Iíve been covering a lot of ground recently talking about strengthening congregations and the Five Practices. During the last four weeks, Iíve addressed over 250 clergy in workshops, district pastors meetings, and small group discussions. In addition, Iíve preached or taught in congregations, associations of local pastors, order of elders retreats, and spoken at workshops attended by laity and staffóto maybe another 1500 people. Most of these have been in Missouri, but some of these conversations have also been in other states and other conferences.
At all these events, laity and clergy share their stories. Some are quite dramatic, about congregational change that has been stimulated by prayerful discussion about the five practices. Thereís the story of the pastor of one small church who borrowed ten copies of the book and handed them out to church leaders. Soon the laity were pressuring her with questions like, ìwhy canít we remove the back pew and put in rockers for young mothers?î The pastor laughed about how the tide had shifted, and instead of pushing against the hesitancies of the congregational leadership, now they were pushing against her with new ideas! What a great problem to have!
Another pastor of a small church told about how her church only has four parking spaces, and how she decided to bear personal witness to the practice of hospitality by riding her bike to church and leaving open a space for visitors. Church leaders took notice, and began to walk and ride bicycles also. And they began to leave open the few parking spaces for visitors. How cool! Maybe no single small practice will change something one hundred percent. But by changing a hundred things by 1%, the tide begins to shift.
Several churches have talked about the power of the common language, and how everyone speaking about Radical Hospitality has changed the congregationís conversation about ministry with the homeless or about welcoming newcomers into the church. Some have begun to improve the look of facilities, talk about invitational initiatives, etc. Some share stories about how they were received and embraced by their congregations and others about how difficult it was to break into the community.
Everywhere I go, people tell me stories like these, some of them deeply moving. The purpose of FivePractices.org is to share those stories with a wider audience. If you have a story about how your church has changed, or about what new initiative your church is trying, or about your experience in volunteering or in ministry that has been shaped by the Five Practices, please let us know. Share your story with us so that your experience will bless others, and encourage us all to greater ministry.
Yours in Christ,