Some of you know that, in the last year, I've been asked to help our denomination out with a program called New Beginnings. New Beginnings works with congregations to help them make big decisions about the future. The congregation will have a one-day assessment, led by a pastor, and the pastor will prepare a report covering everything from the site to the finances to the programs of the congregation. Leaders will attend a retreat, the people will meet in small groups in homes, and ultimately the congregation will gather.
The "big decisions" are really up to the congregation. Congregations can decide to do nothing, or to close the doors. Congregations can decide to take bold new steps and explore new initiatives. Congregations should certainly celebrate all of the great things that God has done in the past, but they must also understand that the efforts of the past won't always produce similar results in the future.
New Beginnings is a good program. I'm one of the assessors, which means that I give a small number of days each year to meet with different congregations, probably anywhere from 3 to 10 days at the most. I like the thorough process and the good resources, and I very much like the emphasis on the congregation making the decisions. After all, they are the experts in their context, not me.
I see a couple of connections between the intent of the New Beginnings program and the journey of New Summit Church.
For starters, we've been through something similar, in 2013. Working with TAG, we followed a number of steps like those I've described above. We came up with three strategic initiatives: to create a more engaged congregation in worship; to focus our mission emphasis on the neighborhoods around the church site and on the lives of the church participants; and to encourage intentional spiritual formation by the development of coaching relationships.
When I think about the steps, I'm reminded that the leadership can suggest nearly anything, but that ultimately the congregation must decide. We have to decide to be engaged and involved in worship. We have to decide to reach out to our neighbors at home, work, school, and in the other places we spend time. We must decide to be intentional about spiritual formation.
Another connection I see between New Beginnings and our journey at New Summit is this year's teaching series on the New Testament. This Sunday we'll be focused specifically on one of the dominant themes of the New Testament: the Kingdom of God. It seems to me, when reading Scripture, that the kingdom is constantly active, constantly moving, and constantly inviting our participation..or our rejection. Jesus doesn't really wait for us, in one sense. He is always on the move, and inviting us to follow. To follow him requires big decisions about our future!
I believe this time in the life of New Summit Church is a new beginning. I suppose it could be the beginning of the end, though God's kingdom will always keep moving and advancing. This time could be the beginning of the next great chapter in New Summit's participation in the kingdom of God. This time could be the beginning of your next great step of faith and spiritual formation.