Therefore, the purpose of church is to:
- Understand, practice and live the teachings of Christ. (Follow me)
- Nurture vital faith communities where people are in relationship with God, one another and the community. (Commissioned by Jesus)
- Grow disciple communities that encourage one another to discover their gifts and use them. (Make disciples)
Cross + God’s Mission + Relationships = Church for the sake of the world
(Church exists as an instrument for God’s work not the other way around)
Congregational/synodical health is a function of how people in the congregation relate to one another, God, and to their community. Declining congregations have lost connection with the Church’s basic mission of helping people experience God and live the gospel. The heart of renewal is nurturing deeper relationships with God, one other and our communities by faithfully participating in what God is already up to in the world. A congregation’s greatest assets are the people who make up the congregation and the possibilities for transformation they embody.
Three Phases of Renewal
Renewal follows a predictable path, but the right step is situational.
- Building readiness of leaders.
- Developing a vision. Vision = Purpose + Guiding Principles + Time
- Aligning congregation/synod’s life with the vision we have discerned together.
Renewing Vital Congregations
Spiritual renewal is grounded in the life-changing grace of God in Jesus Christ. Spiritually vital congregations share a desire to participate in God’s mission to love and reconcile the world around us and embody common traits of thriving congregations, which include:
- Members of the congregation (synod) are growing spiritually. (Personal transformation precedes organizational or corporate transformation.)
- A sense of purpose rooted in God’s mission. (A shared understanding of what God wants us to do and also a sense that we are always being sent anew to serve God in the world.)
- A willingness to change. (We are so committed to God’s purpose that we will change what we do to get it done.)
- Shared leadership. (Laity and clergy working together with a true sense of the Priesthood of ALL believers.)
Realities of Renewal
The incarnational reality of the cross and God’s mission are always our guiding principles for renewal. Lasting change happens when we are united by God’s purpose, vision and values. If we desire to be the church God wants us to be, trying new things will be important.
Changing the culture of a congregation or synod takes time. People move at their own pace, adopt ideas at different rates, and only as they are influenced by gracious hope and trust. While conflict is inevitable, renewal is all about relationship, relationship, relationship.
Grounded in the Great Commandment, the heart of life is love. The reason we were created is to love God and people. The purpose of renewal is to fall in love with Jesus over and over again while growing in service to God and one another.