I was really reflecting on my visit to a local congregation condition the last couple of days. It was good also to have some time to just talk to Dr. Philip Hauenstein about this during our journey to Munich. This kind of conversations is so crucial for clarification and sharpening one’s opinions.
One key insight I’m juggling with right now is that it’s most definately basic that the discipleship base or core of a local church is a must, and yet the most strategic person to engage with is actually the pastor or key leader (depending on context). It’s got to work in parallel …
So often, people in the pew have a desire to move with God’s agenda but are stuck somehow. And in other cases, pastors are drawn to advance but feel held back. When both are “open” to the Spirit, and also one another while having a good dose of humility and clear thinking, all this with a sense of history and forward looking-ness, WOW … we can have confidence once again for a better tomorrow.
I was actually surprised by how frank the ELCB Bishop was about the condition of the church. Often, my immediate conception of top leaders is that they share mainly the success stories and minimize the challenges part.
In this case, though the room was getting a little stuffy but the sharing wasn’t at all. He just went straight to the point and share in his words “the problems” they are facing. Of course there are already steps in place but the path ahead is indeed uphill for our fellow Lutherans in Bavaria.
An interesting point that caught my attention was that even though the membership of the church is declining but the participation of the people in the church overall is increasing. And that gives some hope!!!
I was re-thinking about this “numbers” and “calculations” we use when we talk to each other about church. To be honest, this minor detail meant a lot to me because I found something we could rejoice in and give encouragement to the ELCB churches.
This also alerts us not to take pride in our growth in numbers in Asia, Africa and Latin America which could often just be “superficial”. What is needed is the “nuanced” understanding of “what is really going on” both the good and the bad. And then prayer for each other, partner with one another and seek ways to do what is best to help one another along the way. What works for us personally is the basis for the top leadership as well.
Structures are meant to facilitate growth and often the greatest battles are in our minds. the fancy word now almost out of fashion is what’s going on in our “paradigms” and the “shifts” needed for movement and not stagnation. When structures become like a “machine”, and often becomes a hindrance or too much of our energies are invested in maintaining it, careful and yet bold efforts need to be made to “transform” the structures back its life-giving supportive role.