Year End Reflection #5 – To Our Congregation

Dear Brethren,

This final reflection is more of a request, a double request, as we move forward together into 2008 and beyond.

We are currently in the process of doing two related things. One is that we are undergoing an effort to try to rewrite our Vision Statement, bring it up to date, and have it be more forward-,looking from where we are today (as compared to where we were 15 years ago before there even was a CF!)

The second is that we are wanting to look at ways we can make our Sunday gathering both more reflective of that updated Vision and also, well, less the same all the time. It is worth noting that every church, even the most anti liturgical or most charismatic, has a liturgy, whether it is called that or not. Likewise every church has a creed, even if its creed is that it
has no creed. (WOW – a hawk just flew by my living room window with several crows in pursuit!) Anyway, all churches have patterns. We have patterns. These are not arbitrary, and often have arisen after much detailed practical conversations. But there is nothing set in stone that we MUST do things every Sunday the same way all the time, or the same way that we do now.

So here in this final reflection I have two requests to make of you for feedback. Before I make them I must say the obvious. Not every suggestion can be implemented or implemented immediately. Sometimes two different suggestions are polar opposites of the other. But I want you to feel free to throw lots of ideas back to give us as much as possible to chew on.

First, I would like for you to consider the totality of who we are and what we do and suggest things that you think would allow us to better reflect our core values in our life, practice, and teaching. I have listed 13 of these core values below. The list is not exhaustive but a pretty decent overview. My third year end reflection about the “gifts” that we can give, given certain fundamental commitments or values, is also a kind of expression of those core values. We are not going to be doing an overhaul of these core values so ideas and suggestions should reflect these as much as possible. And really, everything is on the table – small groups, preaching, community outreach, teaching, prayer, small groups, facility, music, the whole kit and caboodle. Just brainstorm and put it out there. Please, though, just “reply” and not “reply all.” I will compile all of this input and we will use it as we go forward. You may want to go to our web site –  (http://www.covenantfellowshipgreensboro.org/”www.covenantfellowshipgreensboro.org) – and click on “Vision” and read the Vision and Q and A to get your mental juices flowing. Or not. You don’t need to.

Second, focus your thoughts on what we do on Sundays during our Sunday gathering. We are thinking of developing some alternative formats as well as improving things we do no matter what the format. Think details, time flow, people flow, how we eat together, how we learn songs, how we may sing better together, the break, the sermons, the sermon outline, Sunday School, Open Time, how we use the physical space and arrange ourselves, how we present materials, the transition from one thing to another, communion, children, etc. For example, I would like to see us better implement our core values of
participatory and intergenerational worship when we gather. How? What would that look like? I would like to see the sermon be more accessible to everyone. How? What would that look like? I would like to see Open Time reflect what I wrote about in Year End Reflection number three in the section “the gift of our worship.” How? What would that look like?

Think about it. You don’t need to reply right away. But do give your feedback. I end this request and reflection with a needed caveat of sorts.

I remember well a time in my life when, for better or for worse, I was a catalyst for much needful change in a certain situation. I learned then that my thoughts and ideas had to be mediated as it were through others. I learned that in the end maybe 25% of my ideas were really good ideas in the first place, and maybe fewer than that were finally adopted, and those often with some changes. I was quite discouraged by this at first. Why couldn’t everyone see how brilliant my ideas were! But then I realized several things. Some of my ideas were in fact good ideas, but that the timing wasn’t right for implementing them. Other of my ideas, upon closer inspection, really just weren’t all that great after all. I had not thought of or considered this or that. Other ideas had potential but needed tweaking. I had to learn to accept the percentages. But this I knew. Unless I kept putting ideas out there – even if only 25% were adopted in the end – none of them would ever be adopted! So I kept putting out the ideas –and maybe with a better humor and attitude. This process is not unlike songs that people write, or even the hymns we sing. If, for example, Isaac Watts hadn’t cranked out hundreds and hundreds of hymns, we wouldn’t have the several dozen today that are still sung by the church. Unless a songwriter writes lots of songs he or she will never have a hit, and often it is not the expected song (or idea) that is the hit. This is the nature of creative
effort.

Here are the core values that have been compiled and reviewed by the session. Really, your ideas will be of much greater use if they reflect these core values.

I look forward to your feedback.

Joel

Core Values and Characteristics

1. Organizational Simplicity

2. Relational Ministry (as opposed to Program-Oriented Ministry) (and including specific applications of a weekly meal together and small group
ministry)

3. Commitment to being “in the world” (or 24-7 Christianity, Jesus Lord over all of life, etc), and to the significance before God of life in “non church” spheres – home, school, work, neighborhood, plus a commitment to equip people for living christianly in these spheres of life)

4. Intergenerational Corporate Life (The promotion of relationships and ministry participation across generational lines)

5. Reformed and Covenantal Theological Perspective (but patient with people “in process”)

6. Participatory Worship (Including maybe as subsets, 1) the idea of the voice as the primary instrument of praise and 2) the idea of “blended worship”

7. Personal, individual, contextual evangelism (sometimes called lifestyle evangelism, or in our lingo, “out there” evangelism)

8. An understanding of parents as having fundamental responsibility for the Christian nurture of their children

9. Leadership by elders working in a Presbyterian context with equality of authority and with a consensus approach to decision making

10. Commitment by members to worldwide missions, including this place as part of the wide world

11. Emphasis on small group ministry and participation (small groups being an outworking both of commitment to relational ministry and commitment to equipping ministry)

12. Expository biblically based preaching from a reformed perspective

13. Affiliation with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

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