One of my favorite promises of hope is found in Philippians 1:6. Paul writes, I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. I often hear this passage applied to individuals - that God has done a good work in each of us and will continue His mighty work in us. While this is certainly true, the context of the passage reminds us that Paul is giving this promise to the whole church of Philippi. As I have taught and used this passage in multiple venues, I have often been struck by two important truths that come from it.
The first truth is that neither the congregation nor the people in it are perfect. That seems extremely obvious, right? We know that none of us is yet completely mature in Christ personally, and none of our congregations has fully taken hold of the purpose for which God has claimed us. God has started a great work in us both personally and corporately, but He is not yet finished.
Because of the truth that we are a work in progress, in ECO we are building off the question “What is your next flourishing step?”. What is the next area in which God is calling you to grow personally in your walk and calling with Christ, and in what way is God calling your congregation to take a step toward greater flourishing?
We will all answer those questions differently based upon our current level of health and vitality, as well as our places of strength. We have congregations that are growing. We have others that are in plateau, and others that are in decline. Some congregations are strong at making disciples; others are strong at developing leaders or strong evangelists. Some have a clear understanding of their vision while others do not. We have leaders who are seeking to grow in their ability to lead change or grow in communication skills. Still others want to be better at change management. The point being, every church and every leader will have a different answer to the question, “What is your next flourishing step?”
We do not want to prescribe flourishing next steps for people, but we DO want to encourage congregations and leaders to seriously ask the question. Some churches have used our Becoming a Flourishing Church resource to help answer the question, and others have intuitively known the way God is calling them forward. If you want to begin answering the question about your church’s next flourishing step, I would encourage you to have robust discussion with your Session and other leaders around a couple of preparatory questions:
1) “Where have you seen God at work in your congregation in the last year?”
Take some time to celebrate where God has been at work, and the things that He has done in and through your congregation!
2) “If you could improve one area in your congregation, what would it be?”
Before you decide to participate in an initiative or curriculum, make sure you have clarity on where you need to improve as a congregation. Becoming a Flourishing Church is designed to help you answer that question, but as leaders, you may already have a sense about where you need to grow.
You may answer “We need to grow in our ability to make disciples,” or “We need to gain clarity on our vision and mission.” You may feel that your church is beyond “tweaking” current ministries and therefore needs to make some drastic changes. You may discern that you need to focus on intergenerational ministry. The question may not be an easy one to answer, but if you spend some significant time praying, thinking and discussing, the answer to that question will become more evident. Once you have answered those questions it will be much easier to determine your next flourishing step.
The second truth that we learn from Philippians 1:6 is that while we are not perfect and not quite there yet, God is not done with us. God will complete His work in our lives and in His Church. This truth allows us to trust Him as we take steps of faith to grow in maturity and in the mission to which God has called us. As always, we want our denomination to be a place that helps and supports leaders and churches as they seek to flourish in ministry. We pray for you to truly thrive, and that God may always be glorified in your churches and throughout your neighborhoods.