Happy New Year! Often when the calendar year turns over, we think about what we’d like to do differently in this new year, how we’d like to be better than we were the previous year, what new habits we’d like to instill in our lives.
If we do that as individuals, why not as a congregation? This year we can do that with the aid of the Congregational Vitality Assessment, a tool we participated in back in September, in which we determined our own vitality as a congregation by evaluating ourselves in three main areas: how well we connect with God, with one another, and with the world around us. Overall, both churches scored very highly, revealing that we are vital congregations – praise God! (You can see some specific scores here.)
There were also some areas in which we could have scored higher – which is good, because this shows us where we can grow in our faith and our life as a congregation. For the next few months, I will be highlighting some of these areas in newsletter articles and blog posts, suggesting some ways we might think about these things.
One of the areas we scored lower was in the category, “This congregation equips me to share my faith with others.” Before I went to seminary, I had never really been asked to articulate what my faith in Christ means to me, let alone been explicitly equipped to tell others about it. Often we think, “My faith is personal to me, so I don’t want to talk about it with other people.” Or, “I don’t want to offend people – they can believe whatever they want.” Even if that is true, you should be able to articulate what you believe, why you believe it, and what difference it makes in your life.
We as a congregation are doing a few things to help you with this. We offer Bible studies, an hour of intentional conversation about God working in our lives. We’ve encouraged a new way of doing prayer partners, in which it is actually a partnership, two people praying for each other and sharing prayer requests with one another. Sometimes in sermons you are invited into this sort of personal reflection.
You can do some work on this on your own, too. In your personal devotions, try to answer some of these questions – even write them out or discuss them aloud with a trusted friend to help you put into real words what your faith means to you:
- Describe who is Jesus Christ is to you without using any “churchy” words. How would you explain this to someone who had never heard of him before, and who didn’t know what words like “savior,” “sin,” and “salvation” mean?
- Why do you come to church? Think beyond, “Because I always have…”
- How would your life be different if you didn’t believe in God?
- What difference does it make to you in your daily life that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter?
- Where and how, specifically, do you see God working in your life?
That should be plenty to get you started! If you would like to talk to me about any of those questions, my door is always open, and I would welcome the conversation. Blessings on your reflection!