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Thanks Ed. I appreciate your five standards for a worshiping community. The list is good, and it is helpful. I note that you (correctly) did not try to make these "communities" have "Presbyterian" in their name, nor that they would necessarily be a NCD, nor even report any statistics to Louisville. Some of these 1001 NEW worshiping communities may chose to identify as Presbyterian, and may end up being organized and recognized as a "church" - but for them to be a new worshiping community does not necessitate these identifiers. Some may start with, or end up with, an ordained Teaching Elder - but this is not a requirement either. In my understanding of what would qualify as a new worshiping community (which fits the five standards you have outlined) it would seem that 1001 is too low of a goal for the fruit of the next 10 years. If we are speaking of NCD's, then maybe the goal is too high to be realistic. The RCA (Reformed Church in America) had a similar goal of 1000 new worshiping communities in 10 years (I think it was 2002-2012). I have no idea how close they got to the stated goal, as a denomination a tenth the size of the PCUSA. The idea wasn't necessarily to be a "church", but at least to be a "mission" (which often means it isn't quite self-supporting yet, but generally gathers weekly for worship). I read that in 2008 the average reported attendance was higher than membership, so it seems that in some sense the goal of new communities (which doesn't necessarily increase membership) has led to new energy and reaching to additional people. Depending on how loose the requirements are, it seems that we could add 500 new worshiping communities right away by simply recognizing those groups which are already gathering in parlors, living rooms, coffee shops, etc. And if those of us who are missional minded were to be intentional about it - we could start 1001 new worshiping communities within two years. The fact that the PCUSA wants to attempt this is encouraging to me (whether the goal is too easy or too hard). I like to think that I can be part of helping establish a new worshiping community within the next five years - whether or not I am still in a call with a long established congregation. Now for a couple of details. I think that someone could get confused with your article since you assume "NEW" worshiping communities. Maybe the current congregations are so inwardly focused that they don't have a purpose outside themselves and thus would finally become a worshiping community which fits the minimum description? We've got plenty of congregations which would rather die with the focus being on the members themselves, so this renewal idea is not out of the realm of possibilities. Also, what does it mean that "the future of the church is now"? Does that mean there is no tomorrow? Do you mean this is a critical time and our actions now will greatly affect and effect the future of the PCUSA? I like to think the future of the church is to be the bride of Christ - present with Jesus in his glory. Earlier this week I asked what is the essence of being a Christian. My wife and I both responded that to be a Christian is to love. This fits the Great Commandments, 1Cor. 13, the song "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love", etc. But as I dug deeper I realized that love is not truly the essence of being a Christian. The essence of being a Christian is to know that Jesus is Lord and Savior. Thus, I might like to edit your list to take the second clause of the first "standard" and move it to perhaps the fourth standard. This would make number one the essence of being a Christian. I would probably combine numbers two and three. Regarding Campus Ministries - thank you for doing this. Campus ministry is about as close to essential ministry as there is - but few realize this. This week I read "Essential Church" by Thom and Sam Rainer. The book wasn't what I was thinking it might be about. Essentially it is about helping to make the church "essential" to those who are 18-22, which is the prime group involved with Campus Ministries. It got me to thinking about this particular age group and what is important to them. I'm pretty sure that Campus Ministries is not my calling, but the book helped me think about some things which might be helpful within the context of a congregation.
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Thought-provoking on many fronts. Thank you, Ed. Timely as well, since I hope the Session can work toward clarity of our mission (in the next few meetings).
Toggle Commented Dec 2, 2011 on The Measure of a Church at At The Table of Thanks
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