Vital Church Initiative (VCI)

From Pastor Bill ~
VCI task forces have authority to implement

Our congregation read Bob Farr’s book, Ten Prescriptions for a Healthy Church, prior to the most recent pastoral change. I am not sure if Rev. Jennie Browne covered the chapter on Intentional Faith Development in her sermon series on that book. At the risk of being redundant, I would like to remind us of the importance of Intentional Faith Development for every congregation. The mission of any church will rise and fall with the strength of faith and Christian character of the congregation.

In Cultivating Fruitfulness, Bishop Robert Schnase tells us that intentional faith development refers to all other ministries and practices outside of weekly worship that help us to grow in faith. Sunday school classes, Bible studies, small groups, prayer time, and other spiritual practices help us to deepen our faith. Intentional refers to deliberate effort, purposeful action, and high priority. Those who practice intentional faith development should be able to look back over their lives of discipleship and see some kind of progress, some evidence of growth (Cultivating Fruitfulness, p. 43). Christians who fail to grow in faith often find themselves going through the motions, creatures of habit driven by the church calendar or tradition with little appreciation for mission and vision.

Lacking a plan for intentional faith development, many churches experience declining participation, leadership, and financial support. Disciples who don’t mature in faith have a hard time sharing their faith. Believing in God isn’t a guarantee that one will grow in faith. According to Bob Farr, “All this has resulted in a church full of consumers. When you have an outward form of faith but lack the inner substance of faith, you become easily upset when the leadership of the church begins to change the outward forms of that faith” (Ten Prescriptions for a Healthy Church, p. 58). If we fail to continually grow in faith, we may become attached to the outward forms of religion. We may become attached to preference and tradition. Lack of growth often equates to lack of vision.

Every church should offer a plan for intentional faith development. We currently have a task force developing one for ours. We each have to work at deepening our faith. This is something we do together. Depth of faith and commitment to discipleship are essential for churches that earnestly desire to follow Jesus and serve others. Growing disciples understand that we follow Jesus and participate in church not only for our own sake but also for the sake of those God calls us to reach and serve.

Rev. William C. Bills

VCI Logo for booklet.png

On Monday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m., the Visioning Team will meet with all interested persons to review the new vision statement for our church. They will also review the process for arriving at the vision statement. The team will share their personal understanding of the particular words they have chosen. Our new vision statement is:

Daring one another to love God and our neighbor

From the Pastor

Our recent worship consultation with Cathy Townley gave me pause for thought about my call to ministry. I realize now how far afield I have gotten from that call. My home church was very engaged in justice issues. They were politically involved. New to Christianity thirty-five years ago, I assumed that was normal. That influenced my call to ministry.

When I arrived at seminary in 1985, my first assignment was to exegete Isaiah 1.10-17. “Exegesis” is research performed on text, history, culture and language to arrive at understanding which is then applied to one’s present context.

The message of Isaiah 1.10-17 is that God’s people were doing all manner of things in worship and thinking they were good. God, according to Isaiah, wasn’t happy about their worship, though. People were worshiping while neglecting to do good in society. So they received a stern rebuke from Isaiah for failing to “… seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Worship in the sanctuary was lost on God when people were not engaged in ministry with the marginalized. Worship in the sanctuary has to carry over to witness in the community. That was very clear to me in 1985. Since then I have gotten caught up in all kinds of other things, mostly of lesser importance.

Many churches are in decline and tweak mission and vision statements. Others add a screen, hire a band, or redecorate the sanctuary. I am sure that it is important to update things at least once or twice each century. Especially if we want to reach newer and younger people. On the other hand, the things that Isaiah said God wants never go out of style. It’s possible to revitalize and grow a church just by doing what God wants for the marginalized in society. I used to be pretty clear about that, but for some reason, I have spent years on worship styles, budgets and buildings, and not enough time on ministry at the margins of society. Being better engaged outside the sanctuary could have positive influence on what happens inside the sanctuary. Faithfulness outside the sanctuary might be more important to God than what we do inside the sanctuary.