Our church Session has been studying the “Seven Marks of Vital Congregations” as our meeting devotionals these past few months. Each of the seven is a trait that was discovered during two extensive national studies of vital mainline protestant churches, where the researchers wondered, “What is different about vital churches? What are the marks, the identifying characteristics, of their vitality?” [Curious? You can read more here: https://www.northwestcoast.org/vital-congregations -look for “immediate toolkit”.]
At our August session meeting we discussed the third mark of vitality, “Outward Incarnational Focus” using a Bible study on Romans 12:1-21. We began our study by unpacking the title of this mark. Outward: beyond our church walls to our neighborhood and world. Incarnational: seeking to be with our neighbors as Christ was incarnate (in the flesh) in our world. Focus: an intentional vision. In this text from Romans we noticed that Paul teaches, “we, who are many, are one body in Christ.” Although we have different gifts, different heritages, and different ideas about almost everything – In Christ we are one family, brothers and sisters of each other. Each one of us is vital to the mission God has in mind for this community of faith. We also were encouraged by Paul’s words to “be genuine” and to live lives “acceptable to God.” And as elders in a church with many needs, we resonated with the reminder “so far as it depends on you.” God has called us to each do our part, and it is good to remember that we do not carry the load by ourselves.
How does this passage apply to Outward Incarnational Focus? As we discussed that, we affirmed that as this congregation and its members have grown older, we no longer do as much hands-on mission in our community. But we are involved in mission through our prayers and financial support. Our ‘10% for mission’ commitment does make a difference in the lives of those we serve. In those ways we continue to embody an “outward incarnational focus.”
Are you curious about the other six marks? If so, there are several things you can do to learn more. You are invited to attend Verge 2.0 on Saturday, October 26th at Calvin Presbyterian in Shoreline. The theme of this year is Vital Congregations. You can register for Verge here: https://www.northwestcoast.org/verge. You may also read more at our presbytery website (link is earlier in the article) or at the PCUSA website (link is on the presbytery’s website.) I left our Session meeting reflecting on what it will take to maintain an Outward Incarnational Focus. I realized that a key part of maintaining that focus is story-telling. Our Missions Elder, Ruth Roberts, is good at this. She shares what she has learned about our mission partners in our newsletter, emails, and prayer requests. And on Sunday, September 15th, former PCUSA missionary, Jonna Reeder, will share stories about her previous and current work in international missions. I invite you to join me in keeping the local, national, and international mission ministries in your prayers, as we continue to deepen our Outward Incarnational Focus as a congregation. Blessings, Pastor Amy