It was so wonderful to be with our ECO family in Greenville, South Carolina at the end of January. What a great week we had worshiping together, engaging with encouraging speakers, and connecting with friends and colleagues!
In one of my seminary preaching classes, I heard that the goal of preaching is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. I, and others, felt that this gathering really balanced these two needs. We were comforted in the midst of challenging ministry and personal situations. We were also disturbed by the urgency of the mission that the Lord has put in front of us. The videos from the gathering are now available on our new ECO National Gathering website and we encourage you to watch them with your congregations and church leaders. Watch them here!
At the national gathering, I mentioned that we have recently clarified and articulated the role and purpose of ECO staff and those that volunteer their efforts for denominational purposes. The mission of ECO as a denomination is to “Build Flourishing Churches that make Disciples of Jesus Christ.” However, the denominational structure in the Synod and the presbyteries themselves is not to build churches! It is the churches and their covenant partners that build flourishing churches through the power of the Holy Sprit. The role of the denominational structure is to Catalyze the Flourishing of Churches. To operate as a catalyst means that we seek to do things that create an environment in which churches can flourish more naturally and with less energy.
I indicated the three ways that we see our role in catalyzing flourishing. First is that we Cultivate Ecosystems. ECO is not a collection of purely independent churches. Rather, we are in covenant relationship with one another. We fulfill this covenant officially through our Mission Affinity Groups, Pastoral Covenant Groups, and in our presbyteries. These relationships help stimulate one other to mission and ministry as well as help care for one another during challenging times.
The second way we catalyze flourishing is by Promoting Culture. As ECO began, a vision was set forth to create a culture that was structured and organized to be faithful theologically, as well as bold, risk taking and entrepreneurial. We wanted to create a culture that establishes principle-based processes rather rigid one-size fits all processes. In addition, we don’t want to organize to protect from failure but to stimulate success. In order to have this type of culture move from an aspiration to being imbedded in our DNA, it takes intense intentionality on many levels.
The third way we catalyze flourishing is by Infusing Resources. Resources include materials or opportunities with which churches and leaders can engage (both created from within the ECO structure, as well as from other parts of the larger body of Christ), as well as financial resources raised to put toward projects that will benefit the Kingdom of God through ECO. Resources also include people that we seek to bring into the ecosystem. There are wonderful leaders in parachurch organizations, non-denominational churches, and other denominations who might be a perfect fit for where the Lord is taking ECO. It is our hope to position ECO to be an attractive denomination for those individuals outside of our tribe, as well as continuing to actively recruit gifted and faithful potential leaders to our family.
As a staff, we develop individual and corporate goals around those three areas. It is our hope and desire that our efforts will truly catalyze the flourishing of our churches, leaders, and disciples. It is such a joy and privilege to partner in ministry with you. May God bless you in your ministries throughout the year until we meet again next January!