When I think back over this year, one theme consistently emerges: Jesus’ calling to us to re-center our lives in Him. We have been (are continuing in) a constant dismantling of our limited thinking about who we are as a community. 

God’s Spirit spoke to us last fall and revealed a disordered place in our life as a church--our community. We identified together in our conversations the primary importance of relationships at Abbey Way. 

I don’t know if you know this, but it was a really scary moment for me pastorally. Oh my goodness: what strange deviation of the Gospel have I--have we created together? It has sent me into months of reflection and prayerful conversation with others who are outside of Abbey Way so to begin understand what this means and how to respond pastorally. The revelation has challenged me to preach differently and talk about Jesus more explicitly in my conversation. To begin to wonder about the priorities of prayer, worship, evangelism, stewardship and mission for us.

The Evangelical Covenant Church has identified ten markers that they believe form and shape a healthy and missional church. They are these...

Ten Healthy Missional Markers
Centrality of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)
We believe that the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct. Our preaching and teaching in all settings reflects careful preparation, relevance, and creativity. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to study and apply Biblical truth in ways that lead to a scripturally integrated life. 

Life transforming walk with Jesus (John 3:3,30; Phil. 1:6)
We teach our people how to be attentive to Christ in all circumstances. Our people understand the radical nature of the message and mission of Jesus that continually deconstructs and reconstructs a person’s life. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to use a variety of spiritual growth resources, experiences, and settings. 

Intentional evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20)
We are burdened for the spiritual condition of those who do not yet know Christ. We have identifiable pathways for evangelism to take place in our ministries. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to build spiritual friendships and know how to share their faith as God-birthed opportunities arise. 

Transforming communities through active compassion, mercy and justice ministries (Micah 6:8)
We are burdened for the hurting people in our community and beyond. We have identifiable pathways for compassion, mercy and justice ministries to take place. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to see and address the hurts and the causes of hurt in our community and beyond. 

Global perspective and engagement (Acts 1:8)
We raise the sights of our members beyond our congregation and community by developing a Biblical worldview and often pray for and reference global matters. We have identifiable pathways to support the cause of Christ globally. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to participate in the global dimensions of our ministry. 

Compelling Christian community (Acts 2:42-47)
We understand that our love for one another is a powerful testimony to the deity of Jesus. We love each other as we are, not as we should be. We share life together beyond the worship service. 

Heartfelt worship (Psalm 138:1a; John 4:23)
We exalt and celebrate God for who he is, what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do. Worship reflects careful preparation to help give voice to many dimensions of response to God such as adoration, praise, contrition, lament, and commitment. People leave worship knowing something more about the heart of God and about their own hearts. 

Sacrificial and generous living and giving (Romans 12:1-8)
We help people discover, develop and deploy their spiritual gifts. We regularly, graciously, and unapologetically teach on the importance of financial stewardship in the spiritual growth of the Christian. We have many examples of lifestyle choices being made on the basis of stewardship and the priority God plays in the lives of our members. 

Culture of Godly leadership (Hebrews 13:7)
Our leaders at all levels serve with character, competence, and conviction. A spirit of collegiality pervades, with our people trusting our leaders and our leaders trusting our people. We continually identify and train godly leaders for all dimensions of our ministry. 

Fruitful organizational structures (Exodus 18:13-26, Acts 6:1-7)
We can articulate a compelling, Christ-honoring vision for our church. We embrace evaluation as normal and natural and work through conflict constructively. Our organizational structures are designed to be efficient at making decisions while at the same time building congregational ownership for those decisions. 

We have a long way to go…

But I know my desire, our desire, is Jesus be our center--always, everywhere.

This year in response to God’s rhema word to us, we have chosen to make some changes to help us refocus our lives in God and build healthy relationships among us. Some things we have done are simple, like lighting a candle before we eat. Others are more profound, like hiring an outside consultant to work with the Leadership Team to enable us to lead well in some of the deeper places of mistrust and discord that have taken root among us. Whether simple or profound, each step builds on the next one as we participate in the Spirit’s reforming action in this church called Abbey Way. 

Without a doubt, God has been near to us this year and has shaken us up.

Yet there have been glimpses of God’s goodness among us, even in the hard times. Without a doubt God has been speaking to us, showing his care and compassion. 

I think God is waiting for our faithful response.  

We need to remember listening is a two step process. It not only involves hearing but it also is responding, engaging our will in God’s transformational work. The root of listening is the Latin word obedience. We hear to obey. 

There still so much more to learn and discover. We will continue to be a learning community--falling down and getting back up again. Beginning again and again and again as God gives us life. 
In this next year, we will continue digging into our strategic planning process, reviewing all our statements and values, as we listening to God and to each other, so we can explicitly align them with who we believe God is calling us to be in the next five years. Also, we will face into the impact of our current giving patterns have on our ability to flourish as a church. We will have the hard question of what changes will need to be done to grow us not only sharing the load financially through concepts like equal sacrifice, but also what we need to do to grow in numbers so we may share the Gospel life reflected here with more and more people including those who never have walked in the door of a church before. 

We have lots of work ahead of us. 

Jon Weinrich, who is the lead in Congregational Vitality for the Evangelical Covenant Church, is a fantastic teacher on the qualities and characteristics of healthy missional churches. By healthy, we mean, pursuing Christ, by missional, we mean pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world. Jon has pulled together twenty maxims of congregational vitality. I was reading through them this week, and one stood out to me.  

"If you want something you never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done."

Isaiah 43:18-19 says: 
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 

To be healthy, pursuing Christ, and missional, pursuing Christ’s priorities in the world, we must be willing to let go of the former to pursue the new. This will mean being willing to move out of our corporate comfort zone so we can stay in pace with the movement of God here.

I believe we are in a critical moment in our church’s history. We can choose to hold on to what we know or launch into the unknown and follow where God is taking us. I think the year ahead will continue to be one that requires change in all of us.

We can be confident, like the Israelites who were led through the wilderness, God does go before us, showing us the way to the place of promise. 

Pastor Jan Bros