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7 Marks of Vital Congregations

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7 Marks of Vital Congregations

Update: This event has been cancelled due to low registration numbers.

You only have until April 17 to register for the Vital Congregations Retreat at The Margate on Lake Winnipesaukee, Laconia, NH from May 2-4.

Click here for detailed information and to register.

Rev. Dr. Kathryn Threadgill, Director of Vital Congregations for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, and Rev. Nikki Collins, National Coordinator for 1001 New Worshiping Communities, will lead us through the key resources related to the Vital Congregations initiative and work with our new Worshiping community leaders around training and resourcing. You can learn more about each by reading the separate blog posts giving some biographical information about each of our retreat leaders.

Here are some of the basic ideas related to each of the 7 marks of congregational vitality, so you will better know what to expect at the retreat and have a sense of its importance. We hope you will join us there. Again, click here to register.

1. Lifelong discipleship formation vs. Complacent “Christian” piety, simply teaching good morals, or offering the latest programs

“The righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God based on faith.” Philippians 3:9b

  • From the cradle to the grave seeking to be formed for right living with God and with all people.
  • Faith – seeking understanding, cultivating wisdom and actively following Christ; not an extra-curricular or merely head-knowledge.
  • Discipleship awakened and engaged in issues facing today’s culture: injustice, inequality, divisive segregation, oppression, suffering, abuse of creation.
  • Discipleship formed and strengthened in the community of Christ and permeates daily practices and daily living.

2. Intentional Authentic Evangelism vs. “Jesus freaks” and “Christian” hypocrisy; a committee responsibility

“We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

  • Intentionally sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, not just acts of kindness.
  • Authentically sharing Christ because it is intrinsic to self-identity; overflow of Christ in our life.
  • Relational, not programmatic or systematic.

3. Outward Incarnational Focus vs. Inward institutional survival and closed communities of assimilation/exclusion

“The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:14

  • Outward exploration, awareness, and focus on neighbors and neighborhood.
  • Beyond relationship with those who are like us, the incarnate Christ dwells among the lowly and least, the stranger and the suffering, the marginalized and majority.
  • Missional focus on where Christ is already living and present, and calling us to dwell.

4. Empower Servant Leadership vs. The pastor’s job; monopolized leadership; hiring the young energetic pastor; burning out good volunteers

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.” Matthew 9:37–38.

  • Identify, nurture and support the use of spiritual gifts of all people to serve; not monopolized cliques of power.
  • All voices and people are necessary, and it is noticeable when people are absent/missing.
  • Nurture and encourage those specifically called and gifted for pastoral ministry.

5. Spirit-Inspired Worship vs. Self-gratifying worship, stale ritual divorced of meaning, or consumer entertainment worship

“These people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote.” Isaiah 29:13

  • Worship is about God. We get to come on holy ground, encounter God and experience wonder.
  • Worship is active participation in the living relationship of the triune God, thus all should feel welcome just as they are to come.
  • Worship challenges, teaches, transforms, encounters, convicts and sends people out different.

6. Caring Relationships vs. Any other Social Club, facades, hypocrisy, and judgment of “church” and “religion”

“By this everyone will know that you are disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

  • Sharing in God’s true agape moves us beyond half-hearted programmatic participation, lukewarm faith and pretending.
  • Instead of a closed, judgmental community, people find freedom to share stories, encounter the Savior and ask for help.
  • Welcome and hospitality are not left to a committee, but, imperfectly, we strive for all people find identity, purpose and belonging in the household of God.
  • Confront conflict, seek reconciliation in all divisions, find ways to embrace all diversity, seek to be peacemakers and bridge-builders together.

7. Ecclesial Health vs. Unhealthy dysfunction; toxic environments; obsolete and irrelevant buildings

“The body does not consist of one member but of many. God has so arranged the body that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.” 1 Corinthians 12:14, 24b–25

  • Understanding of: Why are we a church community? How are we a church community in practice? Prayer permeates all life together.
  • Clarity in mission, core values to ministry, passion and joy in being the church. Our budget reflects these values, vision and ministries.
  • Fiscally responsible: Stewardship and tithing are taught, transparency in spending, continual assessment/discernment of a sustainable budget.
  • All are aware of how decisions are made, stakeholders in the process and procedures, valued voices in the envisioning, open to changes, continual assessment of -the “why” and “how” we are church together.
  • Nurturing and supporting the health of pastor(s), staff, and all called to lead; fighting against burnout.
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