Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
In an article some weeks ago entitled “Diagnosis,” I asked congregations to reflect on four questions:
- “Who are we?”
- “What has God called us to do or be?”
- “Who is our neighbor?”
- “What do we do best?”
This week, I read an exciting book by Richard L. Hamm called Recreating the Church. Hamm, the former leader of The Disciples of Christ denomination, writes about congregational, mid-council, and denominational revitalization. He introduces three questions which I find intriguing:
- “What time is it?”
- “Where am I?”
- “What am I doing here?”
Hamm says our congregations and institutions want us to believe it is still 1955, 1965, or even 1995! The first question reminds us that it is 2018 (and soon to be 2019). How are our congregations reflecting this historical time? I was in worship on Sunday and the preacher asked us to turn to a scripture. The pew Bible was too far away from me, so I pulled out my phone, opened my Bible app, and read the scripture from there. What does the church of 2019 look like when it comes to technology and the use of smart devices and online streaming in worship? What if hymns, lesson outlines, and even bulletin content with deeper-dive options were available for us on Sunday morning? What if what we do inside of the building could be accessed outside of the building as well?
The question of “Where am I?” pushes back on the false assumption that our communities have not changed significantly since we built the church there. Communities change much faster than we are willing to admit. Do the people inside the church reflect the people outside of the building? Many of our congregations do an excellent job of attracting people to our food pantries, rummage sales, and clothing give always. How does active outreach lead people to believe they have a place in the pew and at the table of the church as well? Are we willing to change the leadership in the building to reflect the people outside of the building in age, race, and gender?
This leads to the third question of “What am I doing here?” Hamm places this question in the lap of the leader. In addition to the third question, each leader should reflect on deeper questions that include the following:
- What did God call me here to do?
- What did the church call me here to do?
- How does what I am doing today fit with my overall purpose and objectives as a leader?
As we come to the beginning of 2019, this is a time to reflect and plan, remember and envision. I have provided a few more questions that can lead and challenge us into the future church.
Rev. Craig M. Howard