What is Vitality?
Congregational vitality is about dying to self and about new life, it is about living life together intentionally, it is about God’s “stuff” being the stuff we want for our lives. It is a journey that is both adventurous and treacherous.
Vitality is not a program; it is a pathway… a transformative process that occurs over time. We don’t drift into congregational vitality. It doesn’t just happen. There comes a point when a congregation makes the Spirit-filled decision to move forward and become a healthy missional church. By “healthy” we mean pursuing Christ. By “missional” we mean acting on Christ’s passion for the world.
Vitality is the centrality of God’s Word and a sense of desperation for the things of God. Vitality creates a congregational ethos of expectation and invitation. Vitality is a community that is filled with grace and truth. The necessity of congregational vitality is inseparable from our mission.
What Is the “Macro-mission” of the Church?
Looking at Church vitality from the macro direction produces a list of classic, universal mission functions for churches of every size, in every generation, in every kind of community. From this perspective, all vital churches have the same mission. Theologians and church historians have summarized that macro-mission with terms such as fellowship, service, scripture, worship, prayer, and proclamation. We see this macro-mission in our Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLB) statement of faith and our CLB values.
The Church of Jesus Christ accomplishes that macro-mission by doing three things that show up in what we mean when we say that the CLB is a Disciple-making Movement. This means that we are continually connecting people to Jesus, his community, and his mission.
What is the “Micro-mission” of a Single Congregation?
Why is a micro-mission important? A micro mission tells us “how we do it” in our particular church, whether small or large, urban or rural, with the unique mix of people and passions that make up our congregation. Ultimately, congregations are called to use dissimilar ways to accomplish Jesus’ mission and ministry in each community and generation.
A healthy congregational mission identity fits its size, fits its members, fits its resources, and meets the current needs of people in its surrounding community. Many unhealthy congregations fall short—not by affirming something other than a biblically mandated macro-mission—but by emphasizing a congregational micro-mission identity that does not fit that congregation, community, or generation.
What Is a Congregation’s Method for Revitalization?
The church’s mission method tells people how we worship, do evangelism, do member care, etc. Research indicates that healthy congregations deliver on the macro and micro-mission with the following methods.
- Worship that honors God, spiritually enriches members, and connects with new people
- Multi-generational engagement – no one is ignored and all are needed
- Creating a sense of belonging and newness all through the years
- Involvement in groups and ministries that nourish faith development and growth in discipleship. New members need to get into a group of some kind soon after connecting.
- Concern and care is real. People show up!
- Community service/benevolence/missions that accomplish Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors. Jesus defined love of neighbor in a startling way. He said it should include people we do not know – yet!
- Sharing faith, inviting others into our lives, and hospitality that accomplishes Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples.
- Atmosphere of faith, hope, and love that promotes the spiritual growth of members.
- Organizational systems that motivate and involve members in our ministries. Organizational structures that fit a congregation’s size increase its ministry effectiveness by enlarging the number of people involved in its ministries. Dysfunctional organizational structures, on the other hand, promote “we have always done it this way.”
- Stewardship that is part of members’ spiritual growth and promotes radical generosity in all areas of life.
The Bottom Line
Healthy churches that are continually seeking vitality accurately answer the classic theological question, “What is the mission of the Church and how do we accomplish it?” They build on the biblical macro-mission, apply it contextually with micro-mission activities that amplify their congregational make-up and intentionally connect with their community.
It is a good time for us to consider the new things that God wants to do in our churches and in our communities through us. Our God is a God of new life and resurrection. He does this in individuals, and he does it in congregations. Let’s pray for that in our CLB North American congregations.
Lord, remove our idols and our traditions that are more important to us than you. Create in us a clean heart that is passionate for the things that you are passionate about. Do something new in our day, Lord, and use us to be a part of it! AMEN and AMEN!
Nick Mundis - Director of North American Mission