We’re looking for Pentecosts.
One of my faith mentors used to talk about how ministry leadership is like rowing a boat. Different from canoe or kayak, you sit facing the shore you just left with your back facing your goal. You steer by keeping your attention fixed on a point in front of you (where you came from), which helps create a line between there and where you want to go. And then you row, with that marker in front of you and looking over your shoulder to keep re-calibrating along the way. It’s hard enough to row a boat anyway but then you have to do THAT to get where you want to go.
Welcome to ministry in 2015. It’s a great metaphor for what we all need to do.
When we at Vibrant Faith began re-imagining ourselves last year, we very consciously started that process by claiming Pentecost. It is the fixed orienting point that we are looking at behind us. We are convinced that the Spirit is alive and active amid the wild waters of the closing of thousands of churches a year. For our focus on a vibrant Christian faith, even more problematic are the declines in church membership attendance and participation in the flagship programs that churches have counted on to share and form the Christian faith with the next generation –Sunday School, Confirmation (for some kinds of churches) and youth groups. And then there is this whole digital world that has completely changed how we live our lives, how we connect with others, and how our brains function that has left most faith communities looking like deer in headlights.
It’s a new day, and we want to join you in looking for Pentecosts. We know that they might not look just the same as it did for the twelve, but that’s what the new action/research arm of our organization is bent on finding. We have already learned that in working deeply with congregations, institutions, and judicatories to take on the vexing problems that just seem to keep going on year after year, actually hindering the formation of faith NOW, we can find the Spirit active and translating the message so that all can understand.
It’s a new day, and we believe that it is time to let the years of quality research about the formation of faith—an enterprise begun by the founder of our organization, Dr. Merton Strommen, SPEAK in a defining way. Vibrant Faith will regularly be presenting and engaging the church in an “evidence based” approach about what works and what matters to allow Pentecosts to happen. We are privileged to still be standing after twenty-five years. We take our legacy seriously.
It’s a new day, and we are very excited about how the Spirit is using new forms—one of them, the device that many people today carry in their hands. It allows them to connect to information about Jesus, people who love Jesus, and one another. Like the printing press 500 years ago, there are MANY ways that this new form of communication can and will be misused and will change how people relate to one another. But we are heartened by the Pentecosts that we see happening in and through digital and online modes. We are ready to help churches and leaders to move from decrying screen time to claiming digital for the sake of the Gospel. We are ready to not just build new websites, but to use online platforms to teach and connect for the sake of a vibrant faith.
“Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.” -Isaiah 43:19.
We’re rowing with you. We’re inviting you to look straight ahead at Pentecost and look over your shoulder at the new day.