Vital Congregations Initiative
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What Is It?
The Vital Congregations Initiative began in the PC(USA) Mission Agency’s Theology, Formation, and Evangelism Department.* The Keyser Presbyterian Church participates in this effort to empower our congregation “to renew, recover and live more fully into faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ.” We seek to assess, discern, and live into transformative actions that increase vitality through intentional spiritual practices and relational connections which take us deeper into following Jesus Christ, making disciples, and being the vital community of Christ in this time and place.
* All Vital Congregations Initiative descriptions and processes derived from the Office of Vital Congregations: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/theology-formation-and-evangelism/vital-congregations/
How Will We Do It?
- Courage, conviction, and commitment to faithful discipleship
- Prayerful discernment
- Reliance upon Scripture
- Persistence–emboldened/enacted faith
- Honest Assessment
- Intentional pursuits of reconciliation
- Hopefulness in change
Why Must We Do It?
- This is a necessary return to God and a reforming of God’s people
- This is a crucial time of awakening throughout our neighborhoods, nation, and world
- The Holy Spirit’s power is changing, reforming, and revitalizing the Church
- This is necessary to rediscover faithful discipleship in 21st century contexts
- God is calling the Church to transform and transcend cultures and contexts
- We must move from inward-focused institutions to neighborhood relationships and ministry
Marks of a Vital Congregation
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.” (PHIL. 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. It is not an extra-curricular activity nor 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.
Intentional Authentic Evangelism vs. “Jesus freaks”; “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 COR. 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.
Outward Incarnational Focus vs. Inward Institutional Survival; 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.” (MATT. 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 & least, the stranger & the suffering, the marginalized & majority.
- Missional focus on where Christ is already living and present and calling us to dwell.
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.” (MATT. 9:37–38)
- Identify, nurture, 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.
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.
Caring Relationships vs. Any other Social Club; façades, 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 peace-makers and bridge builders together.
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 COR. 12:14, 24 b–25)
- Understanding of: Why we are 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, stake-holders 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.