Historically it has been my practice to start the new year off with a series of sermons on the topic of prayer. Prayer is the conversation part of our relationship with God, and as with all relationships, communication is vital in order to maintain any level of positive connection. This past year I have benefited from the practice of praying the Psalms each morning as both a devotional Bible reading and also as a tool in learning how to pray. Instead of a sermon series to start the year I am simply suggesting then that you join me in this practice. The booklet “Praying the Psalms Daily: A Schedule for Devotion and Learning” is available on the literature tables at church.
The church survey that we took in 2019 provided by Natural Church Development and in conjunction with our denomination’s encouragement, was all about helping churches to assess their strengths and weaknesses in order to promote obedient Christian growth. It simply reports on what we as church attenders see happening and not happening here.
It should come as no surprise that by and large we all like our church and feel that we do some things rather well. That does not mean there isn’t room for improvement, in fact, there are some characteristics of a healthy church that are lagging here by our own evaluation. But let’s start with the positives.
The survey showed that we are a rather well organized church with structures in place to face the future and move forward. We are largely a Sunday morning church which means simply that we see the importance and the priority of weekly community worship. We rated our Sunday Worship rather well especially with regard to the music. There is a clear attempt to be relevant and creative and to encourage participation by many. This is also true of our approach to leadership. We attempt to have a team focus and not an authoritarian one.
What also showed up in the survey, however, was the apparent tendency to allow our Christian faith to be merely a Sunday morning reality. A majority of the respondents rated the church low with regard to an everyday-faith, a God-consciousness that drives a passionate spirituality. In other words, we need to do more internal work as individuals if we are going to expect that others who walk into our church will find it and us a good reflection of Jesus.
How are we to move forward? That is after all why we took the survey and requested the help of our Conference. The first step is to understand and to own the assessment. This is what we said about ourselves. Do you find it to be accurate?
Then without diminishing the areas where we are doing well can we purposely plan to address together an area or two where we are not doing so well, the things that do not come naturally to us. We do have a small committee that will seek to keep us on track and moving ahead from understanding to planning to doing and then to evaluating our progress. The Survey Committee is made up of Rick Chaffee, Michelle Coonradt, Gail Frary, Chuck Harris and Cathy Smith. They would be most appreciative of any thoughts you might have to share.
Perhaps one of the best things we can do moving forward is to help each other follow through with what we say we want to do. I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions but maybe we could aid one another in some of the weak points of our Christian practice by encouraging a more active involvement.
Taking just one example, the Adult Sunday School Class has started to end each class time with a suggestion on how to share our faith with someone else. Time is also given to each one to report back on how the week went, what we were able to do and with what result. This is just a simple attempt to assist one another in following through with our faith commitments. It is a little low-key accountability to aid us in becoming the Christians and the church that we have professed we want to be. As we have been taught in the past, Christian experience always starts with an upward look of prayer, an inward look of accountability, and an outward look of outreach or ministry. May God help us as we walk into 2020.
See you in Worship.