Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? -1 Cor. 3:16
See, the home of God is among mortals … See, I am making all things new. - Rev. 21:3, 5
What do you think of when you hear the word vital? For many of us, the word is most closely connected with medicine. Medical professionals take at least three vital signs to assess our health: pulse, blood pressure, and temperature. Looking at these simple signs, they are able to begin to identify if we are healthy.
What vital signs do you think someone would use to assess the health and vitality of a congregation?
The PCUSA, along with other mainline denominations, has been intentional about identifying the vital signs that indicate healthy vitality in congregations. After completing two detailed national surveys they have identified seven signs, seven “marks of vitality,” that we can use to assess how our congregation is doing. How vital are we? In what areas are we the strongest and healthiest? You may have the impression that vitality exists only in large congregations – but that’s not what the studies found. Congregations of all sizes can be vital. The session and I are delighted to be part of the two year Vital Congregations Initiative in our Presbytery as we assess our marks of vitality and prayerfully consider how we can become even more vital.
What will the Vital Congregations Initiative look like? During Lent and Easter of this year we will be taking a closer look at the seven marks of vitality through prayer, scripture, our Sunday services, our Sunday adult classes, and our personal devotions. To begin, I invite you to pick up a copy of the Lenten devotional, Vital Signs, and use it to consider what a vital life in Christ looks like for you and for our church community. Then notice as Lent and Easter unfold how the upcoming sermon themes connect to the seven marks you have studied. And join us for opportunities to dive deeper into the meaning of each of the seven marks during our Adult Education time after worship.
It is our goal that by the time Pentecost arrives we will each know the seven marks of vitality – we will speak that shared language. This shared language will lay the foundation for the remainder of the two-year Vital Congregations Initiative. Over these two years we will make an honest assessment of our vitality; take a careful look at what God is already doing in our neighborhoods, and our community; and then prayerfully design experiments that will assist us in becoming more vital as we move into the second year of the initiative.
The Seven Marks of Vitality are:
1. Lifelong Discipleship Formation: continually growing as disciples of Jesus
2. Intentional Authentic Evangelism: sharing the story of God’s love at work in our lives
3. Outward Incarnational Focus: serving beyond our church community in Jesus’ name
4. Empowering Servant Leadership: recognizing and humbly offering our gifts of leadership
5. Spirit-filled Worship: proclaiming and celebrating the good news of God’s love
6. Caring Relationships: extending God’s love and compassion to all
7. Ecclesial Health: seeking with others to build up the Body of Christ
That’s a lot of information – but the key is this: pray! May we celebrate our existing vitality, notice the work God is already doing among us, and join in the new thing God would have us explore.
— In Christ,