MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN:
Transforming our Congregation
This week is the last week of our Summer Sermon Series, “A Good Word.” It has been a joy to walk through these weeks with you, taking up the words that you yourselves suggested at the beginning of the summer and examining them through Scripture to hear what God is telling us in terms of how we can live our faith in Jesus Christ out more fully and faithfully as a result.
This week, the word is “transformation,” which was suggested by a number of people. It seems a fitting way to conclude the “Good Word” series because transformation is so central to the basic promises of the gospel, so it is by definition “good news” (that’s what the word “gospel” literally means: “good news”!).
Yet transformation can also be a bit intimidating, even scary, thing, because it also by definition means a fundamental change into something new and different. And these things are not necessarily mutually exclusive; many of the best experiences and moments in life are both very good and a bit intimidating!
It’s also a good bridge to our next sermon series, which will begin on September 12, which takes its focus from an important book called Neighborhood Church: Transforming Your Congregation Into a Powerhouse for Mission.
This book has gotten considerable national attention in the Presbyterian Church (USA), including a denomination-wide reading hosted by the co-moderators of the General Assembly in 2019. The book argues that the future of vibrant congregations depends on their ability to authentically engage the communities in which they live, not to “grow the church” as a goal in itself but to learn their neighbors’ greatest hopes and needs and build relationships and partnerships based on what they learn. When done well, the byproduct of this work will be growth in size and vitality of the congregation, but that is a byproduct of authentic ministry, not a goal in and of itself.
The Session has been reading the book together through the summer at the encouragement of the Mission Committee, and through the Discipleship Committee, is encouraging the entire membership of the church to join in this important work to help us chart the future of this congregation. I want to encourage you to get a copy of the book: they will be available after both services each week. There is no required cost to anyone who wants to participate, but if you’d like to make a small contribution to support this endeavor when you pick up your book, you’re welcome to do so.
Concurrent with the sermon series, which will focus on the different major themes of the book, the Discipleship Committee is hosting an Adult Education series to talk through the book during our new Formation and Fellowship Hour at 10 a.m. on Sundays. You can participate in person or via Zoom and join in the conversation about the book.
As we continue to be an “Experimental Church” that is transforming for a vibrant and faithful future, I am very excited about these plans and feel that this is some of the most important work we can be doing together as a church.
I hope that you will jump into this work yourself through the sermons, the book, and the discussion classes, as together we continue to learn and imagine how we can be the church that God is equipping and calling us to be!
Grace and Peace,