The future of our denomination is intimately tied to whether or not we are on mission with God. What would be different if we believed our communities were our congregations? If we truly embraced the reality that the world is our parish?
In response to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, we are called to start new faith communities with those in our mission fields; in both underserved and growing regions of our conferences. Often new communities of faith are the best and fastest way to reach changing demographics with the love and grace of Christ. These new works may be affiliated with or born out of existing congregations or may spring up in kairos moments.
“I had given up on church. I was hurt and tired of the judgment, the condescending looks from others, and the image of a God who was waiting to cast me out at the slightest thing. I was done. And hurt. And then I stumbled upon these people called RISE. They are different. I feel hopeful. I have met a different God than the one I used to know, and I now believe that God truly loves me. – from a participant in a new UM faith community started this quadrennium. Average age of participants? 24.
Throughout this quadrennium the United Methodist Church has made real progress in creating new places for new people through new church starts, but we've only just begun. Starting new faith communities is essential to reach more people, more diverse people and more young people. These faith communities come in all shapes, sizes, colors and contexts. We must collaborate to create vital congregations that multiply their healthy DNA. New and existing churches are two sides of the same coin. Join us in allowing these two strategies to complete one another, not compete with one another!
Regardless of denominational structure or other decisions made at General Conference, please affirm the need:
1. For a denominational movement, consisting of capable practitioners and strategists, powered by a national office (with authority and funding), that strategically invests in key development opportunities to reclaim our denominational DNA of starting at least one new faith community per day in the U.S. and to learn from and encourage the many church plants in our central conferences.
2. To fully fund the four focus areas affirmed at last general conference: new places for new people and renewing existing congregations, developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world, engaging in ministry with the poor and stamping out diseases of poverty by improving health globally. The strategies employed by these areas should be developed with practitioners for practitioners, to ensure they are relevant for and focused on local mission fields and congregations.
3. To be surrendered in prayer so that our decisions about investing precious resources of time, talent and treasure are made with kingdom-focused eyes that recognize the world is our parish, that view our communities as our congregations and that see and follow the movement of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
Show your commitment to the above by sharing this document with delegates and leaders in your annual conference and “liking” http://umcnewchurchstarts.org/snapshots-of-hope/. While you are there, read more stories about lives and communities transformed through our new churches.
Olu Brown, Lead Planter/Pastor, Impact Church in Atlanta, GA and author of Zero-80: Innovative Ideas for Planting and Accelerating Church Growth
Steve Compton, former congregational developer, District Superintendent and author of Rekindling the Mainline: New Life through New Churches
Bob Crossman, Minister of New Church Starts and Congregational Advancement, Arkansas Annual Conference
Dirk Elliot, Director of New Faith Communities and Congregational Development, Detroit Annual Conference
Christie Latona, Ministry Strategist, facilitator, author, coach and co-developer Readiness360.org
Kelvin Sauls, Executive Director for New Ministries
The California-Pacific Conference
A diverse group of practitioners from across the U.S. who are passionate about starting new UM faith communities to reach more people, more diverse people and more young people.
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