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Vital Church

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. John 15: 5


I just finished reading a book entitled: Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World by Jorge Acevedo. Rev. Acevedo shares a compelling story of how the church can become more vital. He knows what he is writing about as he has led churches with congregations that are vital and engaged. He writes:

            Congregations that have vital signs engage daily with:

·      Life-full stories that are being told about and through the congregation. Stories about how lives are transformed and stories of transforming ministries done by the congregation.

·      Measures of fruitfulness evident by new disciples being made: Numbers in small groups, numbers engaged in worship and mission, and generous giving by disciples to mission.

·      Ministry activities for building up the community of faith and enable the transformation of the lives and social conditions in the community and the world.

He tells the story of a United Methodist Church that faced closing. It was however, offered to be reopened as a campus of Grace Church. Rev. Acevedo was at that meeting and thought to himself before the vote was taken, “This will be a slam dunk! This will be the first unanimous vote in the history of this congregation!” Forty people were in attendance. When the ballots were counted, he was floored. The vote was 23 in favor of being adopted by another church, and 17 in favor of closing. He thought, “How do 17 faithful United Methodists vote to close rather than choose a bold, new future?”


Rev. Acevedo finally figured it out. He writes, “Declining congregations have a culture. Slowly, good people just lose their way in a stagnant mixture of typically inward-focused activity until there is little hope of reversal. Over time, all hope is lost, and it just seems better to close than to try again.”


This just breaks my heart! But I too have seen this play out. I get it, but I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how the people can just give up on God! We all have challenges but can’t we figure out ways to prevail with God’s help?


I was appointed to Mount Zion UMC to help them figure things out. With 15-20 in worship each week and approximately 6 in Bible Studies and Adult Sunday School, they too are at risk of closing. They however, were given a monetary gift that has allowed them to stay open longer. This gift has also allowed them to give away many funds to help people in the community. Despite this, the congregation is mostly passive and not engaged in transforming ministries done by the congregation.


I do believe that this can change! It will require a slow, intentional lifestyle change! We must all remember that the Christian life is a pilgrimage; a journey. I believe that things will turn around with God’s help! We need to focus on God’s call of us in our community and on continuous improvement as we release the Body of Christ into the world!


Stay tuned for more next month!


(Taken from Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World.

Jorge Acevedo, Abingdon Press: Nashville, 2012.)

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