A few weeks ago, someone suggested to me that I check out ìFive Practices of Fruitful Congregationsî on Google. So I put in the title and was pleasantly surprised by the many accounts of churches using the book as the basis for sermon series, book studies and leadership retreats. With my curiosity aroused, I began to play with combinations: ìFive Practicesî and Methodist, ìRadical Hospitalityî and Sermon; ìRisk-taking Mission and Serviceî and Methodist; ìIntentional Faith Developmentî and Baptist; ìExtravagant Generosityî and Presbyterian, etc.
To my great amazement and delight, there were churches and pastors and laypersons and bishops and conference leaders and bloggers by the gazillions that were quoting ìFive Practicesî in church newsletters, imbedding the phrases into mission statements, referring to the practices in Blogs and websites and weaving the practices into Conference value statements and even several Episcopal addresses.
I hope this doesnít sound too vain, but one night I counted churches using the practices in twenty-five states, plus Australia, England, Germany, Canada, and Russia. There were numbers of annual conferences using the language or setting up programs or conversations around the practices. Churches and pastors from various denominations, including American Baptists, Lutheran, Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Congregational, and non-denominational congregations were using the book. Wow!
The Five Practices are larger than any book, any authorís creativity, any congregation or any denomination. They are the basic building blocks of communities of faith in Christ since the beginning of the church. In the second chapter of Acts, we see all the basics: people invited and welcomed into the body of Christ (Radical Hospitality) and gathering at the synagogue and in homes for Passionate Worship, and learning at the feet of the disciples and in community (Intentional Faith Development), and sharing all that they had in common as any had need (Risk-taking Mission and Service and Extravagant Generosity). In some ways, I guess itís no surprise that these terms should find such traction in our hearts and minds, and in our congregations and faith communities. Theyíre in our mission, in our DNA, in our past, in our future. Theyíre in our life together in Christ.
If you have a unique story about how and where the Five Practices are being used in sermons, studies, mission, or worship, let us know. Better yet, if there are stories of fruitful ministry that have resulted from an intentional focus on the practices, please share with others on this website. What a great adventure! Thanks.
Yours in Christ,